A ray of hope

(Laxmi : name changed for purpose of the narration)
I must be twelve when I was pushed into prostitution by my mother. We were four brother sisters and as my mother's earning had diminished due to considerable fall in customers visiting her, I was prompted to opt for prostitution. I would say now, it was an emotional blackmail. I thought that was the only way for my family's survival. Each one of my siblings looked at me to feed them. Though my brother was elder to me and matured to work he was no interested. I wanted to be martyr- the savior of my family. I started attracting lot of customers and our financial condition improved soon. I kept earning and feeding my family.

By the time I turned seventeen or eighteen I felt fatigued, drained out and as crap, having nothing in life but customers and their exploitative lust. I wanted to quit but there was no scope. Customarily I was not allowed to marry. Only option that was left was to become a keep of someone who would agree to feed me.

In some years I started trusting one of my regular visitors. I fell in love and had a girl from him. He continued to support me for around five years. Then suddenly he eloped with another woman who was married to one of my community member. The local panchayat (community leaders) slapped a penalty on me for his misdemeanor and I was fined two lakh rupees (two hundred thousand rupees) to pay the man whose wife eloped. I took loan from one moneylender at unscrupulous interest rate. I started to sell myself again to make up for the loan but still I am finding difficult even to payback interest rate. I have tried to repay for many years now but the principal amount is still intact.

In my late twenties, now I have lost charm for customers as new young girls have entered into the market. Now my girl is around twelve. I am planning to push her into prostitution. She is the only hope for my survival and freeing me of debt.

I always looked at Samvedna as 'ray of hope'. I am so happy that they put my son in school. I did not send my daughter because I wanted someone to stay with me. Now I found this Jute bag training a chance to revive my earnings. I want to earn. I know the pain of being a prostitute and don't want to put my daughter be a prostitute, but there is nothing that I can do to survive. I have always been told since childhood that our skill is in bed, and unfortunately I have been believing it. Now, I see the chance of learning a vocation to feed my family. I am thinking now of sending my daughter too to school.

School admissions: Changing lives

(Jyoti : name changed for purpose of the narration)
I always wanted to study but faced number of problems. For studies beyond fifth I was supposed to travel fifteen kilometers. There was no road and means of transportation. My mothers sister (Mausi) lived in Narsinghpur sub-divisional headquarter and I decided to live with her and get enrolled in school. My elder sister who was six years elder to me was already in dhanda (prostitution). My mother too used to have enough earnings by entertaining customers. But, still I couldn't enroll in school as Bedia child. The stigma was too strong for me deal with. The children isolated us, harassed us and teased us as a child of Dhandewali (Prostitute) and nachnewali (dancer). To save from humiliation I got enrolled as Gujjar community ( a higher caste ) child instead of Bedia child. I was living with a fake identity. As my Mausi also was also a prostitute it was difficult for me always to protect my identity. Children would not share glasses with us. They avoided us. When Sir and madam used to come to see us in our village I always desired to be like them. They were senior officers in police.

One day I was very scared. My mother was going through financial trouble and kept crying whole day and vowed to push me into prostitution. My elder sister, around 18 years old now, who just had a baby fought fiercely with my mother. She told my mother that she wont support us anymore. My mother had by now lost almost all her customers. The reason of fight was that my sister was dating a gujjar boy and did not pay attention to her customers. My mother wanted her alliance to break.

Then after she always used to tell me that I will have to take to prostitution as she was under tremendous debt. I was the only hope to save her. I didn't want to get into prostitution. I liked studying. To my rescue came Samvedna. They proposed if I was interested in studying in Bhopal. They would bear my expenses. I always liked them who would visit us, and talk about our bright future. They argued with my mother, who trusted them a lot. She was convinced, but before agreeing to my admission lay down long list of conditions. They were asked to support five more children, getting them enrolled in Bhopal school. To my surprise they agreed and we all went to school. I scored above 70% in Bhopal school. I live in hostel. I have so many friends there in school and hostel. They come and visit us regularly. Now I have my younger brother too in school. My mother is now totally changed person. She wants to work to earn and is no more interested in Prostitution. She is taking Jute bag making classes. I am so happy now and want to become an Government officer when I grow.

(Rahul : name changed for purpose of the narration)
My mother was not a prostitute but we are living in a different house than my father's. She started as a prostitute at a very young age and then stopped after falling in love with my father. He lives with his own family with my step-siblings and step-mother. Actually I know that they are their actual family and my father only supports us. I know he loves us. I wanted to study beyond tenth grade but my mother thought that she will not be able to support me any further. I never carried Bedia tag and always identified with the caste of my father. But reality was little different than what I thought as a child. I know that my sisters got married as Bedia girls though all their life they lived as members of other community. Even my real identity will always remain as Bedia.

My mother banked totally on Samvedna for support. My mother came to know that one of her cousin (who is in Dhanda-prostitution) was being helped by Samvedna. She got in touch with them and requested to put me in Bhopal school. She plainly told them that she had no money to support. They agreed to my mother's request and I was enrolled in Bhopal school and put in hostel. They bought books and other materials for me. They regularly visited us and tried to fulfill all my logical demands, particularly related to my studies. I found the whole world change in this capital city. I made lot of friends. I scored around 70% in my eleventh class. I want to become an engineer. This year on my request Samvedna has arranged for my science private tutoring. It is a challenge for me to crack engineering entrance exam. I want to change my life and that of the community when I become something.