When I was a teenager, my parents granted every kind of freedom to me and my sister. They trusted and encouraged us. Whenever we strayed to the wrong path, they punished us.
Back in my high-school days, I went to a ‘home’ where girls were kept (read ‘caged’) in, for societal and legal reason. The place was Sukanya Home.
Along with some teachers, I went there to teach unprivileged children. Most of the kids and teens were girls – many of whom were on the path to womanhood.
However, as it turned out, I interacted with the girls more than I taught them. In fact, I had to initiate conversations to get my students talking about themselves.
These were kids who lived in miserable conditions. There were girls who took no care of themselves. There were even some who had kids!
I had been firmly instructed to just teach the children at Sukanya Home. While I did my very best to do so, I was more curious to know the life-stories of these children.
The problem was that they were unable to trust anyone, especially after whatever had happened to them. However, I was stubborn and persistent enough. Eventually, I succeeded in making them laugh, sing and learn. In fact, I had to dance to be their friend!
By the end of the session, I had learnt a lot. I had listened to their stories, without uttering a word. Even though I wanted to cry, my tears wouldn’t fall.
I realised that most of the girls were kept there because they were victims of injustice. Some of them had ended here, because they had trusted the wrong people. Some of the girls had cases pending against them. Some were forced into marriage, while others had eloped and fallen into the wrong hands. One of the girls had trusted and eloped with a man, after killing her stepmother and looting her jewelleries. She ended up in a brothel, and was then sent to Sukanya Home. Moreover, I can’t explain the presence of kids between two and eight years of age at this place, even today.
My fondest memories are of this girl called Khatun. When I met her, she was an introvert, but she opened up to me, gradually. At the end of that session, she made me promise that I would come back.
However, the next week, I could not visit the kids. Later, I learnt that Khatun had asked about my whereabouts.
When I next went to meet her, she refused to talk to me because I had ‘broken her promise’. However, the other kids gave me hand-made cards, letters and self-composed poems during this visit.
Then I chose to focus on my studies, rather than devoting myself to these kids (and Khatun, in particular).
A year later, the teachers who went to Sukanya Home informed me that the girls still remembered me. Even then, I didn’t go back.
This is no inspirational story. This is merely my confession. I had a choice, and I still do. However, my priorities have now changed, and it’s too late to visit Sukanya Home again.
To the girls of Sukanya Home,
Wherever you all are and however you are – I love you and I miss you! All of you will always be a special part of my life!
Image used for representative purposes only.