Lakshman Devi lives with his wife Laad and two small children in a brick built multi-occupied house, at the entrance to the hamlet of Chansingpura. A paved pathway runs on past their home into the centre of the hamlet, flanked either side by houses with bright painted doors. Their house is entered through a cool, tiled corridor which leads up to a rough veranda they use as a kitchen.
He, Laad and the children occupy two rooms of the building, the rest is inhabited by his extended family. From the veranda you can see the small fields that they farm. In summer they grow maize, barley, ground nuts and mung beans. In winter, wheat, black lentil and mustard. The weather in the summer rises to a punishing 50 degrees plus and there is little respite from it working in the open. His big dream is to buy a jeep to expand his business beyond the neighboring hamlets. Laad would like to build a bore well to access good drinking water, as the fluoride content of the water from the pumps in the village is too high. She worries about its effects on her children.
Lakshman has been dealing in mustard husks which are used as kindling for brick firing, for the past six to seven years. The bright yellow flowered plant carpets the fields in the winter and he can buy from local farmers, who he has gained the trust of. Following the harvest, he stores the husks in a corner of his fields for a few days, before he sells them on to contacts in Harraiya town. The husks are light and burn rapidly and hot so are essential to brick firing. 'Everyone in the area farms mustard so there is no shortage of suppliers' Lakshman says 'and there are only three dealers including myself'.
He buys husks at 500 rupees per bigha ( a bigha is approximately 1.6 square metres) and sells for between 600 and 700 rupees. In order to find the capital to buy the husks each year though he has to take a loan from the money lender who charges 24% interest and holds his land as security until the loan is repaid. He wants to expand the business to buy from more than 300 bighas of land, but needs capital at a better rate of interest.