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5 | Varsha: Rural Women — Part 1

By Soumya Mukund, Maria Martin, and Dharmesh Ba

Short Story

Varsha is a married woman staying in a village near Tumkur for more than 10 years now. She lives with her husband while her son stays in Bangalore with his family. Her son has a wife and a 3-year old child. Her husband runs a small-time business and together they manage a small farm. While she and her husband dream of building a house for their son, her personal desire is also to do a job that can be helpful for them. Here is the story of a lady who worked hard to give the best education she could to her son despite their financial difficulties.

Family

  • Varsha moved to her current village after her marriage. She is primarily a homemaker and relies on her husband for the income.
  • Her husband is a blacksmith and carpenter by trade. He was in this business before marriage and continues to work as a blacksmith and carpenter even today.
  • They have a son who holds a degree in engineering and works for a renowned company in Bangalore. He is married and lives with his family in a rented house in Bangalore.
  • Varsha’s husband manages the farmland and his work to bring income to the house.

Excerpt from the transcript:

S: What does your family comprise of?
V: My son, daughter-in-law, grandson, and my husband.

S: How long have you been staying here?
V: We have stayed here for many years, ever since our marriage. My husband’s village is close by, it’s been a long time since he came here. By the time we got married, we were settled here.

S: What does your son do?
V: He is an engineer currently staying in Bangalore. My daughter-in-law is also there. They have a 3-year-old son.

Income Streams

  • Varsha’s family lives on the income of her husband’s work. Her family also gets some money from their farm.
  • Although not the primary source, Varsha does receive some monetary help from her son. Her son earns a monthly salary from his employer.

Excerpt from the transcript:

S: Who are the earning members of your family?
V: My husband works as a blacksmith and carpentry. He has been doing this since before marriage. We do not have a high income, we have a very small field. We gave our son an education despite the difficulties, he studied BE and started working in Bangalore.

S: What are your other sources of income?
V: My husband’s work.

S: Does your son send some money home?
V: Yes, he does. He sends if the need arises. It is our lives, we are able to look after ourselves. He keeps coming and gives us money when he comes here. Why should we ask him for money? He has to pay rent and look after his family. He takes care of our health.

We delved into the expenses of Varsha and got to know what does her family spend on. Although expenses are standard, we did notice one thing though, they pay the daily wagers first and then take the remaining profits home. In her words, Varsha explains:

S: How much do your monthly expenses come up to?
V: It depends on the work. If there is none, we will not have any spending. It depends on the work we get. Some months we may get more work, some months it might be less. We pay the workers from the money we make, keep some for ourselves. We give Rs. 600 as a daily wage to the workers. We have to pay more for carpenter work. After paying all of them, we may or may not have money remaining. We pay them once a week. Some months we will run at a loss, some months we may get money. There is no fixed income.

Conversation from the transcript:

S: What are the bills you pay?
V: Current bill will come up to Rs. 1,500 if the workload is more. We have a welding machine and other electrical equipment, so our bills come from there. Sometimes it will be Rs. 800 or 1,000, it all boils down to how much work is given. Household current bill will be around Rs. 400. We buy grocery once a month. We buy rice, ragi, and other items based on our requirements. It will come up to Rs. 4,000. If there are guests the grocery bill will increase. They will come once or twice a month. Water bill will be paid to the Gram Panchayat. They charge us once a year. We get filter water most of the times. Cable bill will be Rs. 350 per month. Gas bill is paid once in 2 months. It is Rs. 800. My husband pays all the bills.

S: Do you own a phone?
V: My husband and I both have a phone. Both of together will be around Rs. 400. My husband’s will be more than mine. Both of us have BSNL connection. There will be something known as prepaid right? My son recharges for Rs. 100 for me, my husband will recharge for around Rs. 250 every month.

Bank Accounts

  • Varsha and her husband both have bank accounts and a debit card. Varsha’s son has a bank account and has a credit card too.
  • The debit cards are mostly used for withdrawing money but in most cases, they visit the bank and use challan to withdraw the money.
Note: Withdrawing via challan is basically a small form that is filled at the bank and withdrawal is requested.
  • Varsha’s son has parked some amount in her account in a Fixed Deposit with a bank. She wants her son to use this amount to buy a flat in the future. Apart from loans and FD, Varsha is not aware of any other banking services that her bank has.

Excerpt from the transcript:

S: Do you own ATM cards?
V: Yes, we both have. We don’t use it much though. My son got it done for me. We are not getting much money, so we do not use it frequently. We have a loan from the Dharmasthala Sangha, we have to pay Rs. 650 every week. In a month we pay Rs. 2,500.

S: Where do you park your money?
V: We keep it in the bank. To withdraw, we go to the bank. We take the challan if it is a small amount, else we use a cheque. We also use challan to deposit.

Bills And Utilities

Varsha’s husband pays all the bills. He also pays the wages to the workers and manages the bills for the workshop like the electricity bill.

Excerpt from the transcript:

S: How do you keep track of your expenses?
V: My husband maintains a book. He writes down the daily earnings, labourer’s salaries, bills, savings etc for every month. Apart from this we have hospital bills. My husband has BP, I also take tablets for diabetes, every month we spend about Rs. 1,500 on medicines alone. He was only taking medication for BP until very recently he had some kidney problems. We took him to Yeshwanth Kidney Care. He has been taking more medicines ever since then. Now our medicine bills has increased because of the high cost of medicines. I am taking insulin now, I need 3 insulin doses every month. We have to visit the doctor once in 15 days, have to regularly go for a sugar checkup.

This interview is broken into two parts. The second part of the interview talks about Varsha’s investments, loans, insurances, life goals, and ambition. You can check the second part here

Credits

About the research:

This documentation is a result of the in-person interview along with the participants’ consent. The interviews might be conducted in their native languages and translated to English in the best possible way to reach a large audience.

Disclaimer: The names and organisations in this documentation are masked to honour the privacy of the participant.

About D91 labs:

This research was executed and documented by D91 labs. D91 labs is an open-source initiative by setu.co to help Bharat build great fin-tech products. We organize and publish user research, insights, and frameworks for fin-tech in India. Please follow us on medium for more exciting stories and insights on Bharat.

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D91 labs is an open source initiative to help Bharat to build great fintech products. We organise and publish user research, insights and frameworks for fintech in India.

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