Wrinkles and tattered slippers cannot stop Bhadels from doing what the rest of the city can’t.
Sighting porters in and around busy places isn’t an unusual deal when in India. But when we subconsciously assume the gender of these porters, that’s when the surprise kicks in here at Margao. You’ll see bhadels here, walking in the folds of this south Goan city, as they have been doing since the mid-eighteenth century.
The ‘Bhadels of Goa’ are women porters who work in the city of Margao and this occupation has been operating through a hand-me-down system! Generations of women in the family have been involved in this trade but as globalization found its way here, this breed of women have been dwindling in numbers.
These bhadels in Margao have traditionally been of Roman Catholic origin and they mostly belong to tribes originating in Goa! This lot of women porters is still considered to be the most trustworthy labourers here in the city and their income strictly depends on the weight of the baggage and the distance you assign them.
With rising development swings in the state, bhadels have been facing competition from other youngsters, who’re encroaching upon this business with their physical strength. Bhadels here are mostly above 50-60 years of age but their wrinkles haven’t stopped them from hauling cupboards on their backs to carrying items double their weight.
In honour of their tireless services, a life-size stainless steel sculpture of a bhadel has been installed in Margao and it was fashioned by sculptor Subodh Kerkar.
The number of bhadels have been reducing with each passing day as the women of this generation want better means to make a living. Although the women from the bhadel community can apply for government pension schemes for senior citizens, they have actually dragged their feet through it.
It’s a matter of good news that there are women from this tribe who are looking for better job opportunities! It reduces the chances of exploitation and furthers the growth of the women here. We can only hope for a fond remembrance of these women coolies amidst the citizens while they move forward with their lives and careers for a head start.