“Back when I was young, it was common practice for women in our communities to marry across the border. My parents arranged for me to marry someone from India and years later, that caused a lot of problems for me and my kids. After a few years, I separated from my husband before he passed away. I did all I could to bring up my children. I worked as a daily wage labor in construction sites and sawmills. Whenever opportunities came my way, I worked there. My meagre salary managed to keep my family’s head above water. But none of my children were lucky enough to finish school due to their poor health and partly due to my financial situation. I couldn’t provide for them.

I’ve spent the majority of my time working in different places in Bumthang. It’s been a hard life. Earning no more than Nu. 200 a day, my children grew up to get jobs just like mine. It’s been over a year since we moved to T/phu and I came here mainly to be closer to my kids. My youngest daughter and her husband live in an apartment, and when they struggled to make ends meet, I started working in a public toilet. My job was to keep the toilets clean and collect money from people who used it. However, the job was not profitable. I had to make enough money to pay for the electricity and the water bill.

My youngest daughter is working in the same area as a parking fee collector. She has a 7-month-old son who was born with an abnormality in his feet. I gave up my job at the public toilet so I can babysit him. He is still breastfeeding. While his mother is busy working, I hold him in my lap. I can tell that she is struggling, and will soon quit her job too. She has to take him to Gidakom hospital multiple times a month and all her earnings goes to taxi fares.

My other daughter works in a shop a few blocks away. At night, when the clock strikes 9, we all meet in the parking lot and wait to go home together. In our Hindu tradition, a mother cannot live with her daughter and her husband. Above all, a widow is not her children’s responsibility. This is not often spoken of, but I don’t know how long I should depend on them. They too have their problems.”

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