A step to dignity
Salman, a 25-year-old zardozi embroiderer suffers from stunting of both legs. He started working from the age of 15, painstakingly forming elaborate patterns with beads and crystals on meters of fabric which is then used to fashion various garments.
Salman is the only male member in his family of three which includes his mother (an agricultural labourer) and his grandmother. “I was very young. My father was a drunkard and would often beat up my mother. Then one day he swore on my life that he would never drink again. He broke his promise and soon my legs stopped growing,” explains Salman.
He works for eight hours a day and earns Rs 100. Work requires him to sit at the edge of a wooden frame almost immobile as he could not take breaks like the others do. His maternal uncle who taught Salman how to embroider gets him work. He earns around Rs 2,500 in a month. For every day of work, his mother gets Rs 150. He gets a disability pension of Rs 500 per month and also has a wheelchair provided by the government.
One of Salman’s greatest challenges was the lack of a toilet at home. Every trip to the fields to relieve himself would take him at least 20 minutes. On a couple of occasions, during the monsoon, his wheelchair also overturned and he lay writing in pain in sludge. He would also have the additional discomfort of a bath before getting back to work. “Sometimes when my stomach would be upset I had to use my Uncle’s toilet. But that is not something I could do every day. He would not say anything to my face, but I know he would not have liked my using it every time”, he says.
In Salman’s village of Rajauli (block Bakshi ka Talab, district Lucknow), there are many toilets built in the last couple of years as part of the Swacch Bharat Mission. Right in front of the workshop, he sits in one with the lower half of the door missing. He points with pride towards his own three-month-old toilet - complete with a gradient and handrail as stipulated in the construction guidelines of the SBM. “Things are so easy for me now. At least there is one thing less to worry about. I don’t have to think about curtailing my intake of water or eating less than what I want to”, he says.