‘Earlier, we used to sell 15-20 brooms a day, but now only 5-7 are sold’.
A family of six was selling brooms on the Shimla-Theog Road in cold weather. The ladies of the family were making brooms and the men were waiting for customers. This family belongs to the Bagaria community, a schedule tribe from Rajasthan.
For the last many centuries, their family is making and selling brooms made of Khajur leaves. The family has installed makeshift tents (jhuggi) on the roadside and they have been living there for the last 15 days.
“We came here on 20 October and we come here every year before Diwali,” said Raju Bagaria. Raju and his family belong to Ajmer and selling brooms is their only profession. Raju and his family wander the whole of north India to sell their product from the high peaks of Kashmir and Himachal to the grounds of Punjab and Haryana. Raju’s family travels from one place to another to sell their handmade broom.
“My grandfather, father and now me have all been in this for the last many years,” said Raju. Raju was not alone, his brother Laddu was also with him. Every year, Raju starts his journey from Kashmir and then in festival season, he enters Himachal, when winter approaches, his family moves to the plains of Punjab and Haryana.
The Bagaria family usually stays at one place for 15-20 days and then moves to another. But the dip in sales and competition from factory-made brooms has made the situation tough for the community.
“Earlier the situation was good, sales were high. We used to make around Rs 25,000, but now we strive to make Rs 15,000,” Raju said. Raju and his family manage their daily expenses and save money for survival back home on this meagre income.
Back home, the Bagaria community collects Khajur leaves to make brooms. Their whole community is engaged in this trade. Raju is married to Anjali, who is an expert broom maker but according to her, she does not make enough money as compared to her skill and hard work.
“I work for the whole day and it’s hard to work in cold and above all this, I have kids to handle but I can’t leave this; if I don’t do this, what will we eat?” Anjali said. Laddu was picking leaves for making a broom, he is doing this for the last 10 years. But now he is thinking to change profession.
“This is not profitable,” said Laddu. “We are here for Diwali season, but this year’s sale is less. Earlier, we used to sell 15-20 brooms a day, but now only 5-7 are sold. This year, we are not even able to meet our expenses,” Laddu said.
Raju and Anjali want to educate their kids, but their travelling from one place to another has made studies an impossible task for their children.
“I don’t want to see my son and daughter doing this, but I don’t know how they will get the education in this scenario,” Anjali said.