Life in the village was cruel, it was more cruel for girls and women than it was for the boys and men.
I was a young girl when my elder sister was married off and taken to her husband’s home. My mother went over with her to stay with her new family for a few days. I was left behind as the only girl at home, and I was expected to look after the home, the family, the cattle and farms. Before that day, I had only ever helped my mother with a few chores, and suddenly I was expected to cook and bake and do everything mother did.
I had to bake bread. I prepared the dough, and heated the oven. I had made the dough so bad I could only make bread as wide as my palm. My father came over, had a good look at it, and laughed:
My daughter has made a tikki.
The following evening, I tried to do it differently. I baked bread, but the dough was still bad. The bread came out only a little larger. My father ate it and laughed again:
My daughter has made pathirmal.
On the third day and the third attempt, I got it all right. Father ate it and said:
Aaha, now this is right!
With my sister and mother gone, I had to learn things fast and I did. The men did not help. They just came and looked at the end result.
My sister used to teach me how to sew clothes for the family. I was a slow learner. My sister would poke the back of my hand with needles when I got it wrong. It was painful but it forced me to learn.
I remember that one day I got my mother to help me out with the sewing. I finished and walked over to my sister to show her my work. She prepared to poke my hand with the needle, but she could not believe what she saw. She looked up at me and smiled:
Good girl. You have learned and you have done it.
*Tikki = Hazaragi bread similar to Asian Baba bread
*Pathirmal = Thick crusted Asian bread the size of frying pan