Island News

Bojmati fights for survival

Written By : NANDIKA CHAND. With the escalating costs of food items, it is difficult to survive with a pension of less than $100 a month. Island Life came across
30 May 2009 12:00

image Written By : NANDIKA CHAND. With the escalating costs of food items, it is difficult to survive with a pension of less than $100 a month.
Island Life came across an aged woman selling snacks and food parcels at the Lautoka Hospital.
72-year-old Bojmati of Rifle Range Lautoka has been doing this for nearly 20 years.
Formally of Vunitivi, a rural settlement in Ba, Bojmati says she gets financial assistance from the Social Welfare. It is not enough to meet the bills.
“Back in my days, we used to have everything come easy as we were all self-sufficient with our piece of land,” she said. “We were eight in the family, two brothers, and four sisters including my parents with me being the second youngest.”
“Our father was a cane cutter and laborer while our mother looked after the day-to-day running of the house.
Bojmati says she did not attend school as back in her days, there was no school in her settlement and girls had to stay home to help with the housework.
She said this did not deter her, as she used to go through her brother’s school books but did not know what he learnt in school as she did not know how to read.
“We girls, helped mother with household chores such as sweeping the house, washing the dishes and attending to our cattle,” Bojmati said. “We did not have piped water supply back then and used the well for cooking and bathing.”
“Our hands used to get tired of pulling the bucket full of water from the well. Our tiredness did not last long as there were many things to be done.
“We also milked the cows, took the goats to the nearby pasture and collected the eggs from the chicken pen.
Bojmati and her sisters played housekeeping after all the chores are done and they would help their mother in cooking.
“When father returned from a day’s work, he first had his shower and then was served with a bowl of hot tea,” she added.
“We used to have our dinner together sitting in a round circle and everyone talked about their day.
Bojmati got married at 18 and moved to Lomolomo with her watchman husband. They have five children.
That was when she started thinking of doing her own money-making business.
“I got tired of staying home because as soon as the chores are done, there was nothing to do, so I decided to cut sugarcane in the scorching hot sun.
She worked all day and took her lunch and water to the field.
“Working in the field made me tough and I looked at life from a new angle as we had five children to raise.
Her husband died 15 years ago and her children got married and went their separate ways leaving her all alone. She now lives with her brother-in-law and gets a monthly pension of $60.
“One day, about ten years ago, I decided to sell Indian savories and food parcels to meet my daily increasing expenses,” she said.
“I chose Lautoka Hospital to run the business because a lot of people go there every day.
“Ever since then, I can be seen near the dentistry department selling bhajiya, bara, cassava and dalo chips, murku, hot bean and roti parcels.
Bojmati says like all other businesses, her small food and snack business has its ups and downs.
“With more than six food sellers in this same place, competition is really high as we all try to attract the same customers.
Things were cheap during her days. A kilogramme of potatoes sold for only five cents while it was $6 for a bag of flour and 20-cents for a kilo of rice, and Bojmati is shocked at today’s high prices.
“I just look at the price tags, count my money, shake my head and but little quantities of these items,” she said.
“I usually have to return to the supermarket as these things do not last long as I use it for my business.
“I am able to make $10 per day but it’s not enough because I have expenses for transport, medicine to buy and electricity bill to pay,” she said.
“It’s okay for people like me but this cannot be for today’s generation.
Bojmati calls on people to work harder.

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