I grew up in the temple where the priests told me that my parents died after I was born. I don't remember seeing them. I became a young mother around the age of 15 after being raped by a uniformed man back in Nepal. I remember playing in the temple with no idea of what is the world when life changed for me. The father of the baby ran away as soon as he discovered that I was with his child. From being a carefree teenager I began begging in the temple for myself and my daughter -- we lived on the crumbs and clothes people gave us.
I continued living in the temple and cooking for them in exchange for shelter when I was approached by a man — he used to come regularly to the temple. I was cooking on the chulha one day when he called me and said, ‘if you come with me I will take you to my sister's place in India. There won't be any tension of money then". As a scared girl of 16 with a baby, I eagerly nodded my head and followed him blindly because I was desperate to get my daughter out of the situation we were in.
However after I reached Pune, I realised that I wasn’t going to work as domestic help. The 'sister' he had mentioned was a brothel keeper and I had been sold for Rs. 1 lakh. I cried so much that I used to turn red. I refused to work in that trade for the first 5 months that I was in Pune. I used to be beaten with sticks and slapped until I bled by the agent who bought me He used to force me to go with a man who repelled me. The man used to drag me and force himself on me.
Soon this agent sold me to a seth in Bombay for Rs. 60,000 as I was too difficult for him to manage. The seth was nice. Once I came to Mumbai, life was pretty different. I started willingly going for the kind of work which I refused earlier because I had no other way to feed my daughter. I used to leave her with a lady nearby who I paid Rs. 4000 every month. By this time I was already infected with TB and HIV. I was a lost and wasted life, when I was young itself.
Nine years in the brothels of Mumbai, numerous fights with the brothel keeper, alcohol addiction, living in deplorable conditions and entertaining drunk men; I finally chose to leave the area when hope was offered to me by Purnata.
I dream of living with my daughter together someday, who is now in a hostel.I don’t know how long I’ll live, but I want to make sure she’s educated and supports herself. My life has been miserable, but I draw strength and motivation from wanting to raise her well. The strength I’ve had these past few years have been solely because I’m a mother…else I’d have given up long back.
Neelam has completed her training with us and is employed with our production unit Amoli, as a seamstress, since the past year. She is doing well in terms of health and even gave her NIOS 10th exam, of which in her first attempt she cleared 2 out of 5 subjects.