When you first came here was there a train line?
Yes, there was. Do you know how the train line was then? There was just one engine. That train, the Barasat local, would go straight to Barasat. I would sleep in the train… we would also come on the Duttapukur local. Things have improved a lot since then. In those earlier days, it was just sweat and trouble. If we would make 200Rs, it would be stolen from us… those days were like that. There were no roads, there was no transport. We would keep walking and walking amidst a lot of mud…
But now there are more trains?
Yes, things have improved a lot since the earlier days! In the earlier days it was just sweat and difficulty. It was really hard life. If we would make 200 Rupees, it would be stolen from us… those days were like that. There were no roads, there was no transport. We would keep walking and walking amidst a lot of mud!
Do you always make this route together?
We all go home together, [but] I come earlier: she comes after me.
second seller: I have to go buy my vegetables [at a local haat], they get their vegetables for free. Free, free!
Yes, we get “free” stuff whereas they have to buy their goods, [raises her voice] they don’t have to sweat and work hard for their goods, they just go and get them at a bazar. Even if you have to drink a glass of water, you have to work for it. Nothing is free!
Can you sleep on the platform?
What choice do I have? Sometimes I can sleep, then I wake up… it is hard. There is always light, fans make a noise, and people are always moving about in the station. But there is no fear in DumDum; there is no fear in DumDum. There is the police, and there are night guards. No fear. Dumdum is the best in this regard. Sealdah [station] is not nice, this one is very good. Among all the stations, Dumdum station is the best. The police are good, the night guards are good, everything is good. And they all know us. We work there and we come from very far away. The shopkeepers know us, on platform 3 and platform 1, and the shopkeepers.
Don’t think that cutting taro leaves, banana stems and wild spinach is less hard – it is so hard, such a struggle! She was saying we get our vegetables for free, but this is a much better option than buying vegetables and selling them. And how we walk in the sun, lugging these vegetables, is very hard. In order to do this every day, I don’t get sleep, don’t eat well. I am scared that the train will leave, or that I will not get a vehicle, so I am always running!
Do you happen to miss the train?
Yes, it happens – then we need to take the later train… We didn’t eat last night in DumDum, we had no time to eat at the hotel. Yesterday the market went very badly, we couldn’t sell much, I was left with a lot of vegetables and I kept them at the station. We didn’t eat, just took some muri [puffed rice]… these two [ladies] all come from Bardhaman, they sell with me in DumDum, just two steps after me. They couldn’t bathe and eat, so we thought after bathing, eating and sleeping a little we will all go to DumDum at 4. Otherwise they would be at the platform and they wouldn’t be able to sleep, they would just have to keep sitting. They come everyday, they bring taro leaves and wild spinach; they sit along our same line in DumDum. They come from that distance everyday – think how hard it is for them: they come to sell vegetables from Bardhaman, they make 200, 100 or 150Rs, they earn and go home. It must take about three hours to go. Their house is by the Damu River, which floods in the monsoon, and the water is like huge waves… it looks so beautiful, it’s spectacular. The problem is also that they can’t sleep, their train is at 3.30 at night, they can’t sleep at the station. There is no peace in the station, chaos, and fights, and there are beggars… some are drunk or high. It is so difficult…