Shagufta – More than a Caretaker
Whenever we visit the Udaan center, we are always received with a smiling face and a warm welcomes , making us feel at home almost instantly. She is Shagufta, our caretaker at Udaan, whose positive attitude and tasty food makes the visit to the Udaan center unforgettable. Today we shall get to know more about Shagufta who is more than just a caretaker of the Udaan center.
How was your childhood Shagufta?
I was born and raised in the slums of Marol, Andheri. Being the eldest of 8 siblings, I was required to share the burden of my parents, helping out in daily chores in the house. My father used to work as a driver in the gulf countries and would often be away from home for long. Unfortunately he passed away unexpectedly one day y while on the job. There was a little toy factory next to my house where, my mother and I would work assembling parts and making soft toys, thus, helping feed our family from the wages earned. With the mounting work and expectations at home, I had to leave my education incomplete. Therefore, I have been working since I was 12 years old. However, with all this background, I would still say I had a fairly happy childhood.
When did you get married and how was our family?
I got married when I was 17 years old. At my parents place we were not earning much but we were happy together. At my in-laws place there were four brother-in-laws who never had a good relationship amongst themselves. My husband was not addicted to anything but he was always involved in extra-marital affairs outside and also within our relatives. I feel very ashamed of my husband. My husband was not particularly happy about me working and hence, I started going for a job without informing him. Later, when he found out about my job, I faced him confidently and stood firmly on my decision to keep working. I was supporting my family by doing household work in the nearby residential areas.
How did you support your family?
I was barely 19 when I became a mother. I gave a birth to a boy and tended to him. As soon as my son was 2 years old, I started working again. Over the next 5 years, I gave birth to tow more children, one more son and my daughter, Misba. Our financial condition had always been bleak. In 2012 I got an opportunity to go to Muscat and work as a caretaker for a family. I thought this was a great opportunity to earn some more money and support my own family. I worked there for 2 years. However, due to some family matters my husband asked me to come back to India. As soon as I arrived in India, my husband burned my passport, shutting all doors of my chances of going back to Muscat. and helping my family to repay the burdening loans.
Later, I decided to start working as caretaker in one girls hostel which was nearby my home. That was my last job before I joined Mumbai smiles.
How did you come to know about Mumbai smiles? What is your role at the Udaan center?
While working as a caretaker at the hostel, I was fed-up of my husband and his mistreatment. I wanted to leave the house. My children always supported me. In 2019 I lost my 19 year old son in an unfortunate incident when he fell from an under-construction site. That was a rude shock for all of us.
While we were in the midst of the lockdown, my neighbor and a Mumbai Smiles team member, Samson Coelho informed me about a vacancy and I started this job in September 2020 as a caretaker of Udaan Centre. Here I look after women who are the survivors of the human trafficking. They are unaware of the normal life. I cook for them and help them get acclimatized in their new home. I also participate in different therapeutic activities that we conduct in our center.
Later, after joining and starting to work and stay at the center, I was allowed to get my daughter with me, who is currently studying in the 9th standard . Now I am not worried about her and can live independently away from my husband. My younger son, although not staying with me, keeps in touch with me often and keeps enquiring about my health and well-being.
Can you share your experience of Udaan center?
Yes, I had worked as a caretaker earlier and knew my job before I joined Mumbai Smiles. However it had been a bit challenging initially. The women who come over here look older but are unaware of what it means to lead a normal life. Teaching them human values and family values is a challenge. Sometimes it becomes difficult for them to cope up with the new changes. Sometimes we chat together as though we have been living together as a family for a long time. Jyoti, the youngest amongst the ladies, recently gave birth to a beautiful baby. She sometimes misses her childhood. I can empathies with how she feels and I love to care for her. She seeks her mother in my motherly gestures. I like to see them happy and I feel satisfied when they take every new step positively.
What activities do you conduct in Udaan center?
We have a plan for the entire week. We start every day with Yoga. I conduct pranayama session with these women. Later, when our team member Abdul, a tailor by profession, comes to the center to teach the ladies sewing and stitching on the sewing machine. Under Abdul’s guidance they have made beautiful articles such as frocks for baby girls, money bags, shopping bags and masks. In the second session of the day we practice making roses and candles. Sometimes we have some therapeutic sessions in which some experts visit our center and conduct activities with these women. I am always there with them to support and participate.
At the backyard of the center we have a beautiful garden in which we have grown some veggies such as tomatoes, green chili, and spinach. While learning their lessons in the center they are the employees of Mumbai Smiles, therefore, they are financially independent.
What is your message to our readers?
I would say that everyone should be self-sufficient. One should respect their own rights and do not let the others to take disadvantage of their good nature.