Samundeeswari's day out

Published : Feb 28, 2003 00:00 IST

J. SAMUNDEESWARI has been working since she was six years, in a loom at Pillaiyarpalayam in Kancheepuram. Her father K. Jothi had borrowed Rs.1,500 "in her name". "There is no interest on the loan," she says, her family has to repay the loan only in full.

She leaves home at 6.30 a.m. and works till 7.30 p.m. with a 20-minute break for lunch. During festival seasons, when the demand for silk saris increases, she works from 5 a.m. Most of the time she packs her lunch. She is paid a meagre Rs.140 a month. Samundeeswari's work involves shuttling the silk yarn from one end to the other end of the sari (vattu poduthal) and weaving (pattu izhaithal).

She is luckier than her young colleagues in the industry as she does not have to do the household chores for her master - a concession because she is epileptic. As she stands in the pit for long hours her legs become leaden by the end of the day and it is an effort to take a few steps. Injuries on the hand and legs are common. Her eyes ache all the time as she works under dim light. "Play" is something the 10-year-old has just heard of.

Samundeeswari, who has studied up to Class II, longs to go to school again. But the income her father gets from selling fruits and her eight-year-old brother Manikandan gets from weaving at another master weaver's loom are barely enough to bring a square meal for the family every day. She has to chip in.

Samundeeswari's family migrated from Andhra Pradesh four years ago in search of a better life. "But," says her father, "I have no choice now but to send my children to work if I have to feed them every day."

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