Walking With Sugarcane Bundles

She lives in insecurity
Is this her only identity?
It is just not enough to identify her.
Many times, she is a tribal, also a lower caste
Sometimes, she is a poor upper caste.
Then, comes her life with insecurities–
Her journey with the husband is set
It is a six-month invitation to the sugar belt
It offers her an insufficient money game
Her poverty has no shame
Her stomach has no shame.

This awareness is taught by drought–
She migrates to fill her empty stomach
To fight with bundles of sugar
To minus the debt made by her drunken husband
To collect the marriage-fund of her 14-year-old girl child
To decorate her half home given by the government
She comes to avoid her encounter with drought
Because the cost of drinking water is a lot
No matter has land or not
Can’t urinate on the farm
It is just a second thought.

This seasonal migration of six months
Just a pandemic of toil
The readiness of reducing blood
To make others’ tea sugared
Cutting, tying, lifting, and carrying bundles on the head, daily!
She works with the risk of the body pain daily!

Her time is stolen
So, unable to recreate herself
She is without that time
So unable to watch herself in the mirror
Can’t even feed her little one
Can’t even count the days of embryo growing inside
She walks with bundles on the head
Along with her menstrual blood
She walks with abdominal pain
With an inclined neck with a heavy burden
She keeps it on and on in her style of walk in the thrash
She never listens to the wisher of sanitary pads.
During her menstrual cycle,
She walks with the torn clothes with exfoliated bloody thighs.
With the blood clots, with the heavy loads
She walks through the thrash to approach,
The rope of the tractor that the contractor ties
She is not allowed to show the pain between her thighs
If she does so, she will be bread-less.
There is no option for her work.
No medicine for her pain
She just thinks and keeps it on
Until she removes her uterus
Gives permanent holidays for her monthly cycle.
How far would she apply coconut oil to her exfoliated bloody thighs?
How far would she walk with heavy bundles?

Dedicated to all the women sugarcane cutters in Maharashtra, who undergo a hysterectomy to avoid monthly period pain.

Saroj Shinde is a PhD scholar of Public Health at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. For her thesis, she worked on the reproductive health of women sugarcane cutters.

Featured image credit: Reuters/Editing: LiveWire