The story of self-made sustenance
Zeba voices her reservations with being photographed at first, rather shy and wary, but at the same time amused by the idea of it. All reservations subside once she starts talking in her native tongue, Saraiki. The narratives are interspersed with bouts of laughter, the sincerity in her words is evident through her smile.
Lodhran is a far off town, but Zeba seems like someone from very close by. Maybe it’s her innocent laughter that just touches my heart. I keep looking at her face, enjoying that gleam of accomplishment. From time to time I bend over my diary so as to not miss any facts she quotes.
Surrounded by her children even as she works, one can tell, before Zeba spells it out that the single most important factor that keeps her going through the humdrum of daily chores is her children. She proudly mentions that her eldest son is in the fifth grade. She has decided to shoulder the responsibility of providing for her kids and educating them along with her husband, who sells dahi baray.
It was upon her husband’s advice, to support his business, that she started to make the phulkian which serve as an ingredient in dahi baray, increasing the profits he makes off his sales. This suggestion made sense to Zeba and she started making phulkian for her husband’s cart about six months ago, giving up her usual source of income of embroidery and stitching.
Both husband and wife soon realised that they did not have to limit their production of phulkian to their cart of dahi baray. They realised that they could sell the excess to surrounding shops and retailers who sold them to other vendors of dahi baray – various carts of this famous roadside snack can be seen in a typical city, with each getting its fair share of customers.
Zeba now produces phulkian mostly for retailers, with her husband’s cart doing good business as well, and the pride in her voice is evident as she mentions that she is now able to earn Rs250 to 300 a day on her own through her sales. There were some hiccups on the road to this success though– foremost was the lack of capital she needed to get the materials required for cooking phulkian.
Zeba is cooking for an order of three kilograms from a local retailer right now, who will come to pick up the stock from her shortly, and this is her second order for the day. She has already delivered ten kilograms earlier in the morning.
She puts it simply,
The only reason I am able to cater these orders is because I have the money, otherwise how would I buy the material? Before, the most I could produce was two to three kilos per day, but with cash in hand I can produce as much as I want.
This change has been recent however, and was made possible through a loan of ten thousand rupees from Akhuwat. Zeba emphasises on the interest free nature of the loan; she had abstained from taking any loans before this because she found the interest rates and interest calculations intimidating. Ten thousand rupees might not sound too much, but for Zeba the amount meant the difference between being constrained and having financial liberty in business. Being able to earn more and grow further, they bring with them the hope to dream of a better future for herself and her children.
As I get up to leave, she comes to see me off.
“Will you come again to meet me?,” she asks me hopefully.
I nod, smiling at the confidence and courage self-sufficiency can give a woman.
Follow Leenah on Twitter @Ell_Enn
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