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Galo Mandal

I don't know my age, but I can check it at home on my citizenship card. 35 maybe?

At the time of my first marriage I was five. My husband's father came to my village and saw me playing, and my father and he made an agreement.

When I was ten I moved to my husband's house and slept with his mother. I was scared of my husband, and didn't speak to him or serve him food. Meanwhile my mother-in-law taught me how to cook rice and to clean.

Two or three years later my mother-in-law told me it was time to sleep with my husband. I bore a son at fourteen but I wasn't happy - my in-laws and my husband always beat me. So I went back to my parents. That's how it was for several years, I went back and forth, never staying longer than two months with my husband because I couldn't stand it.

Then I stayed with my parents for about three years and people told me I should remarry. I remarried and worked cutting grass, planting rice, and doing other kinds of work for people with land until I started working at the center. Now my son has come back to me, and he says if I can build a house in my parent's village we can all live together.

During the Festival of Light I would see other people's paintings on the walls of houses but I always made my own designs. In my parents' house I made peacocks smoking a hookah, pregnant elephants, tigers, and people. Now I make all sorts of paintings but you can tell which are my paintings for several reasons. I like to use bold colors. My animals have faces like people's, and they are often smiling. I show people from the side and usually their arms are out in front of them since they are busy doing something.

Most especially, I like to do paintings which make people laugh and which may have a little mischief in them. My favorite painting is of Krishna and the gopis (the cow herding maidens). He'd stolen the saris of the gopis while they were bathing in the pond and then he hung them in the tree. When they came out they had to cover themselves with their hands like this and then they pleaded with him to give them their clothes so they could go home. But Krishna just sat in the tree laughing, playing his flute and saying, "I haven't taken your clothes, they're hanging on the tree and you can get them yourselves." I like Krishna because he knows how to make fun and be mischievous.

Tiger painting: You know it's my tiger by his smiling face. Also, I like to show which tiger is male, just to make people laugh. Those aren't scales on the tiger--that's the pattern you see in the fur.

Vishnu and turtle or snake painting: Beneath the earth are the gods in the form of turtles and snakes. They join legs and tails together and the world rests on them. When they move we have an earthquake. These. turtles and snakes are a form of Vishnu who sometimes emerges from the earth in the form of a man. He holds his trident and conch shell.  

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