I met Tulshi Bhagat in 2017 in her hamlet, Murbichapada, when I was doing a story on displacement due to the Bhatsa Dam, made in 1971-72. It takes around three hours to reach her house in Shahapur taluka in Thane district – nearly one and a half hour on the local train till Asangaon and another hour on the state transport bus from Shahapur bus depot. Making this long and exhausting journey, with a heavy load of palash leaves, is a vital part of Tulshi’s life.
Her story and daily struggle represent every hard-working person’s life. Many people like her work day and night just to survive, just hoping for a better tomorrow. They are right there in the slums of cities and in remote villages and small hamlets a few kilometres from the metropolis. Their isolated worlds, with hardly any employment opportunities, force many like Tulshi to make their way to the city.
In my four years of reporting, I have encountered many such lives. The spirit of these people, their unconditional hard work, consistency and dedication have always inspired me. Their struggle makes me want to write about them, to make the government listen to their unheard voices. I will continue to look for and write about many more Tulshi Bhagats, with doggedness and dedication.
PARI reporter Jyoti Shinoli won the Red Ink Award of the Mumbai Press Club in the Women’s Empowerment-Gender Equality category in June 2019.