#Personal Stories

Personal Story: A Krantikari I had the Privilege of Knowing

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Last year I started tutoring a young girl. I had come across one NGO Kranti online which was known to work for the upliftment and education of daughters of sex workers from Mumbai’s infamous redlight area.

The cause immediately appealed to me and I reached out to Kranti asking for any volunteer work that might be available. I was asked if I could tutor a young girl named Sumaiya in various subjects mostly to facilitate her preparation for college entrance exams. I jumped at the opportunity only to later realize that I was going to learn more in the process than I would ever be able to teach her.

The classes started in the middle of the pandemic and we would conduct these over an hourlong video call. I vividly remember the first class, a reserved quiet Sumaiya would keep a straight face even when I tried to lighten the mood now and then. I could tell she was afraid of being judged, a force of habit probably. The first few classes were a strict student-teacher exchange but she was obedient and very prompt with her work.

Slowly as I started using pop culture references while teaching her history and telling her additional behind-the-scene trivia, she started communicating more often and became progressively nonchalant. And gradually this shy young woman was laughing and brimming with excitement at the other end of the screen, that is when I realised that we had finally become friends, Sumaiya and I.

Yes, Sumaiya has had a rough past like most girls at the NGO, who like to call themselves krantikaris. Sumaiya’s young mother had been enticed by a young man and lured to Mumbai where she was forced into sex work. A little Sumaiya was blissfully unaware of the challenges she was going to face when she first moved to Mumbai as a toddler. Sumaiya was enrolled in a boarding school with the help of an NGO at the age of 9- I could hear the excitement in her voice after all these years when she told me just how she felt about finally being able to study and socialise with kids her age.

But our farcically self-righteous society upon the discovery of  Sumaiya’s mother’s background made the child’s life miserable. Apart from keeping her “away” from other children they went as far as making her wash dirty utensils. To be socially excluded and branded morally corrupt for a fledgling is nothing less than trauma and for this particular child, first among several harsh blows, she was yet to receive. Her mother set out to find a better school for her child- for her innocence had been exploited – and I must emphasise that there isn’t greater damage than that.

Carrying heavy baggage of judgement, denied basic education and dignity, Sumaiya found NGO Kranti in 2010. She was the first girl to be enrolled and thereafter began a saga of the rebuilding of lost self-esteem, addressing all the emotional and mental toll and finally channelizing the galactic energy and capacities she had had within her.

Her mother stayed with her at the NGO run by Robin and Trina which provide girls with shelter, food, respect and education, and with activities which build character as well as confidence.

Sumaiya is now in conventional schooling. At 19, she aspires to become a fashion designer, she would say “Didi teach me English, I want to speak well and I don’t understand grammar”. Initially, Sumaiya couldn’t form a sentence but she always had a beautiful thought she wanted to give expression to. Her zeal to learn blossomed in a a comfortable space devoid of judgement.

I sent her a few good novels she could read and enrich her vocabulary with. Last month Sumaiya took several entrance exams and my student will now be pursuing B.A. in fashion designing at a reputed institute in India- a proud moment for both of us.

Sumaiya and her mother are as dignified and qualified as the rest of us and the fact that they need external help to internalise their worth is itself an insight of how cruel and wrong our ingrained mindsets and empty biases are. Why must a few people pay for the misplaced idea of pride and honour of others? [Picture Credit: Unsplash, StockImage]

Views expressed are author’s own


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