She is only 92 and has never felt the weight of old age. In fact, she laughs, showing her toothless gums, when someone mentions her age. The diminutive figure does not show any sign of senility or sloth in walking or during conversation.
Meet Sben Majaw, a dedicated farmer and face of the working class. Majaw wakes up every morning and after finishing her household chores goes to her field in Lawsohtun where she grows organic vegetables. She works without any help and tends to the field till late in the evening. “This has been my routine for years now. I cannot sit idle. Whenever I go to the field I feel liberated and calm,” says the mother of six.
Now Majaw is busy preparing the field for the sowing season. “When it is time for the plants to grow, you must come and see the lush green field. There will be radish, beet, carrot, lettuce, coriander, sweet potato, cauliflower…. I grow some of the vegetables exclusively for consumption at home and the remaining I sell in the market,” says Majaw with a grin, her wrinkles cover the glint in her eyes but cannot hide the jovial countenance.
Majaw says she encourages the younger generation to work harder and come back to farming, which is the traditional livelihood. Asked whether she ever feels tired, Majaw says she had never seen a doctor in her life. “This is because I work hard, eat my home-grown vegetables and sleep well,” she gives out the secret.
When the state’s tall claims of protecting farmers from the wrath of modernity falter, it is people like Majaw who show a glimmer of hope. With no help from the government and no KCC loans, the old lady’s journey has not been smooth. Yet dedication and strong will has kept her going, she says.
“Sometimes crops are damaged due to inclement weather. Then it is a struggle all over again. Also, we do not get the price in the market,” she says and for the first time her voice quivers but momentarily. Majaw reiterates organic farmers’ demand to have a separate market so that their hard work does not go futile.
Has she ever spared a thought about women’s empowerment? The question quietens her until a young member of the family standing nearby explains it to her in Khasi.
“What are you talking about? You have power as long as you work, do your own things and don’t depend on others,” Majaw gets up. Her evening chores are pending and she needs to rush before she calls it a day, informs her daughter.