I had the pleasure of meeting Vanita Pise, who is one of the bank’s success stories yesterday. She came by the office, and I didn’t have much to do so she offered to show me and some of the other not-so-busy volunteers her home and her businesses. (Side note: so far work has been slow, and I haven’t really had the chance to work on anything interesting, hopefully that will change!) We walked through some of the backstreets of Mhaswad until we finally arrived at her place, which looked like it was part of a small community of houses that collectively raised farm animals and such.
In 1997, her husband’s state driven poultry business had failed, leaving the family $1,225 in debt. Vanita, despite her husband’s protests, took a loan from Mann Deshi for a buffalo and began rearing buffalos and goats and selling the milk from house to house. Since then she has taken on a variety of business ventures from her home. She still struggles to retain savings because she is currently responsible for supporting her 18 person extended family!
Vanita doesn’t speak English—only Marathi and Hindi—therefore I was deemed the “Hindi translator” of our little tour group (for those of you who have witnessed my Hindi skills, you are probably very amused by this). I was impressed by how many businesses she was able to run simultaneously. She produced paper cups that were sold to Mumbai for use in weddings, and temple offerings. Additionally, she also produces flour—and is about to start a clothing line! (no joke). All completely different trades, meant to take advantage of the various “high profit” seasons. So for the next three months she is doing the paper cups biz—that will phase out into flour, which will then phase out into clothing.
She will be attending Mann Deshi Business School courses to help her transition into the bag and clothing business because this is green turf for her and she has no experience in the field. Additionally, she will be taking English classes through the bank to help her as her businesses expand and she can enhance the interaction that she has with her buyers and clients.
On a side note, it was rather strange to read her back story immediately before meeting her and being taken to her home to see her “factory.” Also, I got the sense that her husband was the mean, unsupportive deadbeat sort of a guy—and then meet the man in the flesh. He didn’t seem too happy to see us, and probably felt threatened (as he usually seems to, according the story) by the attention that his successful wife is receiving. When you meet this woman, and you see how far she has come—you just want to see an entirely happy ending, with all doubt in her abilities eradicated and complete support coming from her loved ones. But I guess that’s life.