In Bihar’s Samastipur, a tiny store named ‘Avinash Jhola Udyog’ weaves colourful jholas (bags) that sell across the state.

At the helm of this endeavour is Lalita Devi, who started the centre after escaping her alcoholic husband in 2004.

Stranded on the railway platform at Nazirganj station with her three children, Lalita was found by Deena, a woman who empathised with her situation and took her under her wing.

Deena offered to help the family by taking them home with her, and in a matter of a few weeks, the family’s fate had changed.

Soon, Lalita began working at a tailoring shop, and moved into Deena’s aunt’s home. Here, she would cook, clean the home, and take care of the old woman.

By 2007, Lalita had made enough money to start her own venture and rent out a small shop in the market.

This doubled as her home and a warehouse, where she began making and selling bags.

“The first few months were all about exploring, finding out from where the material comes, how to stitch the fabric for jholas and from where to buy the resources. I had never imagined having a business of my own.”

Soon, Lalita’s jholas became the talk of Bahadurpur market. So she decided to use her business to help other women who wanted to stand on their own feet.

Today, 13 women are part of her collective, and Lalita earns around Rs 35,000 every month.

The 42-year-old is all smiles as she recounts how she designed her own fate. “The same people who taunted me when I left my home, asking, ‘What will you do with no job and three children?’, now look at me and say that I am lucky with how life turned out.”