Ameena Beg does not really remember her true age- she is over 55 years she thinks…what she does remember is the illness of her husband which caused him to pass away- leaving her with a 3 year old boy to bring up.
Life was a huge struggle bringing up a boy alone and she made good with working as domestic help in people’s homes. Today her son is a daily wages laborer and 6 children of his own. She lives with him and his family and currently makes some money selling vegetables. She estimates that after transportation cost etc, what she eventually makes is Rs 10 or 20 profit per day [ if you can call it profit]. She is happy living with her son but feels hesitant in asking for anything as she feels their focus should be the 6 young kids in the family.
Ameena knows she could try for a widow’s pension but ironically in her case even though her husband died in a government hospital, she was not issued a death certificate…and without a death certificate she is not eligible for anything. She does have a ‘narangi’ card which refers to an APL ration card which entitles her to 15 kg of grain a month at subsidized rates, but for a family of 9 that is never enough. Since her son’s income too is not fixed the uncertainty of regular food on the table is certain. When I quiz her about whether her children are good to her, she tells me with a twinkle in her eye ‘ Kamai kam aur mohabbat jyada’ meaning -there is love but no earning.
What struck me the most about Ameena was her articulation- she would rather sell vegetables than put up with slaving in someone else’s home. Her repeated litany was a request that the government would quickly implement the pension scheme.