40 years ago, there was a traditional woman who did not even know what gender stereotyping was. All she wanted to do was lead a quiet life with her family in a village. But when life threw her a challenge, she gathered the courage to take it on, rising to the occasion to enter a man’s world so she could feed her hungry daughters. This is the story of Shantabai Shripati Yadav, India’s first female barber.
This 70-year-old from Hasursasgiri village in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra is indeed an inspiration to all.
At the age of 70, Shantabai Shripati Yadav, India’s first female barber, charges Rs. 50 for a shave with a haircut and Rs. 100 for shaving the cattle. Her journey as a barber is extraordinary and inspiring.
Shantabai was married when she was just 12 years old. Her father was a barber and so was her husband Shripati.
Shripati farmed the three acres of land that he and his four brothers owned in Ardal Village of Kolhapur district. He also worked as a barber to add to his income. But soon, the brothers had a falling out and split the three acres of land between themselves. As Shripati had less than an acre of land to do farming on now, he started travelling to other villages to find more customers he could give shaves and hair cuts to.
Gradually, their earning reduced and to feed his family, he was impelled to take a loan. Unable to pay debts on time, he ended up bankrupt.Haribhau Kadukar, the sabhapati of Hasursasgiri village, advised them to relocate to Hasursasgiri to start a fresh life. With no barbers in this village, a steady income was promised here.But time was not grateful to them. In 1984, Shantabai lost two of her infants and her husband died of a massive heart attack. With no torch-bearer left in the family, for next three months, she worked eight hours a day as a farm labourer. Earning just Rs. 50 per day was barely enough to feed herself, forget her daughters. Seeing her appalling conditions, Haribhau Kadukar, suggested her to take up her husband’s profession.Shantabai said:
“I had only two choices, either to kill my daughters and myself and give up on life altogether or to hold the ustra that my husband left behind and struggle. I decided to choose the later,” said Shantabai.
She was humiliated and mocked by the villagers for taking up this manly profession but she didn’t give up. Every day, she would leave her kids with her neighbours, the Gadiwadars, and would walk 4-5 kms to nearby villages in search of more customers. She started off by charging Rs. 1 for a haircut and Rs. 5 for shaving the cattle.
In 1985, she received money from the government to build a house under the ‘Indira Gandhi Awas Yojna’. She, all on her own, married off all her daughters without any financial help.She says:
“This profession has given life to me and my kids. Until I can see with my eyes and hold the ustra with my hands, I will carry on with this job,” says Shantabai, who is determined to work until the day she dies.
Shantabai is a perfect example of true women power. In today’s world, a woman can take up any manly profession and excel in it as well.
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