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.

Tejovathi and Gopal Rao

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.

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Populations’ in June 2014.

Ecology and environment, Genetics and genomics
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development