She doesn’t talk much. She has been occupying that same spot for at least 20 years now. Other street vendors in the area respect it as her space.
She works hard. Breaking limestone is really tough work and she cannot afford to be distracted while she works. She works with her bare hands. When I suggested she at least cover them with plastic, she just laughed, as if to say, what do you know?
Why does she break limestone?
To make the pristine white powder used to make designs outside the front door, of homes and temples.
She is involved, she’s committed and of course she works with a smile. She was too shy to face the camera when I clicked her photo.
The tin you see in front of her? She fills that with the powder. The powder is dried thoroughly in the sun before it is sold very cheap to buyers. Rs.1.00 for a measure – the size of a large coffee mug. Rs.1 is not even a cent. Can you imagine how much she has to sell before she makes enough for a meal?
Yet she keeps at her job. Day after day. Maybe she sells some of it to shops that, in turn, sell them. Many grocery stores stock it.
It is difficult and I think, hazardous work, but she turns up every single day. She takes pride in her work.
It is a labor of love
Her tools consist of the three tins, a bottle of water, a bag of limestone, a plastic sheet to spread it on, the measuring cup.
She works all day, taking a break to have her lunch and chat with the other street vendors.
I think we could all learn something from her.
The finished product she sells – the white powder is free-flowing and looks pure white. It makes beautiful designs.
In my mother tongue, Tamil, we call these designs Kolam (koe-lum). It is also called “rangoli”. It is standard practice in our tradition to wash the front doorstep and the space in front of it each morning (and evening) and draw a “kolam”. A lamp is also lit and placed in the corner of the doorway. This is believed to bring prosperity, attracting the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, into the house. Everyone in the street competed with each other to make their kolam more beautiful, more complicated than the other. Then, in the evening, it would all be washed off so a fresh one could take its place.
These days, of course, we simply stick a sticker kolam that stays put in front of our door. Far easier. Many people make the kolam every morning. Some of us – and that includes me – do an elaborate one only on festival days. See the white outlines? That’s the white powder the lady’s making.
Kolams are interesting and there is a lot of significance attached to it. I will dedicate a separate post to this topic. For now, suffice it to say that it breaks my heart that so much time is spent on an elaborate design, only to be washed away. But let’s look at the silver lining. If they weren’t, then how would people like this lady do any business?
I am also linking up with Parul of Happiness and Food for the #WomenAtWork bloghop, which happens on the first Sunday, every month.
I am also, also joining Mackenzie Glanville