Portrait of a Lady

You may remember the portrait of this Rajasthani tribal woman from our Jaisalmer pictorial a while ago. Many portraits of Indian women have quickly been taken during crowded market days or festivals. Unfortunately, most faces do not come with a story. But the woman in the photo above is a rare exception.

Personal interaction between the sexes, especially between foreign men and Indian women, is frowned upon, so we rarely have the opportunity to talk to Indian women. Outside of modern enclaves, you rarely see Indian women working in shops or small businesses. Even stores selling jewelry, saris, and make-up are usually run by men. You see women working in the fields, gathering wood, and shopping, but you seldom interact with them.

But the tribal lady, whose name we could never really understand, was different – she was a business woman running a VERY small business. Day after day, she sat in the hot sun on a tattered blanket outside the city gate trying to sell a dozen random trinkets. Clearly this woman was working long hard hours for a few cents a day.

Through her limited English, a lot of sign language, and a great deal of humor, we developed a kind of friendship with her. What started out as repeated attempts to sell us an old, scratched up CD of traditional Rajasthani music ended up as daily greetings and short conversations about how business was going. She was incredibly proud and very hard-working. Although we never really learned that much about her due to language barriers, we will certainly remember this exceptionally intelligent woman working to survive in Jaisalmer.

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