Daily struggle

MANJU AJI, 40, has a temporary job as a sweeper at a village office in Kerala’s Kottayam district, but it pays her only Rs1,000 a month. So, she is working also as a domestic help. Manju and her husband, Aji, have two children—the elder one is studying in an industrial training college and the younger one is in high school.

She ran a small shop near her house and Aji was a cook at a restaurant. But the pandemic hit them hard, as she had to shut down the shop and he lost his job. The crisis deepened when her mother’s heart ailment became severe. She lost her mother recently.

“I went for MNREGA work for some time, but you won’t get paid at the end of the month. They pay it as a lump sum after three or four months. Then I found a job at a shop, but they also closed down due to slow business. That’s when I got the job as a domestic help.”

They have a one-bedroom house that gets flooded during the monsoon. Manju had pledged all the gold she owns—about 12g—in the last one year. “I pledged the last bit I had when my daughter joined college,” she said. “Now I am paying interest to save the gold. Every month, after paying lenders and local banks, we hardly have anything left. And, the price rise of essentials is making things worse.”