Krishnarajendra Market well known as K.R. Market or City Market is one of the oldest commercial centres in Bangalore. K.R. Market is situated one kilometre away from the Bangalore City Railway Station. Its area extends upto Kalasipalyam Road in the North, Binnypet Road in the South, Mysore Road in the West and Town Hall in the East.
It attracts people from all over India. Majority of the population in K.R. Market is from Tamil Nadu, especially from Salem and Dharmapuri districts. Main reasons for migration from Tamilnadu are – K.R.Market promises a living for all kinds of labours, Due to drought in their districts, Lack of irrigation in Tamil Nadu, Due to indebtedness and of course Karnataka is one of the nearest neighbouring states and easily accessible by the cheapest mode of transport.
Vandi Mode (meaning a place for parking the vehicles, those days the wooden carts).
Vandi Mode is a small slum situated in between Avenue Road and the newly constructed City Market complex. People in this area have migrated from Salem District of Tamil Nadu during 1920s. They raised tin sheet/tarpaulin sheds and constructed huts with the use of mud and coconut leaves. 40 families had migrated during that period and now the number of families have increased to 75 almost doubled. These families just living in a space 100*15 sqft. Each house consist of 5*6 or 6*8 etc, in one house minimum 3-4 families live around 12-18 members. New families entry the area as few families return to their own towns. The population of Vandimode is approximated to 600. They work as coolies on a daily wage, there are street vendors, carpenters, auto drivers, road side food stalls, loading and unloading, shopkeepers, hotel assistant, electrian, bulkcart owners, book binding, packing and marriage hall helpers etc.
Vandimode slum is a unique place where most of the sheds/huts were put on the terraces of the shops. When enquired about this, I was told that their hutments on the ground were demolished by the Corporation Authorities in 1988 in order to extend the area of the new city market complex. (This has happened even in other areas of K.R.Market for the same reason). After this sad incident, the residents requested the shopowners to allow them to use their terraces for their living and were obliged. Vandimode lacks the basic amenities such as drinking water, drainage, sanitation, bathrooms, health care centres, etc. The residents have to walk at least half a kilometre to use the public toilets or bathrooms and for every such use Re.1/- and Rs.5/- respectively have to shelled out to the person maintaining the toilet. A major share of their earning is spent on this. The people living on the terrace has to collect the kitchen waste water in a drum or a bucket for the whole day and will be thrown out only after the shops are shut down, normally at midnights. The staircases are constructed with wooden planks and it is very dangerous to climb up carrying heavy load, especially water. While climbing up one should be careful not to touch the multiple electric wires over their heads.
Sarojamma’s family is originally from Shankara Varam, a small village in Tamil Nadu. Due to major disagreements within the family, her grandparents left the village and came to Bangalore, finally settling in Vandimode slum. Sarojamma’s father was only 3 months old at the time. Because they had recently immigrated and there was little space available, the family was living and sleeping on the streets; her grandfather was working in a coconut oil wholesale shop as a coolie, earning 1 anna per day. When he was old enough, Sarojamma’s father joined her grandfather in the oil shop; he later married a girl from the same slum, and together they had 13 children – 4 male, 9 female – one of which was Sarojamma.
Illegal marriage and desertion of her husband:
Many years later, Sarojamma’s father brought a friend from the shop to the house. Who was very friendly with Sarojama. Many years later, Sarojamma’s sister and her father’s friend began having illegal relations. She had 4 children by Roman, although they never married. One day, out of curiosity, Sarojamma asked Roman to see his house; and went with him. Her father, thinking that Sarojamma had run away with him, went to Roman’s house and began shouting wildly. The family of Roman’s newly declared fiancée overheard and immediately called off the wedding. Roman, furious, blamed Sarojamma’s family for the cancellation of his marriage, and demanded that Sarojamma’s sister convince Sarojamma to marry him instead.
After 4 children, Sarojamma and Roman still had not been formally married. All were girls. Roman neglected the family, leaving them starving, and began daily beating Sarojamma because she had not given birth to any male children. Alcoholism aggravated the situation. Finally, unable to bear the harassment and hardships, Sarojamma poured kerosene on her body and lit herself on fire. Her brother, who lived next door, found her before she burned too badly and took her to the hospital.
When Sarojamma returned home to Vandimode slum, she began living again with Roman. She had no other choice. After 2 years, she gave birth to 2 boys. The harassment continued and Roman still did not take care of the family.
At 14, her second daughter was admitted to the hospital because of heart problems. But because the family could not afford permanent treatment, her condition only worsened, and after 6 months she died.
When Sarojamma came back from each visit to the hospital, her daughter told her that Roman suspected that Sarojamma was only able to finance trips to see her ill daughter by having affairs with other men. In order to clear all suspicions, Sarojamma promised her daughter that she would convert to Christianity, Roman’s religion, and legalize the marriage in the Church.
Death of her third daughter:
Her third daughter, after giving birth to 4 girls, suffered such harassment from her own husband that she committed suicide. Her son in law after 2 months he again married second time. Now all the four daughters are harassed by the step mother. The first daughter who has completed her 10th Std now working Pre Primary Teacher.
Entry to Business:
A friend from a nearby shop sympathized with Sarojamma. He encouraged her to begin her own businesses, first by reselling wooden apple boxes, and then by selling meals on the street. He gave her 7 rupees to use as investment. With those 7 rupees she bought 7 apple boxes and resold them each for 2.50 rupees; gradually the business grew and helped the family survive. She has invested Rs.16000/- for apple box business as she could not invest on her own, she takes loan for interest from the financiers on daily/weekly repayment. If principal amount paid on monthly basis the rate of interest is 10%, if it is paid daily then the interest is 20%. Sarojamma gives in advance to the whole salers before the season starts – (apple). She buys for Rs.2/per apple box from the wholesaler and resell it for Rs.4/per apple box, she gets Rs.2 as profit from each box. During the season she collects the empty apple box from the wholesalers and stores it near her house. When there is a demand for apple box she sells it for the higher prices. The damaged box are repaired and sold it. According to her the apple box business is more profitable when we invest our own money. She works as a link between the wholesale and apple mandi, and also provide job for the one person for few days during the season. When the business in K.R.Market is affected even her business is affected because during raids the wholesalers/retailers on the footpath cannot do their business so she will not get box. Her business depends upon the situation of footpath hawkers in market.
She say some times the financier also cheat her when she pays small increments to her debtors, the financiers take Sarojamma’s money but refuse to mark it down in the loan book. As a result, Sarojamma must pay the same amount several times while the interest keeps accumulating. For example, for a loan of Rs. 10,000, she paid a total of Rs. 37,000 interest.
Still today Sarojamma’s 2 sons and her 2 remaining daughters and their children – 13 people in all – live in the tiny 5’ x 8’ room, living off the meager profits from the apple box and meal sales. Her sons and sons-in-law work irregularly, loading and unloading the trucks that come to the market. Her grandchildren cannot afford to go to an English-medium school, and so will not find a good job, as all higher education is conducted in English; even if they go to the government schools, their attendance will not be regular because of problems at home, lack of food, health issues, or because they must go elsewhere to live due to lack of space at home. the situation of sarojamma is servere.