The contentment of fruitful effort
The grapes of Nashik, the oranges of Nagpur, the bananas from Jalgaon, the chikoos from Dahanu, and ultimately, the Alphonso mangoes from Ratnagiri; all of these are known according to the cities that they are cultivated in. Even if we don’t live in the place they are cultivated, we still relish them. In the modern age, the seasonal variations of these fruits have vanished. The urban folk are rarely too happy to see fruit in their markets. However, the small hamlet of Karti in Gondia, with a meager population of 1561 people had never sold fruits in its marketplace.
Karti is situated in the Tiroda division, 15 kilometers from the divisional headquarters. Rice was the main crop there, and only those with their own wells could afford to take other crops when it did not rain. In these circumstances, it was nearly impossible to get any fruit in the villages. The only place where fruits could be bought was in the town of Tiroda. Even the nearby villages never sold any fruits. ChhayaBhavariya had observed this trend.
Chhayatai lived with her husband, three children and her in-laws. Her husband and father-in-law worked as labourers in the farming season and as fishermen in the others. They were content with what they had. They had just pooled money to build a permanent house in 2013. Suddenly, they faced a major calamity. Her husband suddenly fell ill and had to be operated for a hernia. She had to borrow from her relatives and other sources, and considering the expense of travel, medications and treatment, the severe economic load was being borne by her father-in-law alone. She felt the need of complementing his income, and with that aim she joined the Divyashakti self-help group in December 2013. She borrowed a loan of Rs 20000 from the Gram Sanstha for being a fruit vendor and in July 2014, she applied for a community development fund from the Maharashtra State rural self-employment fund.
Having had no previous experience in business, she was worried whether she would be able to do it. To take things forward slowly, she only brought mangoes worth Rs 1000 from Tiroda for a start. She asked around for their usual selling prices and then, carrying a basket on her head, she started her business as a fruit vendor. In six days, she had finished her stock and earned a profit of Rs 600. She spent this money for domestic expenses. Then, she bought a stock of bananas and apples. This, she could finish selling in a mere two days and with a profit of Rs 600. She gained the confidence that she was capable of this business. Then, she realized that her neighbouring villages also did not have a fruit vendor, and she decided to cover those villages too. Seeing her determination, her mother-in-law relieved her of all household responsibilities and took them up herself. Chhayatai could now focus entirely on her business. She would start early in the morning at around 7am every day. Every day, she would walk 4-5 kilometers and cover villages like Dabbetola, Sonegaon, Kartiburuj, Kartikhurd and Indora and return home by 6pm. She would finish a crate full of fruits and earn a profit of Rs 200 a day. This continued for 3 months. In Diwali, she earned a major profit of Rs 1100 in three days. This was how Chhayatai was managing a monthly loan repayment of Rs 1322 and managing her husband’s medical expenses.
It was her single-handed effort which saved her family from a serious financial crisis. Her husband’s health is steadily improving. Realizing the physical toil of walking long distances, her husband has now purchased an old scooter for her. Even there, Chhayatai was able to contribute Rs 5000. Now, they are able to go farther and sell in even more villages. Shingada, a popular local fruit is in season, and Chhayatai is selling them right now. She sells hundreds of them for Rs 60 and earns a decent profit. If someone cannot pay with cash, she accepts rice in return. She has thus earned 100 kg of rice through such trade. This has saved her money spent on buying rice. This business has not just helped Chhayatai, but has enabled villagers to enjoy fruits they never had access to before. Now they never need to go to town to buy those fruits. They get them delivered to their doorstep.
Chhayatai says, "The SHG was the sole reason I could do this, I would otherwise be a liability rather than being useful."