A dagger as a pendant, dressed like a “man” and a steely resolve to provide for her family while keeping herself safe – meet Pinky Axom, a single mother and the owner of Maidong, a fast food joint in Lakhimpur town of north Assam.
While the dagger has made her the talk of the town, Pinky says “it was a decision taken many years ago”. “It’s not like I never had a liking for gold or silver pendants. Today, it is a part of my identity. I feel weak without it,” says Pinky, in her early 30s, who works as the chef, waiter and cleaner at the joint.
Born and brought up in Sadiya of Upper Assam, Pinky came to Lakhimpur at the age of 15 after eloping with her boyfriend. In a year, she gave birth to a girl. “After the first child, our relationship went through a rough phase. My husband had an affair and hardly stayed with us. I stayed with my in-laws and I am with them till date. My husband doesn’t live with us,” says Pinky hesitantly.
“It was difficult to run a family. From selling lemons and socks to tea leaves, I did odd jobs. I also started a vegetable kiosk which had to be closed during the Covid lockdown. I came across Tiktok then. I made innumerable videos on the platform, but later it got shut in India.”
Narrating why she feels safer carrying the dagger, Pinky says, “My daughter was admitted to a hospital with severe pneumonia during the lockdown. One night, I had to come home to take a blanket for her. On my way home, two men followed me on a motorbike and groped me. I went numb, but then I regained courage and attacked one of them with the knife. They got scared and fled. I realised that if I need to survive and raise my child in this male-dominated world, I need to look like a man.”
As per the National Crime Records Bureau 2020 data, Assam recorded the highest rate of crimes against women.
Setting up a fast food joint, too, wasn’t easy for Pinky.
“I went to several banks and organization for a minimum loan to start the venture. No one stands with the poor. Finally, one of my sisters agreed to lend me money. In the first week, I bought 250gm of chicken, but couldn’t sell a single piece. As I did not have a fridge, I had to throw away the meat every day. Gradually I bought a small fridge. I did not have an inverter. Customers wouldn’t come in the dark. Slowly, I bought an inverter, a motorbike and have repaid my sister. Today, I sell around 10kg of chicken daily,” Pinky says with a satisfied smile as she starts prepping for the next meal, even as the dagger dangles in her neck.