People have stories, everyone does! Good stories make us travel back to the old memories with a smile while some stories are better not remembered. But, what if you have to live with the past ghosts every day and still remain positive about life? Can we learn from our tragedies, to shine brighter tomorrow? Only few people learn from time, rest feel submerged in it. One such brave girl is Pinky Sheikh, a daughter of time beaten prostitute who banished her, a child rape victim, a sufferer of daily bullying by people around.
Today, she is part of Kranti, an NGO which empowers girls from Mumbai’s red-light areas to become agents of social change. Few years back she had been to Minnesota for a six week summer programme in music and dance, and she was welcomed with proud screams by her friends. The Journey of her life is not embedded with flowers, but with that of struggle and survival:
“I was born in Calcutta. My mom was and still is a sex worker in Mumbai. I don’t travel to Calcutta often because I don’t want to. I don’t want to meet my family. I’m very frustrated with them. Mom travels there often to look after my uncle aunt, grandma, and grandpa.
When I lived there, we had a little space in the slum above Park Circus – it wasn’t a proper home. There was never enough to eat, my father also passed away. When I was six years old there, I would pick things out of the trash; sell whatever I found to make whatever money I could manage to feed my family.
My mom left for Mumbai thinking she would earn more money there, and she had left my brother and me back in Calcutta.
In the slum, we would go to the railway tracks nearby to defecate. I used to have a terrible ear defect, where my ears would constantly be infected, itchy, and painful. This one night, I went up there as usual to do my business. A train was raring down those tracks, and I couldn’t hear a thing. My brother, who happened to be around, saw what was about to happen, and yelled out to me to wrap up! I didn’t hear that either. He ran up to me, gave me one tight slap that caused my eardrum to split, and lifted me just in time.
That was also the phase when mom hadn’t come to visit us for years. We decided we were done waiting, and planned to go to Mumbai ourselves to meet her. But what were the odds – she showed up that very morning!
We followed mom to Mumbai though, and moved to the red-light district in Grant Road. I didn’t live in the red-light area for too long, my mom wouldn’t let me live there.
I started living in an NGO almost immediately because there was no space at home. She would go away every night, and I would go to night school.
First, I wouldn’t understand what she did, and I wouldn’t respect it myself. I’d question her every night when she would leave. One fine day, she slapped me and told me I am doing this for you and I am doing this for us. Mind your own business from now on.
Now, there are definitely some notions I want to clear for my mom. If she’s doing anything, it’s her right, you are no one to disrupt her work or torture her.
I was living with an NGO called Jyoti Kailash. The teacher there loved me and my brother. Although the NGOs conditions were rather average, I wouldn’t speak ill of them as the teacher there cared for me deeply. She would adore me and my brother.
But soon, my mom brought me back home. She never let me stay anywhere for too long, and I would always wonder why.
I had many hopes, but I was never a fan of studying. My brother was rather supportive. It was from him that I learnt all my English. I came here and told my brother that I want to become something.
Upon learning that I had these ambitions, he came back one day with information about Kranti. My mum and I met Robin di (term of endearment, meaning sister) later. I was wearing this yellow kurti, and had long hair. She yelled, ‘How cute you look!’
Thus, I joined Kranti. And this time, when I joined Kranti – I decided not to tell my mom what our address is. I only visit my mom myself once every six months.
Because I am scared my mom would sell me. I am really scared, in fact.
After all, I know what it feels like to be in that situation. Four years ago, when I was only 14, my father’s brother raped me. I got pregnant, started developing a baby bump and finally had to tell people so I could get an abortion. When I told my father, he beat up this uncle sparing no holds, and ensured he goes to jail. That uncle not only went to jail, he is also dead now. He died a painful death of liver cancer.
Even though he is dead, it was a while until I got closure. I kept thinking, why did this happen to me only, why is god punishing ME? Did I do something wrong? I cut myself, drank to numb the pain. I had a mental health problem – but at Kranti I met a therapist and I have been feeling much better.
But the society never lets us forget what our backgrounds are. When we stayed in Kandivali, we’d wear shorts or dresses, and they would call us names like randi, randi ki bacchi, saying things like ‘we know what you are’ and ‘what you do,’ ‘Get out of here!’ They knew we were daughters of sex workers, so they would judge us the same way too. Even the men here, in our new area tell us – why do you wear shorts, are you from a dance bar? I just go, ‘Hey you! Mind your own business. I will wear whatever I want. It is my body, and I think I look stunning in what I wear.’
Living with kranti, I am grateful and I feel powerful. I can’t believe this is my fifth year. I have dyslexia, so I would keep failing school. I did my best, but I would keep failing regardless. I am still trying though. I want to become a counsellor for animals – I love animals. Maybe a singer and a dancer too.
When I go to my therapist, I ask her questions about what she does and how she does it, too! I see how her eyes move, how she sits, how she talks. She taught me how I shouldn’t judge my clients, and listen to them sympathetically; to just give them positive energy.”
But, the learning doesn’t stop there. Today, she is just 16, Pinky would love to continue her work for Kranti, “Now that I have taken this step and come back successful, I want to work with other girls caught in circumstances like mine, helping them find their inner strength.”
We wish more power with such young minds who think of rescuing needy at this tender age. Pinky teaches us one thing: No incident of your life takes away your courage, all you need is to recognise it!
Image Source: educationinsider.