THE JAMMED TRUE STORIES OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING BLOG
The aim of this blog is to uncover and present
Following on from the feature film THE JAMMED we intend to select a series of stories from those posted on this blog, and produce a dramatised series of short stories
THE JAMMED is a feature film inspired by court transcripts about sex slavery and deportation in
This is a call for your stories.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
She should have been playing with dolls
Instead, the bright-eyed little girl was sold by her father and became a "doll" in a Mumbai brothel. Asha was only nine when her father sold her to a procurer. She came from a very poor family. Seven children had been born to Asha's parents. They certainly could not afford a girl.
The bright-eyed little girl had no idea what was going on or how her life was about to change forever. She only knew that the lady named Kala had told her she was going on a trip to a very special place, that she would have new clothes, and that she would be working for a nice family who lived in a big house. The lady asked Asha if she was willing to work hard. Asha nodded. "Will you do anything that is asked of you?" Asha said she would try. Asha wanted her family to be proud of her.
The adventure began at the bus station in Katmandu. Asha had never ridden a bus before. Asha wondered how many other girls would be fortunate enough to go to a big city like Mumbai. Perhaps this was what her father meant when he talked about good karma. She couldn't wait to say her pujas (daily prayers), as her father and mother had taught her to give thanks for such good fortune. Asha looked excitedly out the window as the Nepali hills rolled by. The bus trip lasted much longer than she expected - 14 hours just to get to the border town of Nepalgunj.
Once there, they walked across the border where they boarded another bus for the trip to Delhi. Asha asked Kala if they were almost there. Kala told her that Mumbai was very far away and they wouldn't be there for several days. After what seemed like forever, Asha asked again. Kala glowered at the little girl. Asha decided that perhaps she should not ask such questions.
The stifling heat and the exhaust fumes made Asha sick to her stomach. She wondered if Mumbai would be like this. All that day the bus bumped and swayed over the dusty roads of North India. Asha began to realize that wherever Mumbai was, it was a long way from home. She wondered if her parents would come to see her.
Finally, after three days and hundreds of nameless Indian villages, the driver announced the good news - they were in Mumbai. Asha became excited. What will the family be like? What about their big house? When Asha and Kala climbed down from the bus there was no one to meet them. Asha was confused. She looked around. Kala grabbed her hand and nearly jerked her off her feet. "Come, child!"
They walked quickly through the busy station, past the beggars who swarmed the sidewalk outside, and to the taxi stand. Asha had never been in a car. Kala spoke crisply to the driver. "Falkland Road." This must be a very special place, she thought for the driver instantly nodded his head in recognition. It was night when the taxi wound its way through Mumbai's crowded streets, but unlike Nepal, it wasn't dark. Everywhere she looked, Asha saw lights, lots of lights with strange markings. Asha did not know the meaning of the strange markings. She had never been to school.
After an hour's drive, the taxi turned onto what seemed to be the busiest street of all. The taxi stopped. Kala pulled her arm again. "This is where we get out," the woman said crossly. This was a strange place. "Where's the pretty house?" Asha asked shyly. "Quiet!" Kala barked. "This is your new home."
Women and girls lounged in the doorway. Their faces were painted in ways Asha had never seen. Asha stopped and stared. Kala roughly pulled the little girl through the door. They walked down a series of long, poorly lit corridors. Asha could feel the wet garbage under her bare feet, oozing between her toes. There was heaviness in the air. This did not seem like a happy place.
Suddenly, a woman was standing in front of them. "Here she is," Kala said tersely, "That'll be 40,000 rupees" (about $100 U.S.). The woman took Asha to a little room. "This is where you'll stay," the woman declared without emotion as she pushed the child through the door. Asha shivered when she heard the dead bolt slam into place. Something seemed very wrong. Asha felt frightened - and alone. She prayed to the family gods. It didn't seem to help. Asha went to sleep wondering what kind of place she had come to. When she woke up, she couldn't tell whether it was day or night because her room had no windows.
After a long while, the woman returned. She sat down on the bed and opened a little bag. She started putting make-up on Asha's face. Asha winced. A few minutes later the woman came back with a man. The woman told Asha what to do. Asha did not want to do such things. The woman slapped her. Asha cried. The woman slapped her again. "No! No! I will not do such things." The woman cursed Asha in Nepali and then left.
A few minutes later, she returned with another man. His lip curled in a mocking snarl. She had never seen such a look. "So, you don't want to work, eh?" He pulled off his belt and began to beat Asha. He beat her until the pain filled her body. Then he left. Asha curled up on her cot and whimpered softly.
Later that day the woman came back. "Ready to work, little doll?" Asha cried and pleaded with her. "Please don't make me do those things." The man with the belt came back. Three times that day he beat her. When the time came to eat, they brought nothing to Asha. Still the little girl resisted. The torture lasted for days. Without light, Asha lost track of time. Without food she grew weak.
One of the other girls told Asha it was useless to resist. She told Asha of another girl who had been put in a room with a cobra until she changed her mind about doing as she was told. It didn't take long, the girl reported. "The gods have forgotten you. This is your fate," the girl said sadly. Frightened, exhausted and hungry, Asha surrendered.
In those first days, Asha often cried herself to sleep, wishing she was back in her village, homesick for her mother. She hated life in the brothel, hated what she saw, hated what she did. She hated what happened to the other girls - especially the sick ones. But the tears grew less and less, and Asha became accustomed to her new life.
Seven years passed. Seven years without seeing her mother or brothers. Seven years in what she and the other girls called "that place." Seven years watching girls become sick with the "Bombay Disease." Seven years of watching them turned out on the streets to die. Asha dreamed of buying her freedom and going home to Nepal, but she knew there was little hope of that.
By her sixteenth birthday, Asha had forgotten what hope was. Until she met a man named Devaraj. Devaraj was different than the other men she had known. She met him at a small church near Falkland Road. There he taught messages of hope that lifted her spirits. He talked of freedom. She visited there as often as she could. She longed more than ever to be free from Falkland Road, but she still lacked the money to pay the "investment" the brothel owner had made in her.
One night after service, Devaraj told Asha she could leave the district. Asha could hardly believe what she was hearing. "How is this possible?" Asha asked. Devaraj explained that some "friends" had given a gift to purchase her freedom. In a few days, Asha left the brothel that had been her home since she was a young girl and moved into a "Home of Hope." Now she is learning how to live. She is learning a new trade. And thanks to people who care, Asha's life is no longer surrounded by pain and disappointment. It is full of hope and optimism for the future.
When Mike McGill read Asha's story in 1999, he started the Asha Forum. What will your response be?www.protectionproject.org