From crushing stones to making buildings
ASTRIDE A motorcycle, gun dangling on shoulder, contractor Lilabai is an awesome, if familiar, face in this brutally feudalistic part of the State. It is hard to imagine that this 36-year-old indefatigable contractor was married to a handicapped man when she was just 13.india Updated: Mar 08, 2006 12:16 IST
ASTRIDE A motorcycle, gun dangling on shoulder, contractor Lilabai is an awesome, if familiar, face in this brutally feudalistic part of the State. It is hard to imagine that this 36-year-old indefatigable contractor was married to a handicapped man when she was just 13.
And she had no voice to protest the injustice. Today, she struts around with her 12-bore gun on motorbike, braving men competitors in the tough job of building contractor.
Lila, aka, 'Bandook Wali Bai' is close to becoming an 'A' class contractor whereby she could take contracts worth Rs 5 lakh or above. She has 25-30 persons working under her. Despite success, illiteracy rankles her. Mother of three daughters and a son, Lila avers that she would make sure her children get good education.
Her husband, a chowkidar, is handicapped and she is virtually the sole bread earner of the family. Lila recalls how working with stones gradually steeled her resolve to carve an independent life – from a labourer to a contractor. “I used to work on crushers, breaking stones for other contractors. The work would extend up to 12 hours and I would break and carry stones in quintals”.
Her foray into building construction began when she was asked to make floor of a local temple in Rajgarh in 2001. Since then she never looked back. Lila got herself formally registered as a contractor and since then has had several buildings, roads and boundary walls constructed.
Asked if she ever felt any threat from her male competitors, she said, “I am an honest worker and believe in working hard. Physically men-folk might be stronger but internally it's the women power that rules.”
She bought the gun for Rs 19,000 when she perceived some threat from other men contractors. She also has mobile phones -- one for self, the other for family. Prosperity has brought change in the societal outlook towards her.
“My husband was handicapped even when I was married but I didn't know about this. Initially, he would some times taunt at me for stepping outside the household. Today, he respects me a lot”.
So do others. “Earlier, people used to avoid coming to our home because we are Dalit. Now, they don't hesitate. Besides, I have also stopped covering my head”.