“A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in this world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things, and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.”
This quote by English novelist Agatha Christie sums up the struggles of a young woman named Nilu; it perfectly sums up the virtues of motherhood and the lengths a mother can go to for the well-being of her child.
Speaking to Humans of Bombay, a Mumbai-based photo documenting project, she shares the story of her life:
“I grew up in the temple, where the priests told me that my parents died after I was born. I don’t remember seeing them. I became a young mother around the age of 15, after a uniformed man from Nepal raped me. I remember playing in the temple with no idea of what the world was really like when life changed for me. The man ran away as soon as he discovered that I was with child. From being a carefree teenager, I began begging in the temple for myself and my daughter—we lived on the crumbs and clothes people gave us.
I continued living in the temple and cooking for them in exchange for shelter when I was approached by a man—he used to come regularly to the temple. I was cooking on the chulha one day when he called me and said, ‘If you come with me, I will take you to my sister’s place in India. There won’t be any tension of money then.’ As a scared girl of 16 with a baby, I eagerly nodded my head and followed him blindly, because I was desperate to get my daughter out of the situation we were in. However, after I reached Pune, I realised that I wasn’t going to work as a domestic helper. The ‘sister’ he had mentioned was a brothel keeper, and I had been sold for ₹1 lakh. I cried so much that my face used to turn red. I refused to work in that trade for the first five months that I was in Pune. I used to be beaten with sticks and slapped until I bled by the agent who bought me. He used to force me to go with a man who repelled me. The man used to drag me and force himself on me.
Soon, this agent sold me to a seth in Bombay for ₹60,000, as I was too difficult for him to manage. The seth was nice. Once I came to Mumbai, life was pretty different. I started willingly going for the kind of work which I refused earlier, because I had no other way to feed my daughter. I used to leave her with a lady nearby, to whom I paid ₹4,000 every month. By this time, I was already infected with tuberculosis and HIV. I felt like I was a lost and wasted life, in my youth itself.
Nine years in the brothels of Mumbai, numerous fights with the brothel keeper, alcohol addiction, living in deplorable conditions, and entertaining drunk men; I finally chose to leave the area when hope was offered to me by Purnata, a non-profit organisation that works to end human trafficking.
I dream of living with my daughter together someday, who is now in a hostel. Hopefully, I will get a good employment after finishing my training. My life is about her now—I don’t know how long I’ll live, but I want to make sure she’s educated and supports herself.
My life has been miserable, but I draw strength and motivation from wanting to raise her well. The strength I’ve had these past few years has been solely because I’m a mother. Else I’d have given up long back.
But I won’t give up—I’m not ready to let these men, who came night after night to break me. I’m a fighter. I won’t let them win.”