Real Voices interview: Tejovathi and Gopal Rao
Married couple living in Chandanagar, Hyderabad, India
When did you migrate to the city?
G: I came here in 1966, when I was eight or nine years old. My older brother got a job here, so we moved from a small village near Warangal, about 180 km away.
T: I came when I got married to Gopal – my brother worked in the same factory as his brother.
Ben Gilbert/Wellcome Images
What’s changed since you arrived?
G: In 1966 this area had about 40 houses – there are many more people now.
T: People are changing, adopting artificial lifestyles. There is less time to interact. I’ve changed too, of course, but I still care about others.
How’s your health here in the city?
G: I have diabetes, like most of my friends and relatives. About 18 months ago I had a heart attack. I went to the hospital and was given a stent. I also have epilepsy, so I now take three types of tablet every day – I’ve had to set up alerts on my phone to remind me when to take them all.
T: I can’t do too much exercise because I had polio when I was a child and it left me with a knee problem, but I try to keep moving. I took part in a research project called the Indian Migration Study a few years ago, looking at the health of people working in my brother’s factory. Survey questions about physical activity made me think about my health, so I do all the housework by hand now and I’ve stopped sleeping in the daytime.
What is your diet like?
T: We have improved our diet since the study. A good diet avoids oil, roots and cabbage. We eat beans instead. I’ve stopped using salt, which was harder than cutting down on fat and sugar. No rice, either – just wheat chapattis, which are less fattening. No spiced food and no meat.
G: Every day the first food I take is garlic and fenugreek – they are antibiotic and good for diabetes. My blood pressure is normal; I spend an hour and a half each day in prayer, which helps.
Which is better, living in a city or a village?
G: It is better to live in a village because there is no pollution. Here there is lots of pollution – water pollution, air pollution – that makes people sick. But all my friends are in Hyderabad now, and my cousins live in the city too. One of my brothers moved to Mumbai; our daughter got married and our son emigrated to Australia. So I wouldn’t go back to the village – there is no one there any more!
This interview was done through a translator.