“Our shop is closed till afternoon. My brothers, 8 and 10, and I go to school in the morning. We take the state transport bus to cover the 15-km distance to school. Once we come back, we alight at our shop. I collect water from the hotel nearby to make tea. Baba brings cigarettes, biscuits, namkeens, and other accompaniments that people prefer with tea. My customers say I make excellent tea.
Our shop is near a large hotel on the road to Bhimashankar, which is a well visited pilgrimage center near Pune. I like it here; running my shop, making decisions, talking to people and playing around. When my brothers and I enjoy our work and have fun at the same time.The inflow of customers is not continuous. I get ample time to study and tutor my brothers in the shop. City kids of my age, or even older, look at us in awe. These kids can’t climb trees, they look scared when a cow or a buffalo comes near them, and shy away when our dog offers them his friendship. I feel I am leading a much better life. The city kids have TVs and beautiful dresses which I like, but I don’t like the traffic in the city. Everybody there runs around; I don’t know why!
I don’t like it when people ask for credit from me. Do they ask for credit in big shops? They think a schoolgoing girl of 14 has no business knowledge and is naïve. Far from it, I always show them the graffiti on the wall of my shop. They smile and then pay me for whatever they buy. Some of them look at me as if they have never seen a girl in their life and try to strike a conversation. But I don’t entertain them. I collect money from them for their purchase and look the other way.
Baba and Aai are proud of us. They have told me that I will be going to my aunt’s home to study further once I finish SSC. She stays in Pune and there are so many schools and colleges there. After I go, my brothers will take care of the shop. Who knows, maybe I’ll find a job after completing, and my family won’t have to depend on the shop to supplement the farming income.”