Sunday, February 1, 2009

The courage to continue

ShubbuLakshmi or Amma as she was known in her entire community had just dropped her son Arjun to the airport, he had got placed in a premier IT company and was flying to Delhi for his first Job. This was the day for which she had waited for decades .
The apartment was on the 25th Floor, she walked across the posh apartment, a sense of accomplishment graced her face , the balcony was her favorite place in the entire house, a place where the cool breeze touching her cheeks reminded her of Amar . As soon as she started feeling the breeze she used to close her eyes and felt independent and chained at the same time and the feeling made her feel complete - a feeling which she never had anywhere else .
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ShubbuLakshmi was born in Sonargachi a red light area in kolkata . Her childhood was spend amidst sex workers and their children . As a child she always wandered why her amma went to work at night but there was no one to answer her questions . Often she would find amma bruised after a night's job , but she was too scared to ask anyone what happened ? She wanted to go to school and much against the will of the community she started going to the government school . All went well till she turned 14 . One incident prevented her from going back to school and denied her an access to a Future in fact it changed the entire course of her life . The school was mere 2 kms away from her house. One day she was returning from school, as usual, but there was a difference - she was happy- her teacher had said that she could see a doctor in shubbu . She even bought Laddos for her amma. It was around 6 pm , suddenly she saw Ravi and Raju her school friends in the nearby Pan shop . She went towards them , she wanted to share her happiness with them. But the moment she went near them , she realized something was wrong , they were not the guys , she considered as friends , they were staring at her at places where she was not comfortable , their eyes reflected lust. She could not bear the strange look, and decided to walk back, but fate had planned it differently . The guys followed her and started touching her . Shubbu protested and started shouting for help. When the guys saw people coming , they started abusing shubbu started addressing her as a prostitute and started disgracing her amidst the crowd . Shubbu was shocked the people who had initially come to help her , now ridiculed her , they also now started looking at her with lust, she was too young to understand the impact the word "prostitute " had on people's mind . . She could not bear the ridicule anymore, she ran and did not stop till she reached the place which she called her home, the place where her amma used to work, the place where she had seen her amma bruised emotionally and physically, now she lay in the same place hurt.
This incident took everything away from her . Her amma was too scared to let her go to school again , and this marked the end of her happiness.
Shubbu now spent her time in daily chores and learning arts from people whom she called "mashi" (Aunty). She was Happy that she was learning something new , yet somewhere deep down she wanted to study . She had just turned 15 and "MEN" there had started showing interest in paying her for work which her amma did, her amma was not attracting enough clients to sustain the expenses and thus the problem started. One day a client did come to her ammu, and offered a whooping 6ooo INR , but ammu was not OK with the deal, and the other members were forcing her to go ahead, else they threaten that they would give shubbu away , these were the same people whom shubbu called mashi, and now the hunger of money had changed everything even their love for shubbu .All this happen when shubbu was fast asleep . When shubbu woke the next morning she found her ammu bleeding beside her , she had bruises all over her faces , the marks seemed like those of a knife, as if someone had deliberately scratched her face with knife , her arms were red , and her back had marks of belt , and she held a bunch of Indian rupees in her fist . Shubbu cried for help, few women came and started helping shubbu clean the bruises .
This incident continued over the next few months, till one morning amma was found dead .
Shubbu had lost everything , she was shattered and before she could recover from the loss , her maushi had started demanding that she should started working or leave the place. The love in her mashi's eyes had turned into greed for money . They knew that at the age of 17 she would attract a price of not less than 50,000 INR .
Shubbu could not sleep for the next few days , she had to find a way out , this was not what she had thought for herself . Soon the community was offered 50000 INR for Shubbu , now she was not even given the choice to run away, hence now she was kept in custody . Soon she had to succumb to the greed of her mashi's and was sold for a handsome amount She was taken away to a posh area - Ballygunj in kolkata , by her "owner", who used her as a domestic help in the day time and raped her at night, sometimes he brought along friends. who behaved more like animals then humans, She soon found her in the same bruised state as she had seen her amma .
There was still something which subbhu thought was bettar than sonargachi , at least there were no double standards , unlike her mashi's who displayed false affection these men had no affection at all. She had accepted her fate, and was waiting for the day where she too would die. But she soon realized that she was also the centre of attraction for the other male residents of the same colony , who offered her as much as 2000 INR for the job which her owner forced her to do every night .
Then she made a plan , a plan to escape from the torture , a plan to smile, a plan to dignity .
She spent the next 5 years , meeting those "lustful men" and earning at least 2000 INR , per person and at the end of five years she had 1 Lakh INR , and all this without her owner coming to know of it .She was 23 and one day realized that she was pregnant , her owner thrashed her that night on hearing this, and started making plans for abortion , but shubbu had other plans .
During these 5 years she also had made a friend , "neha" , she used to work in one of the resident's flat. Neha was from chennai and she had her family still living there . Though subbu's amma was from the state of tamil nadu , but she never heard anything from ammu as much as she heard from neha. She started understanding the meaning of culture , life, education .
The day after Shubbu got thrashed , she booked a ticket to chennai , and with the help of neha boarded her train to happiness.
The journey was a special one, she was free for the first time since 23 years. She looked around the sleeper class , people of all kinds were there,she was a bit scared as she was traveling for the first time, but it did not matter as she was happy, She kept the money in a bag and kept it close with her always . Life had taught her one thing that she could not trust anyone . She stood at the door of the train , and enjoyed the breeze , the breeze touching her cheeks, titillated her . Though she was alone , she felt the satisfaction of being independent. She knew that now she had to sustain her self , in chennai and had to find a way out .The best part of the journey was that no one knew that she was from Sonargachi, and that she traded lust. She had a great feeling of confidence. In chennai Neha's brother Amar came to receive her. she stayed with neha's family till she gave birth to Arjun .
In those 9 months she made a plan, she knew that the child will not bear hardships as she did , he/she would have a future which she did not have, most importantly he/she would have education . Amar helped her in making a plan , a plan to live. He helped her with the money, she had brought from kolkata. Something in Amar told Shubbu that she could trust him with not only money but with everything else. Neha had told her family that Shubbu was a widow. Hence she attracted a lot of pity and at the same time enough help to seek a road to salvation . She had begin liking amar, he was not like the other men who looked at her as a mean to satisfy their lust ,instead he used to look at her with eyes full of a admiration , the shine in his eyes reminded her of amma .
With help of Amar she had opened a small shop selling bedsheets which were beautifully embroidered by her ,an art which she had learnt when she dropped from school . She bought the materials required and started working on them during her pregnancy with the help of amar.
She had fallen in love with him . Amar saw a strange shine of confidence in her eyes and this is why he was attracted to her . He often used to hold her close and his breath used to make her cheeks red. This was the only moment when their bodies were close enough to feel each other .
Arjun had turned 3 and shubbu had expanded her business , she now had a grocery store in addition to her embroidery store , she rented her own one room row house . Till one day when they both went out to beach , the evening was pleasant, breeze blew shubbu hair in such a way that it touched Amar's Cheeks, who was enjoying the romantic environment . The sky looked heavenly, the environment was warmer than usual, and both of them were blushing, both their eyes had the shine of a newly wed couple. That day , Amar proposed her and said he wanted to marry her . Shubbu was happy ,She was at the zenith of happiness. the evening which was already romantic, made her blush, she realized the sky too was pink in color, there were couples all around them , birds were on their way home . but there was something which took away the romance from the environment , her past was something she had not told anyone, this made her uncomfortable .The romance in the air had started fading as she recalled her past, right from her school to ammu to her "owner", she told him everything but she also knew that he may not marry her after he heard the entire story, and she did not expect him to either. As she knew it is difficult for everyone to fight the society. Amar was deeply shocked and hurt to hear all these, the roses which he had brought for shubbu fell down from his hand . All these while Arjun was building castles from sand on the beach .Suddenly Amar walked towards Arjun picked him kissed his forehead and said "stay well ". He turned towards shubbu , his eyes were misty, he could not stay a word, he just picked up those roses and gave it to her .
Shubbu knew that he will not come back, she knew this was the last time she saw him. A sense of grief enclosed both of them
She enrolled herself into a school for adults, and accomplished her dream to get education, and she also ensured that Arjun got the best of education.
She never felt for anyone like she felt for Amar, She always felt the vacuum created after Amar left , but she made her life so busy that she never felt the need to look for him . She soon created a chain of embroidery stores. As she started getting grey hair, she felt the need to help thouasands of subbulakhsmi in the country. She realized that the best way to create awareness was by making her story public. This was not going to be easy , as she now lived in a posh areas in chennai , the society knew her as a business women and not as a girl from Sonargachi . Most importantly she had to tell Arjun everything .
Arjun had just turned 20 and was in his second year of Computer Science & Engineering . He had come home for new year . It was around 6 pm , the sun was about to set. An apartment at the 25th floor guranteed an amazing veiw of the sunset, both of them sat in the balcony. Subbha had to gather a lot of courage to tell him , she had a debate with herself , since 2 week prior to his arrival, she was scared that like Amar he may also desert her, but she soon realize that she had to tell him, as if he comes to know of it from some one else he would be utterly devasted and their relation could turn out to be worst than she expected .
Arjun did not expect this kind a story of her ma , he was not devasted but angry, his eyes were getting red , as she was telling her story . Shubbu was scared , her eyes were moist, tear drops were coming out from the corner of her eyes . She could not complete, when Arjun stood up and left the flat .
This was something for which she was not prepared , she knew he would take time to accept this piece of hard truth ,but she thought he would also appreciate her courage and her desire to live . She sat their in the balcony for the entire night, looking at the empty dark sky, she had nothing left now , she felt empty. Staring at the dark sky she remembered her amma , She remembered the last few weeks when she was alive, flashes of her bruises came to her mind ,she remembered the 6000 INR her amma earned for all the blood she lost. She wanted to find her amidst the clouds and hug her , she wanted to cry, she wanted to to hold someone , just anyone, but alas there she was on a posh apartment, without anyone to share her pain with ,she felt lost for the first time since she came to chennai .
She had fallen asleep in the chair , suddenly she felt someone hugging her, she opened her eyes to find Arjun sobbing. She kissed his forehead. His eyes were red and it looked he did not sleep the entire night, " Ma , I love you ma , you always have been my guru , but today i not only look at you as a Teacher but i look at you as a god, you have done so much for me ma, If you did not decide to run to Chennai , I would have been living a completely different life , Thank you ma,." . Shubbu could not control her emotions either , " beta I though I lost you , just like I Lost Amar , I felt so lonely , so left out , so deprived ." Arjun," Ma I will never Leave you, never.." . Soon She also took his permission to go public with her story , and his response was more than positive , he helped her with writing her autobiography , and also ensured that the books marketing was done in an effective manner . His efforts bore fruits soon and Subbulakhshmi soon became a nation figure. She was everywhere from business magazines to Femina ,

Today he left Chennai to start his own life , Shubbu was proud of Arjun , she felt her life was complete as not only did she managed to provide education to arjun but she herself evolved from a sex worker to a successful business women to an author. She often thought that whatever happened to her , happened for a reason, she was able to connect all the incidents of her life today. Even if one incident did not happen then today she wouldn't have been what she was, the success which she achieved may have only been a dream . Since she discontinued from school , she knew fine arts and could transform that skill set to a profitable business .She realized the importance of all the incidents in her life sour or sweet, all of those incidents together made her persona as she was and today as usual she was beautiful.

Today she was independent as she had accomplished all her dreams yet she was chained as there were still lakhs of subbu's throughout the country . There she stood at her favorite balcony , and as the breeze touched her cheeks, she remembered Amar, without whom today she would have been incomplete, she looked at the sky , it had shades of blue and orange, it was going to be dark soon, the day was coming to an end but for shubbu life never stood still, the day never came to an end, but today , she looked up at the sky and saw birds making there way back to their nests she realized her day was also coming to an end, but she had no regrets , the journey had been beautiful, she had achieved all she wanted to and she ensured that other subbu's realize that "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts"..

7 comments:

aboli said...

nice..

parthiban said...

Shubbu is certainly a inspiring character and Amar reflects a typical man of the time.

...And Arjun is a great son of Shubbu. Nothing beats the love for his/our mom's. A good story.

When you have the courage to let the world know who you are then there is nothing that can drag you down...at any cause your personal satisfaction is what that counts. Nice job Arnav!

Kartz said...

Vivid imagery... And I laud the way you portrayed this, buddy. We know that such things are true today... Sadly, such people are going unnoticed.

C'est la vie. I guess

Peace.

Netika Lumb said...

Beautiful..I don't know what to say.
I wish,No comment was also a comment.

Arnav said...

@ Netika :

Thanks a lot ..

Usha Pisharody said...

Thank you Arnav. That is one heck of an inspiring story. Even though it reads a bit like a fairy tale, there are ways that sometimes miracles do happen.

Arnav said...

@ Usha ma'am .

Thanks for visiting .
Well Fairy tales do come to reality once in a while :)
THe courage to fight is that is important ... :)