“When I first came here, Nayandahalli was a forest, there were no bus facilities. I came to Bengaluru from Chennai, in 1993 after my marriage and used to live with my in laws in Magadi Road. My husband and I later moved out. My husband used to collect and sort gunny bags, which he later sold to shops. The work was very scarce, and on a friend’s suggestion we moved to Nayandahlli. We found a small house for ourselves which was barely enough for us and our three children, but somehow we managed to scrape by. I have one daughter and two sons. After coming here, my husband decided to move into the plastic collection business.
Initially my husband collected plastic material and sorted it at home, before selling it to the scrap dealer and later we rented a small godown, with the help of his friend. In those days for 1kg plastic we got about 25 paise. For some material we got between 10 paise to 1 rupee.
The people living nearby objected to setting up the godown, but we struggled hard and set up the shop. He goes around to all the small shops and factories, collects all the plastic waste, brings it back, breaks it down into smaller pieces , and then sorts it into different bags. These bags go to other factories which use these recycled plastic to create their products. I also try to help my husband whenever I can by breaking the plastic and sorting it out. We did not have many factories for processing these plastics then. The godown was our source of livelihood, it helped us educate our children, and in addition we could babysit our children while working. The godown business is seasonal, for six months there is steady income, for the next six month we just have stock and wait for the right prices.
Back then, there was hardly anything in Nayandahalli. We had to walk a long distance to buy supplies for the house, and since the area was not that safe, I took my children to school, dropped them off and later picked them up in the evenings. There were hardly any buses, and the bus stop itself was a long walk. If and when the buses came, it was infrequent and full. If we fall sick or need a hospital for a delivery, there was only the Government hospital available. For poor people like us, who have no money to afford better healthcare, this was our only hope and we had to make do with it. Now, there are buses running and groceries are easier to obtain. But again, our lives are at a turning point.
The residential area has enveloped our godown and neighbours are creating problem. The Government’s new rule on relocating godowns has hit poor people like us very badly. We, who have no other means of livelihood and know no other job, have no idea what the future holds for us. We might have start all over again…”
Transcribed by Pinky Chandran & Ashwini Raj
Audio interview edited by Usha