Occupation: bandhani tying
Julekha works for the bandhaniexporting house Sidr Craft and started tying when she was 14-15 years of age. From her monthly earnings she supports her household and looks after three sons and three daughters. With six children, it is difficult for Julekha to keep tying bandhaniconsistently. She ties whenever she gets free time, especially in the afternoon. Her husband and children also help in her work. Julekha is not an ordinary bandhaniworker however. She has become an expert is tying extremely fine dots so highly valued by Jabbar Khatri, the owner of Sidr Craft. She also demonstrates and teaches other females workers to develop their tying skills. Since she does not get much time to work however, she outsources her work to others. Her sixty-year-old mother Raumat Jacab, who lives in Dhamadka, also works in the bandhanicraft. She works extremely quickly and can complete 1,000 kadis(4,000 bandhare equal to 1,000 kadi) in a day. Since payment is based on the number of dots tied, such speed is important. Tying the fine dots causes acute pain to the nails and a range of other injuries, however. The bright colours of the pieces also place strain on the eyes, and sustained tying can cause permanent damage to the fingers.
In a day, Julekha can earn up to approximate 50 to 100 rupees, although she is not sure of her monthly earnings as she does not get much time to calculate her total income. Julekha also adds that those who have time and can manage to complete a substantial amount of work in one sitting without any interruption can earn a great deal more.
Tying bandh is not necessarily a boring task as the women sit together and talk while tying. In this way, the art of tying is not only a means of earning a livelihood, but also promotes sociability. For Julekha, teaching other girls including her daughter and niece is challenging. They need to be guided and instructed often and as novices, their work is often spoiled, and has to be corrected by their instructor.
Talking more about Jabbar’s work, Julekha explains that they mostly do fine (sanno) work, on Jabbar’s instruction. Only Jabbar demands this level of quality and although Julekha also does work for others, they are less particular about fine tying.
Julekha’s maternal grandparents also worked in the craft. In former times, the men of the Khatri community did tying and were experts in doing bharti. The art of feeling the empty spaces in a design to determine its shape is a highly skilled aspect of tying work in the bandhaniprofession. This kind of work Jhulekha’s maternal grandfather and father used to do, although Julekha’s grandfather Osman Hasam was famous as a bandhara (tying expert)and only used to tie.
Raumat, Julekha’s mother, who has four sons and four daughters, is also expert in block-printing having learnt the craft from her husband. She also knows the art of dyeing and has dabbled in making colours. She is quite familiar with making yellow and red dye in particular. Raumat states this work was extremely complicated, as care must be taken to ensure exact proportions in the chemical mixture. Multitalented Raumat reads the Quran in her spare time and also does the valuable work of babysitting for her grandchildren.