Nine Rupees an Hour a book by Aparna Kartihayen

Nine Rupees an Hour: Disappearing Livelihoods of Tamil Nadu

Why I Picked This Book?

Beautiful cover picture with a thought provoking title is what made me pick this book up for a read. The title “Nine Rupees an Hour” made me pause and think, can this really be? The book is written by Aparna Karthikayen, who is an Independent Journalist. She works with various media houses including PARI – People’s Archive of Rural India founded by P. Sainath, a well respected journalist. And as most of you would agree that any creative/journalistic association with P.Sainath is an endorsement. So, I picked up the book and took a plunge and I am glad that I did.

The Book

The Introduction of the book starts with a quote of famous Tamil writer Cho Dharman, which essentially covers the theme of the book.

“When a livelihood dies a way of life vanishes; and the language too is diminished.” – Cho Dharman

Each essay captures the daily lives of the rural people of Tamil Nadu along with the unique and sometime rare professions these people are into. The author gives you a peek into the world of these people through the story of –

  • a Nadasawaram maker,
  • a plam tree climber,
  • a folk dancer,
  • a sickle maker,
  • a weaver Kanchipuram sarees and thousands of design hand made by him.

And many more such stories. All the essays bring forth a stark reality of the inequality that exists in our country about which most of the urban population doesn’t even know. Each essay highlights the challenges people are facing in the wake of the traditional occupations being vanished either due to technological disruption or due to sheer bad policy decisions. One will feel sad and enraged by the fact that after spending eleven hours some people don’t even earn hundred rupees a day. Equally frustrating is the government and general apathy towards the overall rural agrarian distress.

The book also dwells on the overall agrarian crisis that the rural Tamil Nadu is facing. As in one of the story a man tells the author –

“It’s nearly impossible to be a full-time farmer and make enough money”

Like this you will find several stories where people are forced out of agriculture and other traditional jobs due to various factors, the primary one being bad policy decisions. And owing to this reason the coming generation don’t want to pursue the traditional or family jobs, causing a large scale migration to urban India. 

Language and Readability

The language is simple and easy to understand barring few Tamil words for which one might refer to internet. The author has done a lot of research for the essays and it shows when you read the book. The thing that I like most about the book is how brilliantly the author has weaved the essays into beautiful story telling. As you read each essay/story you feel as if you are transported among the people whose story she is telling.

About The Author

Aparna writes for The Hindu, PARI – People’s Archive of Rural India, The Wire, Scroll, Caravan and other media outlets. Aparna was awarded the 2015 National Media Award by the National Foundation for India for her work on “Vanishing livelihoods of rural Tamil Nadu”. In 2018, she authored a children’s book each for Pratham Books and Karadi Tales. 

Our Recommendation

Must Read for all, especially if you like Non-Fiction. This book is a portal between the urban and rural India, if you go through it, you will come out more informed and maybe more compassionate.

Want to read the book? click on the link below to get your own copy.

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