Diwali is around the corner and the country is gearing up for the festivities. However, job losses due to the Coronavirus pandemic and a slump in the economy haven’t left many reasons for many families to celebrate.
In Haryana’s Hisar, the pandemic left many jobless. In turn, it translated to a burden on the women. With their husbands at home, not only did the pressure of domestic chores increase for them, but the financial burden also fell on their shoulders. Making organic diya for the upcoming festival has come to the rescue of these women to help them keep their kitchen fire burning.
27-year-old Priyanka, mother of three says, “I can’t think of celebrating Diwali at a time when it’s hard to provide two square meals to my kids. You need money to celebrate festivals. For us, having a full meal is no less than Diwali.”
Priyanka’s struggle started around eight months back when her husband, a daily wage labourer lost his job during the lockdown. Since then, she has been running pillar to post to find an alternate source of income. While making diyas is sustaining her, it’s not enough to pay all bills. More than Diwali, what worries her is her kids’ education.
For the likes of Priyanka, social worker Shalini seemed god-sent. Shalini has come forward with a helping hand especially for those who were on the edge of losing hope. The 48-year-old lives in Haryana’s Palam vihar and runs an NGO (Yatan). Keeping the festival season in mind she has come up with an interesting idea of making organic Diyas and Dhoopabbati. She also distributed ration among those people who were struggling for even for one square meal during the lockdown.
With her help, Priyanka is now earning Rs 5,000 per month by making organic diya. Currently, this is the only source of her family’s income. She lives in a rented house and pays Rs 2,000 as rent.
Married at the age of 17, Priyanka has only one dream – to see her children be educated and succeed in life.
She says: “I studied till class 6th but I want to see my kids educated and make their names in society. I am ready for any struggle to provide a bright future to my children.”
Shalini’s NGO provides all the required raw materials like mud, colour, and flowers and delivers it right at their doorstep following all safety norms owing to the pandemic. Now they make Diya without contacting others and manage the household chores as well.
Another beneficiary of the NGO’s organic diya-making program is 37-year-old Meena. Her life saw an unfortunate turn of events three years back when her husband was left disabled after a cow attacked him. Her 13-year-old son lost one eye while trying to save his father.
Meena now earns Rs 5,000 every month by making organic Dhoobatti and Diya. She accuses the Haryana government of providing no help– not when her husband was attacked by the cow nor during the lockdown. She says, “We were struggling to get food for survival, despite owning ration cards. Meanwhile, those who have all facilities including own houses got the ration.”
Meena says, “Poor people like us don’t celebrate Diwali. I have promised my younger son to get them new shoes on Diwali. I will try my best to keep my promise. I will buy some sweet to see smiles on their faces.”
Similarly, 30-year old Rajbala, mother of two, is also making organic diyas to run the house. Rajbala used to work in a school as a cleaner and a cook. She lost her job when schools were shut during the lockdown. The real struggle started when she got to know that her husband, who was a driver, also lost his job amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
Rajbala met Shalini through a friend and received help when she didn’t have anything to eat. Rajbala says, “I earn Rs 3,000 per month and pay house rent of Rs 2,000. Only Rs 1,000 was left for survival. Can you think of celebrating Diwali with such an amount? My husband and I are earning money to feed our kids. Festivals belong to wealthy people not to people like us. We don’t even know whether we would be getting a next meal or not.”
The Modi government has been urging people to go local this Diwali. With a rise in demand for hand-made decoration items during Diwali, the Priyankas, the Meenas and the Rajbalas struggling to make ends met may just get to light a diya in their homes too.