16, Jan 2021 | Mamta Pared
This report is part of CJP’s Grassroots Fellowship Program, and has been written by Mamta Pared who hails from the Warli tribe and lives with her family in Nimbavali village in Palghar district. The daughter of brick kiln workers, Mamta wants to be a journalist, and is working on earning a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Abasaheb Garware College in Pune. Here she shares the story of two men from Jawhar Taluka: Ravindra Wagh who lives in Taral Pada and Ganesh Thombre who lives in Khotachiwadi village.
Meet Ravindra Wagh
A school dropout who has studied till class 8, whenever Ravindra Wagh thinks about his childhood, his eyes brim with tears. “When I was a young child studying in the Ashram School at Talwada, my parents used to migrate to earn their daily wages. Our financial condition was so poor, that sometimes we didn’t even have any food to eat,” he recalls. Wagh says his father used to work very hard but still got very less wages, “It was never enough to provide for the family. My mother used to send me to our neighbours’ homes to ask for Rs 20-25 so we could buy some rice and dal to cook food and eat.”
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One such memory still haunts Wagh, “When I was in class five, I remember going up to a person to ask for some money. He took out notes of Rs 100 and Rs 500 while looking for change in his pocket. My eyes stung with tears when I saw the bank notes, and I wondered how our lives could change for the better if I had that much money”.
He then made a promise to himself, that he will do all it takes to earn well. “I realised that to earn money you have to be educated, and I tried my best,” he recalls. However, things changed for the worse a few years later. Wagh reminisces darkly, “When I was in class eight, I had to drop out of the school because the teacher would always ask me to wear a uniform and come to school. She did not know that my parents had no money to buy me a uniform. I had no other choice but to drop out of the school, and join my family to work and earn.”
Initially, Wagh worked as a construction worker for a few years. “When I was growing up, I started extracting sand from the creek, this was in 2009,” he says. His next step was to work as a cleaner on a truck. He says that was a major move towards some financial security for him, “After I started working on the truck, I soon learned to drive it too by sitting next to the driver. Soon I was officially a truck driver, and started saving all my earnings. I eventually saved enough money to buy my own vehicle and used to carry passengers from one place to another.”
Ever the enterprising entrepreneur, in 2020, Wagh started his own chicken shop and soon expanded its reach by also selling snacks and cold drinks. He also serves ready-to-eat freshly cooked chicken dishes in the evening. Now the situation has changed for Ravindra who proudly says, “I take care of my whole family alone and people have also started giving respect and address me by the name of ‘Shet’ (or boss).” Wagh is proud of his life’s journey of struggle and achievement, and knows he will continue to work hard.
Meet Ganesh Thombre
The second person I met had a completely different life story to share. Ganesh Thombre had completed his bachelors’ degree but was disappointed when he could not find a job. “I was at home thinking of what to do next. During those days I provided water to the people working in the fields. In summer there is a massive water scarcity in Khodala village, so I and a few others used to draw water from a well and sell it to the people. I used to earn Rs. 10 for supplying around 50 litres of water.”
However, Thombre realised that this was no way to get ahead in life, “So I decided to do an ITI course and train to be an electrician, I also did a one year internship.” Soon he had a job offer but even here, he found a road bump, “There was a question of finding accommodation. Shifting to a new place was not easy, and I realised that the rent expected was also not affordable”. However he had to move, and found support in his sister. “My sister’s husband works with the Maharashtra Electricity Distribution Department. They used to live in Virar so I stayed with them and worked there but later, when he was transferred, they shifted out,” says Thombre who also had to leave the place and return home.
Back to square one, he once again had a deluge of thoughts, “I knew that I had to do something to earn money, so I started a chicken shop and even worked as a part-time electrician. I made house calls whenever anyone called.” Thombre says there are many young men and women in his village who have got a higher education but still don’t know what to do next, however he feels that no job is too small, and it is better to make an honest living anyhow, than sit idle and wait for big opportunities to knock.