Friday, November 27, 2009

Kunuri.....When Heart Cries!

Kunuri (16 years)is no different from of the rest of us. She swoons at Shahrukh Khan and loves colourful bangles. The other evening, as a pani-puri wallah walked by her window she happily called out to him to stop and savour a few of his delicacies with a taut lip so that she wouldn’t smudge her lipstick. But this is where the similarities between her and us end. She reached out to the pani-puri wallah through a little window and all you could see of her was a lean hand with a fresh welt below the elbow and a few cigarette burns. On being quizzed by the pani-puri wallah about the mark, she cringed a little and tried clumsily to cover it up with her dupatta. The old pani-puri wallah understood, and so do we. This is just a leaf out the book of a girl trafficked into a brothel. Chances of an escape are remote. She is young and a hence, a customer-magnet. The Gharwali keeps a constant eye on her. Moreover, there is an amount of 2 lacks riding on her – the amount she was bought for. She has to part with most of her earnings to at the end of each day to repay the investment, with interest. What’s left is not enough to buy her a square meal. The system is so fine-tuned that she cannot possibly repay all of it even in twenty years. Imagine her pain when she had realized that she had been lured, tricked and sold by the one she trusted the most. In spite of everything she had gone through, time and again she has made a bid for freedom. But there is no way of escaping, and even if she does make it, she does not know the way home. The few lucky ones who manage to get home are shunned and disowned, and bereft of choice find their way back to another such brothel. Systematic violence and maltreatment dims away all memories of home. The persistent psychosocial trauma distorts rational thought and the victims begin to suffering from the Stockholm syndrome. Small mercies meted out by the captor seem immensely gratifying. Life at a brothel is far murkier than what meets the eye. No matter what she has suffered in the past hour, she has to spring back and be a treat for the next drunk waiting at door. Straight-faced as if devoid of all emotion, she walks down the aisle to put up a make-up laden face to attract the next customer. Home is distant dream which trickles down as tears every night without a single hand to wipe it off. Some escape, some are rescued, but the pain is etched as a deep scar in their minds which no one can heal. In this age where we talk of job-satisfaction, work-life balance and work culture there are people among us who die every night only to die again – a section which is looked down upon and is sneered at by most of us, in our cocoon of blissful ignorance. Every passing day is a punishment to for them thanks to the sanctimonious society, which only makes their lives more miserable. Why do we look at them the way we do? Why are we ashamed when we see them standing on the road side? Why do we cringe to a side and give a raised eye-brow look the moment they brush past us? Why do we spend more time thinking about the colour scheme of our drawing room than thinking of what we could do for little Kunuri? Maybe we cannot put an end to it in a day. But each of us could make a difference with every passing day. Let’s take some time out and embrace them as one of us are, they are exactly like us who have hopes, dreams and aspirations, who feel pain and crave for a friendly smile, people whose only fault was that they had a bad shot at the draw of life. If we cannot make their lot better, let’s not make it worse.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Help us Fight The Cause

Now the time has come to stand up for human dignity and decency and to change history for the good. You need to join the fight against sex traffickers and exploiters.
A Hand Today will give rise to hundred tomorrow, We thank all of you, who have joined hand with Shapath Team in helping us making this distant dream come true, of "Giving a New Life to these Women, who once lived a life of a daughter, a sister but today are nothing but a Lifeless Life, which dies each time a stranger comes for pleasure, It's her Soul who hurts and heart which cries, with not even a single pain on Face".


Sunday, July 26, 2009


She stands on the pavement, away from the street light, decked in loud attire and gaudy makeup, and calls out to you amongst laughter and giggles. She smiles at you, through her lipstick caked lips. You cringe in embarrassment, and look away. But wait, and look beyond the smile. Do you see that the smile does not reach her eyes, the teardrops that have dried up, the pain, the hopelessness in her stance? Perhaps not. Welcome to the dark and less understood world of human trafficking.

Human trafficking is nothing but a modern day practice of slavery, a system we very proudly proclaim that we have abolished. It is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, based on the recruitment, harbouring, and transportation of people solely for the purpose of exploitation. Every year traffickers generate billions of dollars in ‘business’, at the expense of victimizing millions of people around the world.

The victims are denied any rights or freedom. Many of them are saddled with debts of the price that they were bought for by the brothel owners. Added to that is the accumulation of interest and living charges. What is ironical is that they pay for the fact that they are a part of the brothels, not somewhere they ever intended to be in the first place. Thus freedom from their hell holes is nothing but a mirage.

Sunita* was just 15 when her parents met a kind stranger who offered Sunita work in the city. He accompanied her and even gave her refreshments during the journey. The next thing Sunita remembered was waking up in a brothel in the infamous red light area of Budhwar Peth in Pune. She was “made compliant” by repeated torture and no food. She attempted to commit suicide by consumption of rat poison. However, an NGO working in the locality admitted her to the hospital and “rescued” her. Her first words after regaining consciousness were “Don’t I even have the freedom to die?”

What brings about such utter despair? Imagine yourself, not as a human being but as a commodity, being sold and bought, and changed from one hand to other... where you ‘work’ not out of choice but by force.

Year after year, existing in the living hell, the victims are drained of all emotions, and feelings... Many turn to addictions like alcohol and tobacco, to escape their bitter reality.

And this is just one dimension of the human exploitation. For many of them, who struggle and try to return to the mainstream, life after escape is even worse. Society frowns upon the victims and is wary of any interactions with them. While sympathy is on offer, offers for livelihood are very rare. Rejected by the society, many of them return to the dark alleyways of hell that they had escaped.

And so we walk past ‘them’… the ‘ones’ standing on the pavement… we snigger at ‘them’, because we are the ‘respected ones’ in the society. But stop… and ask yourself, if not us, then who? If not now, then when? It’s time that we wake up to reality of human trafficking. Precious time has been lost, in being a passive observer, but not anymore. It’s time to take a pledge, an oath to help the victims. They don’t need your sympathy; they need your support- a helping hand, to help them fight their battle.

We at SHAPATH have taken an oath – a SHAPATH to fight against human trafficking- a growing evil in the society. To fulfil this oath, we are launching a citywide movement to create awareness among the residents of Pune to engineer a change in the perspective of the society towards the victims of human trafficking and educating school and college students about human trafficking.