Monday, November 30, 2009

LACHO, Mumbai, May 2008

When I first saw her, I saw a young girl with very innocent face. I couldn’t think or know what she could have gone through. I know I was in organization that rescued and provided temporary shelter for minors who were trafficked and sold for sex trade, I dint know what I should have perceived. Every time she looked at me she smiled. Her bubbly face and spark in the eyes, one cannot forget. I had been talking to many girls and she knew I’m just helping them vent.

One day when all the girls were watching movie, I thought of taking break and took a book and went upstairs. She came in few minutes with glass of buttermilk and offered me to drink. I was delighted. She said her name here was Lacho (name she was given by friends at Madam’s place). She first asked if I can find her child. I was shocked she would have been around 16yrs of age, what child is she talking about, the way her face then turned told me that she is in too much pain. We spent next 2-3 hours talking about her past 3-4 years.

Her tale will stay afresh all my life. She was born in a very remote village in West Bengal, living with her parents and brother. She was married off in same village when she was 14years of age. She had a child 2years ago, after a miscarriage. Within few months after birth of the child it became too difficult for her and her husband’s family to survive due to huge loans. The last time she faced a lender, he threatened that he’ll kill her husband.

She continued to explain how she had never been out of the village, uneducated had no idea how train would look and what really are cities like. She had befriended a man whom she considered a brother (famous among her maternal family) always told her that there were jobs in cities where she could earn all the money her family owed in a month by being house maid etc. The previous threat helped her take a decision, as no one in family would let her go out of village, she decided to run away and return as soon as she earns enough money. Her child was just six or seven months old whom she carried along.

She cannot read and only knows she boarded bus with a woman whom ‘brother’ introduced as his mousi (aunt); she left Lacho with another woman and man in train station. There were another five girls along with these people. She dint speak much as she was afraid to talk. They changed 3 or 4 trains before she reached Mumbai after several days. Once they reached Mumbai she was alone taken to a rich well spoken woman’s house where she was again handed over and told that she could stay there as Paying Guest until she wants. The good lady asked her to leave her bag and child home and go to work so that it is easier and arranged for a car. Accompanied by good lady’s brother this time, Lacho for the first time reached Kamatipura in Mumbai (streets were filled with barely dressed all aged women calling on to men in the streets). She was scared; she was disgusted and went numb as this was first time she understood that she may be getting tricked. The man in the car forced her into a brothel. At this point she was more scared for her daughter and begged to take her back to Good lady’s home. He left her in the brothel and she never saw him again. The madam of the Brothel shouted at her and locked her in a room.

She denied to do sex work and begged to just let her see the child. She was locked up in a room for three days with no food and day long temptation of reuniting her with her child if she did what she was asked to. She gave up on the fourth day when the threat changed to sale of her 6-7 months old daughter.

Her first day of work she was to wear a laced bra(she had never seen one before) and panty only and was asked to stand in front of several men. Ashamed of herself she ran into a room when she was asked to leave. She was followed by a man. For almost year and a half she had been working for madam with meager amount of money (which they are forced to use for purchase of makeup and accessories). She was told time and again that she has to work for her daughter’s safety. She was once forced to sleep with 20 men one after another throughout the day.

She was rescued during a raid and brought here where I was interning. She still hadn’t seen her child.

She cried throughout while telling me the story. She said every time she had to sleep with someone she thought she was stone and lay in the bed still, she asked me – “how could those men not see my pain?“.

She was now least bit happy for getting rescued because that brothel was the only source through which she could find where her daughter was but as per procedures (legal) she was now being repatriated. She’d be first sent to CWC, west Bengal and then back to her village. No one was listening to her cries. She wanted to find her child and didn’t want to go back to her husband without her child.

After a month I heard she was repatriated, I don’t know if she ever returned to Mumbai or if she found her child. All I could do was hug her and cry along with her that day and the next few days of my stay there. I felt helpless as I had no answers not even capacity to reassure, No hope.

I know I want to do something for thousands and millions of Lachos in the country, but can’t do it alone. Trafficking is such a powerful business that probably there is a Lacho born every day to earn thousands for heartless, ruthless greedy men and madams. Once in this vicious circle a child is beaten in every capacity. And it is us who are letting it happen by being blind to it. Let’s start somewhere. Humanity sakes!

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