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Neelam Khanna

Interview Summary

Neelam Khanna is a Hindu khatri, who works as a bandh counter. She proudly discussed her craft, and expressed the great responsibility she feels when working. The amount of counting she completes per garment depends entirely on the design of a particular bandhani sari or dress. Generally, with bandhani work, a single tie is known as a bandh, and four bandhs make one kadi, or chain. The workers are paid according to how many bandh they count following the tying process. According to Neelam, tying four thousand bandhs or one thousand kadi pays 130 rupees; Neelam receives three rupees for counting a thousand kadi, which takes her around fifteen minutes. Despite being continually employed, she only earns around three thousand rupees a month. However, she believes counting is much easier than tying – a process which can be extremely painful for the fingernails. Some bandhani saris have multiple designs; and the greater the number of designs, the more complex the task of counting becomes. Despite her meagre earnings, she completes her work with total honesty. Neelam says that her profession is largely based on trust and her reputation has earned her many counting contracts not only from Mandvi but from Bhuj and Gandhidham. She proudly asserts that she will not be persuaded to cheat and will not be forced to change her counting methods by anyone. During the counting process, Neelam carefully notes down how many bandh she counts and her notes are corroborated with the ‘chit’ of the worker. If the worker’ s chit differs from the counter’s figures, they will be suspected of cheating. Neelam’s seal of approval is therefore vital in finalising payments for the workers. Having lost her father, Neelam told us she is now the prime bread winner for the house where her mother is a home manager. She is not married and could not complete her graduation due to the objection of her father. She moved into bandhani work as a result of these circumstances, but maintains that she enjoys her craft.

Age: 38

Occupation: Applying bridal henna; bandh counter

Education: Second year of Bachelors in Commerce

Residence: Mandvi

Date of interview: 16/02/12.