“I was born deaf and mute. We were living a good life until my father passed away and my mother had to raise my siblings and me by herself. My sisters were sent to Bombay to an NGO, but because I was the youngest and couldn’t communicate I stayed behind with my mother. She worked at a dance bar, got into the sex trade and every night trusted our neighbour to look after me.
What I didn’t tell anyone for years is that our neighbour is the man who sexually abused me for many years.
I didn’t have a voice, but never before had I felt so voiceless. I was terrified of men and people in general. I continued to keep quiet until the NGO which my sister’s were a part of insisted that I join them. I still remember my first day at Kranti, I hid behind my mother’s sari and wondered how I would communicate with any of them— only my mother understood me. I had never been to school before, but I started attending the Bombay Institute for the Deaf and Mute and I began to understand the world around me more. The other girls at Kranti began to learn sign language to communicate with me better and I understood what it’s like to have friends who care and understand. Little by little, I broke the walls around me to allow people in.
Today, when my mother visits me I take her around the neighbourhood, travel with her in local trains and even bargain with vendors the best I can! It was only after I came to this city that I realised being sexually abused was not my mistake…and I had no reason to be silent. My fear of men left me in the most unexpected manner. One of the girls from my NGO was taking down the trash at night, when a drunken man hit her. When we heard her screaming, all of us ran down to her but I was so angry that I chased after that man with a stick. I began to scream at him— not with words but just my voice which I’d kept within me for far too long.
But that was another day, and I’ve had beautiful days since — I draw, I swim, I dance. Many people ask me how I can dance without music, but I just tell them that it’s all in me – the song, the music and the spirit to keep taking the next step.”