‘My 12 Hours Aren’t Over Yet’ – Photo Story
Zardozi workers in New Delhi
For many years, people from backward states like Bihar have been moving to the big cities in search of different jobs. One of the works that used to be famous in rural areas is zardozi, a work of embroidery on cloth, which is done with the help of hands and needles. It has been reduced over time but is still performed across the country.
In New Delhi’s South Extension market, 8-10 workers from Bihar work in a big room throughout the day and also complete their sleep at the same place. They work for at least 12 hours a day, and the reason for this is that they get only 60 rupees for an hour’s work, due to which they have to work more and more hours to meet their expenses and inflation. Due to which they have to face several problems in the eyes, fingers, and bones of the spine.
At about nine o’clock at night, Md Kaleem, a zardozi worker gets up after finishing his work and tells another worker, Mushtaq, “Get up, it’s very late.” Mushtaq says without looking back, “My 12 hours aren’t over yet.”
Zardozi is a work of embroidery on cloth, in which designs are often created using gold and silver threads, beads, precious stones and pearls. Earlier this work was done on a large scale but now it has been curtailed.
As soon as you enter New Delhi’s South Extension Part 1, Block H, a series of houses dotting the street, amidst all the hustle and bustle, there is a three-floor building with small rooms with improper drainage and garbage strewn all around.
When you climb to the second floor, a large room of 25×30 ft is seen in front. In which 7-8 migrant workers are working with needles in their hands keeping their eyes down. This is a workshop, in which embroidery work is done on cloth, especially on kurta and sherwani. There is only one such workshop in the area.
On being asked about the nuances of business, one worker broke into a statement and said, “The owner of our workshop approaches clothing companies and picks up clothes on contract for zardozi, along with the company providing a picture of the type of design they want on their clothing pieces. And the workshop owner assigns work to us. We work on it and submit it to the owner.”
Further, a worker Zazbi said, “We get paid according to the hours we work, 60 rupees for 1 hour, so it’s up to us how long we work, but 8 normal hours isn’t enough to meet our expenses properly. So we work at least 12 hours a day.”
The workshop is not only a workplace for the workers, it’s also their house where they all live, work, eat and sleep.
Mumtaz, a worker said, “We get paid very little money, if we pay the rent to live, then it would be difficult for us, so we live at the workplace and save the money that we would have spent on commuting. It’s difficult to live in this situation where 10 people live in a small place.”
Another worker concurring with Mumtaz said, “If they think about the problem, then they will not be able to work here, where the bones of your eyes, fingers, and spine have to be crooked day and night.”