Primarily, the intent of this book is to draw political and humanitarian attention to the aftermath of peasant suicides, particularly the coping strategies of women who are already marginalized in a deeply traditional and patriarchal society. As an urgent political task, I attempt to make the picture that meets the eye more complete. Women’s voices, and some broad data from the overall analysis, will speak to readers of the crisis from my precise point of entry into this region and the endless saga of its toiling class.
Secondly, the dead end that widowhood signifies in this feudal-patriarchal society needs to be interrogated – especially, in this context, through the instances of widows running fatherless families. The growing number of “widows” in the Punjab is determined by processes that demand our attention – be it the political economy or cultural practices. What do these women have to say about their changed circumstances? Can we shift the lens to view the woman as survivor, even as she holds on to the fragile threads of existence despite colossal losses? More fervently then ever she holds on to her dreams of a future for herself and her children. What colour or hue will this future be, what shape?
Finally, the impetus to begin documenting lives in this agrarian milieu came from a deep need to understand the deep distress and the fragmentation of the individual self in poverty experienced by the peasant community, especially after having toiled hard to make Punjab the bread basket of the country. The subjective reality of dispossession and the related psychological stress for entire communities need to be documented to reveal the extent of destruction capitalism brings in its pursuit.