Rajasthan is the largest state of India and is notoriously known for one of the lowest child sex ratio (888) and female literacy rates (52.66%)in the country. It is a state which is still crippled with social evils of child marriage and female infanticide/feticide. Girls’ access to higher education and work opportunities is negligible especially in rural areas, most of the girls quit school after 8th standard irrespective of their caste and class.
Despite all these odds, in the remotest part of West Rajasthan close to the Pakistan border, I found hope and inspiration. I came across these two women with a post-graduate degree, working as forest guards in the isolated territory of Desert National Park in the district of Jaisalmer.
Pushpa and Pushta have very similar first names as well as age but have different life stories. Pushpa Shekhwati, 24 is a widow and a single mother who belongs to a small village Kasumbi in Naguar district. The choice of remarriage is an unthinkable thought in Rajasthan; and a dominating section of society still glorifies the ritual of Sati.
On the other hand, Pushta Pawar, 25 is a farmer’s daughter who belongs to a small village Ballad near Pokharan. She is a newly married girl and has a life filled with hopes and dreams. However, due to the nature of her work, she lives away from her husband who often comes to visit her.
Their surroundings seemed stuck in time much like the society around them. Living with minimal facilities in the government provided mud-huts and deprived of any sort of entertainment, they find comfort in each other’s company. It is not just the story of two women who are doing an unconventional job in an arid land, but also of their friendship and hope for a better future.