A New Horizon
A New Horizon5 mins 234 5 mins 234
Rehana draped herself in a red cotton sari with matching bangles and a red bindi on her forehead. On the occasion of Independence Day, she was invited as the chief guest to Little Flower school. It was a moment of pride for her, after the struggles she had faced all these years. Her thoughts raced back to her childhood.
She used to live in a slum in Mumbai.
As a child, poverty was not the reason she was unhappy. It was the discrimination she had faced. She was not allowed to go to school, while her brother was lucky to be educated. She often asked her mom, “Is it my fault that I was born this way? Her mom silently wiped away her tears and replied, “You are very special to God. One day he will grant all your wishes.” Rehana just hoped that ‘day’ would come soon.
As she grew older, she realized that this world was not a good place to live in. She was often insulted by her relatives and neighbours. Her father was a drunkard and would often beat her. One day, a strange-looking lady came to her house. There was some discussion between her father and that lady. Her mother came to her, hugged her and said, “Am sorry my child, I couldn’t save you.” The next day she travelled by bus along with that lady who took her to a new ‘mohalla’. Rehana found herself surrounded by many ladies and girls of her age. The lady who had brought her there was Sakubai. She told her that this would be her new home and all the ladies who lived there had been abandoned by their families. Rehana felt very sad when she thought that she too had been abandoned for no fault of hers. She was born as a Hijra or eunuch.
The next morning Rehana was asked to get ready. She was given a glittering sari and some flowers. Sakubai helped her drape the sari and applied heavy makeup on her face. “Where are we going?’’ Rehana asked innocently.” Your duty begins from today. We have to go to the busiest streets of Mumbai and beg. You have to approach the vehicles at the traffic signal, tap on their windows, clap your hands and take money from them. If they refuse to give money then just curse them. People are afraid of our curses,” said Sakubai with a grin. Rehana was shocked to hear this. Was this the kind of life she deserved? What was her fault? She just went with her silently and followed whatever instructions she was given.
As the months passed, Rehana got adjusted to her new surroundings. When they were not begging, they were taught other skills of life like sewing, embroidery, craftwork etc. Soon she excelled in art and craft. The artifacts made by them would be sold in the market and they would get their share of the profit. They also crashed into fancy weddings, birth ceremonies and danced. They also blessed the newborn. Rehana was sad only about not being educated. Even though she loved her ‘new home’ and the people there, she missed something in her life.
One day a lady visited them. Neha was a social worker from a famous NGO in Mumbai. She had come to know about them as their organization had bought some artifacts from them. Neha wanted to visit their area and know more about their lives. She wanted an interview with Sukubai but she refused. She complained that many people from different NGOs had come earlier and done interviews but no one helped them. No one was bothered about them or their lives. They did not exist in society. Neha convinced Rehana to speak. She wanted to know about the difficulties they faced in their community. Rehana thought that this would be a good opportunity to get some help from the organization. She confided all her woes.
She told Neha about her unhappy childhood and the circumstances under which she was brought there. “ My life was hell until I reached here, where I met people who were similar to me. Even after 65 years of Independence, we do not have any rights or freedom. Is it our fault that we were different by birth? People call us by different names, kinnar, chakka etc. The people in your society condemn us. They don’t even treat us like humans. We are not given the right to be educated. We are left with the option of either begging on the streets or enter the flesh trade. People don’t even talk to us politely. People talk about feminism and women’s rights. But no one bothers about our rights. In this Independent country why do we still struggle for our rights and our freedom?”said Rehana with tears in her eyes. Neha was completely taken aback. It was her first experience with their community and she was not aware of the struggles faced by them. She promised Sakubai that she would do her best to help them.
Two months later, Neha visited them once again. This time she came with some good news. Her NGO had found some sponsors and they had agreed to educate them for free. Rehana jumped with joy as she knew that her dreams would soon come true.
Few years had passed, Rehana completed her graduation and was now a teacher. The NGO had helped to begin a school for children of the Hijra community. She also joined Neha in her social service activities. She became the co-founder of #FREE INDIA movement which was specially targeted for people not only in her community but also anyone who needed their help. Rehana was brought back to the present when the car honked outside her house. Neha had come to pick her. They reached the school where they were warmly welcomed by the Principal. The Principal announced, “Now we welcome Rehana’ji, the Co-Founder of #FREE INDIA Movement to hoist the flag. ”Rehana proudly hoisted the flag as everyone sang the National Anthem in unison……..