Thursday, December 21, 2017

The colony of cooks-1

in a series of posts, I plan to describe the work of Aruna Tella in establishing a housing colony of cooks. This time, I have the benefit of some notes given by her. I will describe the work in her own words.
It was possibly 1988. I was 33 and undergoing some training camp in politics with a wing of the communist party, it is another matter that I shifted to Telugu Desai Party later on. Political parties were not that important in my life. Wherever I went I used to try to meet the poor and working classes and there was a desire to help them. During this sojourn, I met one of the cooks at the camp by name Sesharatnamma and got in to a conversation with her. She described some of their problems. Their work seasonal and during periods when there was no work, they used live on borrowed money. The workers came from various castes since the work consisted of several parts from cutting vegetables to cleaning vessels and actual cook(ing. They all lived together during the work season. But they had problems getting to their temporary homes since there both men and women in the groups going home at odd times and there was harassment by the police. She said that if they had a union and fixed residences they could escape these problems and requested me to find a place through the government agencies for their residence. I was impressed by her demeanour, gave her my address and asked her to meet me at a convenient time. In due course, this led to the establishment of ‘vantapanivarala samshe a sangham’ ( which roughly translates as ‘The society for the welfare of cooks’).
Things stood still for a while until I suddenly had a phone call from Sesharatnamma. She was arrested allegedly for prostitution and asked for my help. I went to the police station, argued with the police and got her out. Then I reminded her that if they had Association and leaders, they could have possibly avoided this kind of problems. She immediately gathered many in her profession for a meeting and invited me to the meeting. All agreed to form a society and named it ‘Prakasam Jilla Vantapanivarala Samshema Sangham’ this was in 1991. We then organised a meeting in our house ( those days, we had our own house) to register the society

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