This woman from Bhagalpur, Bihar turned the table of misfortune

Heroic Saga of a Bihari Woman Manorama Devi of Sabour village in Bhagalpur

-Sanjeev K Jha

With her grit and determination, she turned the table of misfortune

There are women who make things better, simply by showing up. There are women who make things happen. There are women who make their way. There are women who make a difference. And women who make us smile. There are women of wit and wisdom who through strength and courage make it through.

Can sharing other’s pain reduce one’s own grief? Ask 60-something Manorama Devi of Sabour village in the Bhagalpur district of Bihar and she will answer: “Yes, one can reduce own pain only by sharing the pains of others. Khusi baantne se barh jata hai aur gham baantne se ghatata hai (Happiness multiplies after sharing while woes diminish).”

Life was appearing an endless tunnel for Manorama Devi – a traditional Kayastha family of village background, when her husband Awadhesh Kumar suddenly passed away in 1991, leaving three sons and two daughters in a growing up stage. At that time, he was working as the principal scientist at the Indian Lac Research Institute, Ranchi. “That time, the whole world around me was appearing gloomy. But it was the inspiring memories of my late husband that I decided to shift Sabour. My husband had always said that only a burning lamp can light another lamp,” she recalls, adding, “I had also some sweet remembrance with Sabour, as I had spent my early marriage days here because my father-in-law was then the principal of the Agriculture College there.”

After consulting the women of the riot-afflicted Chanderi village, I thought that the creation must take place after the catastrophe. “Pralay ke baad phir srijan hota ha iisliye maine is sanstha ka naam bhee Srijan hi rakha (As after every catastrophe, renaissance takes place, I opted to christen my organization as ‘Srijan’),” she enthusiastically says. Mallika Begum, whose right leg was chopped off by the rioters in 1989, also says: “She played the most important role in generating confidence among the women here. She is an angel for the minorities.”

Starting ‘Srijan’ with only five women, Manorama Devi (better known as Srijan Didi) first adopted Bapu’s charkha, as medium of building up confidence among the rural folk. “I had some spinning and carding experience with Bapu’s wheel at my father’s place in Deep village in Madhubani district, so I decided to go with it,”she says.

Srijan, Manorama’s design collective, which is making a name for its beautiful hand-crocheted lifestyle products, is incredible not just because its founder is old, talented and inspiring, but because its process of creation is held together by a network of strong and talented women much like her – women who make things happen, who are changing their worlds, one crochet bead at a time. Didi is determined that women should imbibe not just crochet-skills, but life skills in the course of their work. Women who have been with Srijan for a few years are groomed to take up leadership roles, teach other women, deal with vendors, and learn basic computer skills so they can communicate with her wherever she is.

Presently, Srijan has taken a shape of successful women’s co-operative, with a bank, bindi and bangles-making units, tailoring units with more than 200 self-employed women and a computer centre. Not only that, more than 500 self-help groups (SHGs) had got training from Srijan. In a recent report by the national level monitor of the co-operative societies in India Major-General (retired) P.C.Puri had also stated: “In Sabour block, there are 339 SHGs, out of which 82 have passed grade-I and four have passed grade-II. Srijan Mahila co-operative society, which is playing effective role in block, is providing training to ladies in stitching, embroidery, making bedcovers, bindis and bangles.”

Besides running a successful women’s co-operative, Srijan Didi also cared for the career of her children. Her eldest son is now a noted cardio-physician at a leading hospital in Australia, while the other sons and daughters are well qualified. “The sheer grit of my mother is a model for all the mothers of this universe,” her eldest son Dr Pranav Kumar told over phone.

Not only that, even the Srijanhad also launched its fortnightly magazine recently. The editor of this magazine is Didi – who clears the copies of her ‘barefoot’ reporters.

According to Manorama, the need for a magazine arose because the mainstream media rarely report issues of relevance and concern to poor, rural, mainly lower communities and because the literary, sanskritised and semi-official language used even by the mainstream media is difficult for them to follow. “In addition, since most journalists reporting for mainstream media do not go beyond district headquarters under normal circumstances, events and issues relevant to people in remote villages are rarely covered,” she said.

In contrast, Srijan covers local issues of special interest and significance to its audience and is written in simple, colloquial, comprehensible Hindi. And, since their raison d’etre is the well-being of their communities, they are committed to reporting issues that affect them. Apart from covering events and issues relating to farming, roads, transport, water, health, substance abuse (such as tobacco, areca and arrack), and so on, they also write about the talents and achievements, work and activism of ordinary women, which boosts their self-image and self-esteem. The magazine also serves as a link between women and the government, spreading awareness about official schemes and programmes meant for women and relaying villagers’ needs and concerns to the powers that be. Besides highlighting the problems faced by people from their economically and socially disadvantaged communities, they also campaign against practices such as child marriage and child labour. They also speak to older people in the village to collect traditional songs, proverbs, etc., which are published in the magazine so that younger generations have access to these otherwise disappearing aspects of their culture.

– Source: NewsMantra

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Quote of the day:“I was wasting my life, always thinking about myself.” 
― Morrissey