Text by Anugraha Hadke:
It wouldn’t be too hard to be intimidated by Mel when you first meet her. The tattoos, the stern look, all attribute to making her seem like a woman you wouldn’t want to mess with. Having spent a considerable time in prison for possession of drugs, and dealing with addiction, formidability would also be expected from her.
But ask the boys of dance group Pluspoint and they’ll tell you a different tale. For Mel, reaching where she is now took a lot of effort. She spent a lot of her time fighting – an abusive relationship, a drug addiction, and to raise her children. With all the struggle she put in turning her life around, she’s making sure that these boys don’t follow the same path. “An ex-gangster can always talk to a gangster,” she explains. “Whatever I have learnt from the past, I can share with them and stop them from doing all these kind of things.”
Mel is not only their dance teacher, she’s a mother who looks after them with immense affection, the doors of her home always open for them, a hot meal ready when they need it. She’s a sister, who’s strict with them if they misbehave, but also listens to all their problems. She’s also a role model who keeps them on track. She’s set an example for them as a reminder that it’s never too late to take charge of your life.
It takes a lot to accept your mistakes and walk away from something that has controlled your life for so long. It takes a lot more to find the courage to dedicate the rest of your life in helping others. She started dancing to release her sorrow, now here she is, not only teaching dance to these ‘upcoming gangsters’ as she calls them, but also making sure that they don’t progress from that.