“I grew up in a small village where my family couldn’t afford to send me to school, because we couldn’t make ends meet. When I was 6 years old, my neighbour who was like a brother to me said that he’ll take me to Bombay and educate me. So desperate was my thirst to learn, that without telling my parents I went off with him. It was the biggest mistake of my life.
He sold me to a Nepali family for 50,000 Rupees and ran away. Theirs was a proper family with 2 children who went to school everyday, while I was made to clean the house and if it wasn’t properly done – I was beaten. At 8, I was forced to go to a dance bar and wear inappropriate clothes. I would scream to go back to my family, but it was pointless. They would beat me with belts and stub me with cigarette buds to drown my voice out but when I would keep screaming and they couldn’t house me anymore — they sold me to Kamathipura.
Here again, I was beaten and forced to attend to over 10 clients a day — at the age of 10. I was broken — I lost my childhood and wondered if I would ever see light again. But amidst the darkest of humanity, I found someone with a heart. When he was told that he was my client…he was taken aback. He realised how small I was, so the next day he went to the police station and brought them to check on me. On realising that there was a police raid, some girls hid in a trap below the floor, others in a ceiling flap and I was pushed into a cupboard. The police kept searching for me and even though I was scared of being beaten, I decided to raise my voice. I started banging from the inside of the cupboard, they opened it, rescued me and took me to Devnath Home in Chembur. I was given days of counselling and taught to read and write, but there are some scars which even decades can’t heal.
After 7 years, I was shifted to Purnata, a hostel where my new life began. I took hair cutting courses and parlour treatment courses. With this, I got a job at a parlour where I’ve worked everyday and slowly collected money.
Today, I’ve bought my own house with the money I saved up and a small loan from Purnata. I have a honest job, good colleagues and many friends. Up until now, I haven’t told my colleagues my story out of fear that I will be outcast…but I’ve had enough. I want to show my face and have pride in my journey. The highlight of it all? Every month, I go back to Kamathipura the very place that has haunted me for years to counsel those who are stuck and encourage them to leave with me — so many have. I’ve even tried teaching those girls whatever skills I have, just so that they’re motivated. A time will come, when I go to that place and have no one left to save…but until then I won’t stop trying.”