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MALA

Updated: Apr 8

I called my husband by his name, and my in-laws -  who were people I saw on an everyday basis before marriage as 'dada','dadi' (terms for grandparents), even after marriage at the age of 12. I remember rushing out to play the next day post marriage in all the excitement of a kid that age. 

Becoming a mother at the age of 14 changed things little. I was upset when nobody allowed me to go play the day after my delivery. 

However, things slowly hit my head when my oldest started referring to his father by name, just as I did and I realized that my child and I couldn't call his grandparents the same way. That is when I pulled my head out of the sand. 

My husband is a good man when he is not:

1. Drinking - after which he used to hit and hurt me

2. Playing cards- through which he would waste away all his money

 In short, that meant a life of financial and  emotional absence of the man of the house from our lives. 

After my second child - a girl,  was born, I knew that I needed to earn my living and couldn't keep depending on my husband. 

I had started working odd jobs in factories and small scale enterprises, mostly in the production chain. Because a night shift would earn me better, I used to opt for that. 

One day, my husband got upset since I came late from work since I had to work overtime, and hit me in front of my father. 

That is when my parents supported me to leave him. Until then, they kept pushing and reminding me that a married girl's place was at her husband's home. 

I worked extra hard and took extra jobs to ensure I wasn't a burden to my family, and wanted to earn my keep. 

A while later, the factory I worked in shut down. That is when an old colleague offered me a job as househelp in Bombay where I could earn more than in Kolkata. And for that extra buck, I travelled to this new city with dreams in my mind and plans of a better life. I had left my kids with my parents. 

In Bombay, it struck me odd when my friend  took me for beauty treatments to a parlour. She said that Bombay standards for househelp was such as that. 

It felt weider  when she took me to a place where girls wore short and tight clothes, and applied heavy makeup. I waited there for my friend who had gone out on a quick errand. Little did I knows that she had in short just sold me to a life of prostitution. 

I was unwilling to engage in this work initially but soon figured out that if I didn't do it, I would never be Frustrated with my questions everyday, he finally assured me that he would himself buy my ticket and put me on a train home. 

True to his word, he did exactly that. I don't remember how long I was there. But on 26th November,2008 the day that blackened Bombay, he put me on a train to Howrah from Kurla. I kept fighting and arguing that I only knew CST and didn't want to go from Kurla but he managed to send me off from Kurla itself and I am ever grateful for that. If not, who knows what? The kids I was living for would not have had a.mother too. 

My joy of being back home and a life I knew was short lived as bills kept coming and everyday expected me to assume responsibility. My brothers were of no good of whom, 2 have passed away and I needed to take care of their children too. 

This time I willing made the decision to return to Bombay. My agent had given me his contact number, in case I changed my mind. The second innings were of my choice and I started saving money to bring my kids to Bombay. Soon I did that, and put them into a hostel. My son decided to discontinue his studies post 9th and that was around the time I fell unwell. I returned to my village and ended being bedridden for more than a year. That is when the doctor diagnosed me with HIV. That shook my world and life changed for me completely. I broke down and told everything to my older sister and brother in law, who were understanding and encouraged me to not tell it to the family at the same time supported me to live life. 

Not seeing another option, I started working in an RLA on the outskirts of my place where I was sure no one would see or recognize me. 

I worked there for about a year or more, when I met two foreign ladies who came.and learnt Bengali to speak and relate with us. They kept encouraging me to leave this work. Though I was hard as rock in the beginning, they slowly got through to me with love and constant presence in my life. When I shared how I had to return to Bombay to my daughter, is when they introduced me to Souvik. He was a friend, older brother who kept encouraging and listening to my pains and troubles at all times. When I shared how I wanted to leave this work and get to decent life, He then asked me to meet their Bombay office where I was assured of training and job.  

I have learnt beautician training and want to learn English. My dream is to be an office assistant.  Today, at Purnata’s Training Unit, I have completed 2.5 months of training, where I enjoy handicraft training where I can use my hands to make new things and design it. I am slowly but surely picking up English too. My biggest achievement is of giving up my addiction of smoking, because of which I was not even able to correct my children for anything. There is a confidence and will to live and make my dreams come true, once again.

able to leave this place. Everyday i.would go and ask my agent how much I owed him, to be free to leave.

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Mumbai, India 400 084
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Trust Registration No. (Under Bombay Public Trust Act, 1950)F-60329 (Mumbai)

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