A summer afternoon with Rozina

A few hours spent with Rozina’s poor family bring to fore the disconnect between her precarious present and her plans for the future

pujab

Puja Bhattacharjee | April 2, 2013



It is late March and Salboni is extremely hot with temperature close to 40 degrees. In the scorching afternoon sun, I made my way to Sayedpur to bid farewell to Rozina Khatun. As expected, Rozina was not at home. I gathered she was at school. Her mother informed me that she is filling in for the teacher of a local primary school who is on leave.

As I waited for her, her mother urged me to have some tea or snacks. I was touched by the gesture but refused to avoid putting pressure on their already scarce resources. Rozina comes in a few minutes later while I was busy interacting with the local children. I eagerly ask her about her education plans. She informs me that she has enrolled in a nurses’ training course in Salboni hospital. Her family is hopeful that at the end of the course she will be able to secure an employment in the health sector.

“The total fee of the course is Rs 10,000. For now we have secured her an admission for Rs 500. We will have to pay the rest of the amount by the end of the course. The doctors haven’t promised a job yet but said that she can approach other institutions with the certificate,” says her mother. Rozina seemed a little emaciated at the mention of this. I could see the cloud of uncertainty that still hung over her future.

Rozina asks me to talk to her brother who has been playing truant at school. She believes it’s necessary for him to attend school on a regular basis as he has stopped taking private tuitions as dues for the last few months haven’t been cleared. Her brother anticipating to be admonished scurried away as soon as he saw me.

As I was informing her about my impending return to Delhi, our conversation was interrupted by a commotion outside. As I stepped out of Rozina’s hut, I saw a few men were standing near the electric meter boxes with a list in hand and villagers were arguing with them. I learnt from the men who were from the electricity office that they were disconnecting the electric lines of the people who had failed to clear their dues. The villagers complained that barring the initial few months when they first got electricity, the bills were never regular and that a few months back, three years’ bill was sent at once.

“Our total bill stands at Rs 12,000. How do we pay such a hefty sum?” enquires a villager. “We are just doing our job. If you have complains, go to the office,” was the curt response from the other side.

That day Rozina’s family along with quite a few residents of Sayedpur lost access to electricity. Rozina’s mother complained that now they will have to just deal with the humid summer and probably will have to sleep in the verandah at night. One more struggle for a family which is already dealing with quite a few.

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