CHRISTMAS CAROL. A story of survival and hope.
It was December of the year 1976, exactly on December 12, 1976. the main character of this story, Rubiya lived in a shanty place, a very depressing place in Kandivali, north of Mumbai. She lived with her father. She was the only daughter left from the marriage which had very tragic episodes. Addictions, deceit, abandonment and above all, the loss of the firstborn in an accident, who was a 4 year old boy, the eldest amongst his two children. This had plunged the family into an environment of pain, sadness, violence and above all poverty. Ten years after her brother’s death, Rubiya’s mother also died. Just five months before from the day this story began, in August. These last months, the life of Rubiya and her father had become even more complicated.
On the morning of December 12, huge machines arrived at the shanty town where Rubiya had spent the first 12 years of her life. The machines destroyed everything. They destroyed her shack and those of her neighbors, with almost no time to collect the most valuable items for each family.
Just when that happened Rubiya was playing on the street. When she returned to where her old shack was, there was nothing left, and neither was her father. She waited and waited until it started to get dark and worried, she went looking for someone she knew. Her neighbor had improvised a cabin with some fabrics. She was a young woman, living alone with her mother-in-law. Her husband had also died a few months ago.
She was with them for almost a week, and her father did not return. And one morning, Kiran, that was the name of her neighbor, took Rubiya more than an hour by bus from her house. They reached a totally new area for the little girl. Kiran had agreed with a man to sell Rubiya to a trafficking and sexual exploitation network. The virginity of girls has always been highly valued in the red light district of Kamathipura, one of the main brothels in Asia.
If the first years of this girl’s life had not been easy, the following years were even harder and more complicated. In order to resist reality, Rubiya began to consume alcohol and other substances. Her failing health was also responsible for her losing at least three babies before birth. At the age of 22, Rubiya met a kind young man, with whom she fell in love. A relative of her pimp who, although she did not allow him to give up her prostitution, at least helped her stop drinking. Soon they had a baby. A child: Ranjit. Some time later, he left them.
A few months ago we met Rubiya and she told us her story and told us about her son, Ranjit, who is also twelve years old today. Ranjit is a good boy, responsible, smart and cheerful and although he is in school he misses school almost every day because he helps his mother with peddling. These months we have had several meetings with Rubiya in which we have talked about his wounds and her desire to prevent her son from having the same life as his mother. Rubiya wants Ranjit to have a future with opportunities and a decent life. That is why we have managed to convince her to enroll Ranjit in our “Access to school” program and with her support, get her to stop working and focus on learning and developing skills that can provide her with a future.
Finally, last Monday December 12, at the age of 12, Ranjit returned to school. This is the best Christmas gift for Rubiya and also for Ranjit, a gift that is only possible with the support of our partners and collaborators and donors. Thank you for helping us continue to #TransformingFutures!
We look forward to celebrating Ranjit’s present and future and many more boys and girls like him whose mothers live in the chains of trafficking.
*This story is fictitious but based on real events, which as we know after seventeen years of working together with the most disadvantaged communities in Mumbai, are always stranger than fiction.