When language plays barrier between mothers and kids
Languages, over the ages, have been known to unite cultures, however, it is the one reason which is forcing thousands of migrant mothers from West Bengal to live without their children in Rajasthan. They fear that their children might lose the ‘Bangla’ touch and could be considered non-Bengalis once they go back to their home state which can hinder their prospects for jobs in their home state.
To secured their future, the women leave children with their parents, in-laws and relatives, and work as house maids here for almost 16 hours a day to ensure their kids get a decent life there in back home in West Bengal.
“I left my elder kid with his grandparents when he turned one. Similarly, my daughter aged 1.5 years too was left with them. I wanted to ensure they read and write in Bangla in their home surroundings as well as in the school, which they might not have been able to do here in Rajasthan. In that case, they would have been called non-Bengalis in Bengal and their inability to speak in the local dialect would have eliminated them from securing jobs in Bengal where language remains a basic criteria to get the jobs, said Sandhya (35). She has been working in Rajasthan since last 10 years.
Another woman, Sapna, also from Bengal, has a similar story to tell. She too left her son when he turned a year old with her family in Bengal. “Although it is difficult to stay without kids thousands of kms away from therm, but thinking about their safe future, we are bound to take the decision,” she says.
A housemaid Archana has brought her daughters along with her to Rajasthan. She, however, has left her six month old son in Bengal. “I have made my daughters speak Bangla here in Jaipur. They will get married and settle in their houses, however, we want our son to do a decent job and hence left him there soon after his birth,” she says.
All these young mothers are adept with present job situation in India. Sandhya says: “There are jobs which clearly want candidates to be proficient in Bangla. Even if you are from Tamil Nadu or Karnataka, but if you are proficient in Bengali, you can get a decent job. However, if you are a Bengali and not proficient in Bangla, you cannot qualify for a job and hence we can’t get our kids here as they will be unable to learn their mother tongue,” she says.
Two brothers of Sandhya have also left their kids back there in Bengal with their grandparents. “It’s been three years since we last met our kids. It’s difficult to commute as distance is too much and so is the travel cost. We talk to them twice a week,”says Somu, one of her brothers.
In fact, according to 2011 statistics, Bengal ranks fourth among all other states from where people migrate for work and employment.
The Census of India for 1991, 2001, and 2011 have recorded higher numbers of female migrants, many of whom are domestic workers.
Between 2001 and 2011, around 5.8 lakh people migrated for work. While Uttar Pradesh topped the charts with 37.3 lakh, Bihar ranked second with 22.6 lakh migrants and Rajasthan stood third with 6.6 lakh migrants.
Sapna says: “Women from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have been staying with the families here as they don’t face such language barrier in their home state. But for us, language is a barrier.”
In fact, an international study titled Deltas, Vulnerability and Climate Change: Migration and Adaptation (DECMA) covering 51 blocks of districts of South and North 24 Parganas (in Bengal) revealed that 64 per cent of people migrate from here due to economic reasons, unsustainable agriculture, lack of economic opportunities and debt; 28 per cent of the migration from the region is for social reasons and about 7 per cent for environmental reasons like cyclones and flooding.
Meanwhile, as these mothers work hard to give their children a decent amount for quality education, they also have a common grudge: “Why can’t there be one language which can ensure the best life for our kids. We too want to stay as a family with kids, but this language barrier has failed us to do that. Hope our kids shall have a sound future and they shall not be forced to migrate,” says Sandhya with heavy voice.