Monday, October 31, 2011

Without the Income from Weaving

I gazed around Mamak Si Dirita’s house with admiration. ‘You are doing so well,” I said. ´Your house is very nice and your children are beautiful and healthy. When I first me you in 1986, you were very poor and your clothing was torn. (I showed her pages 495 and 496 in Legacy where she is depicted) You were harried and distraught at the time. Things have gotten better for you.”

To my great surprise, Mamak Si Dirita burst into tears. “It hurts me so much to remember that time, she said. My husband had fallen sick and I did everything that I could for his health. There is not a clinic or hospital that he has not seen the inside of. All of my children were very young and I had to make ends meet with my weaving and my agricultural work. Eventually my husband got better but it was a difficult time. It hurts to think about it.” The poor dear could not stop weeping. Her tears told me about the depth of her pain. I was sorry that I had opened it up. She and I shuddered to think what would have become of her without the income from weaving.

Now her eldest daughter has a bakery in the back of the house and they make delicious sweet breads for sale. Her husband and she are both healthy. Their eldest daughter will marry next month and their house is new, spacious and relatively comfortable.

There was no social safety net when she fell upon her hard times. Weaving was her only regular source of cash besides the one or two harvests. I have often referred to that photograph of her weaving a bulang to demonstrate the poverty of the weavers, but I had not known until this visit just how desperate her straits had been. What do people today rely on? Now weaving is more costly than helpful.

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