God helps those who help themselves: Kunta Devi
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Kunta was born in a fairly well-off farmer's family in Alampur village. Her father had 40-50 bighas of land. She was the eldest of 3 sisters and 2 brothers, and being the eldest daughter in the family, was the apple of everyone's eyes and pampered by all the elders. Except for her younger brother none of them had any education. But she was good at farming.
Life after marriage
Kunta got married at the age of 17 years. There were ups and downs in her new life in a new family. Her husband was illiterate and was slightly mentally challenged too. This was Kunta's greatest problem. He would earn INR 5 per day as a labourer. Kunta learnt stitching and started stitching clothes--working from home--to augment the family income. "Often I would ask my customers to pay me in grain instead of money. So I would manage to get not only INR 20 per month but also 10 bags of wheat--which was more than what my in-laws' family could grow on their 9 bighas of land."
Kunta got a lot of respect from the other family members. But perhaps nobody understood her agony of living with an abnormal husband.
After the division of family property they got 4 bighas of land. Kunta was unaware that her husband had leased out this land to another party in exchange for some money. After his disappearance she was told that she would get the land back only after his return. Perhaps this first encounter with the big bad world sowed in Kunta's mind the seeds of standing up for women's rights.
"I was not sure about the real status of the land. Perhaps people were trying to intimidate me thinking that I was alone in this world with no one to help me out. But I did not give in and stood my ground. My husband had sown sugarcane on that land. Despite all opposition and use of force by the opposite party, I cut the sugarcane crop. The police did not help me either. But the villagers did."
Her work as a woman farmer
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