Flicker of hope: A story by Gitika Verma

 Jhulia listlessly stared out of the window of her room, watching her 3-year-old daughter, Nimmi, playing with the children of her co-workers on the dingy bylanes. The sun was about to set.

The ebullient kids chased each other frenetically, playing hide-and-seek, making a din!
“Their childhood innocence”, Jhulia pondered with a sinking heart, “cannot fathom the darkness that awaits them in future! I wish my daughter is saved from the trauma I go through everyday!”, Her eyes swelled with tears. Suddenly someone called, “Jhulia! Get ready! Your customer is here.”

As it grows dark, customers start pouring in this bustling brothel situated in Sonagachi in Kolkata. Jhulia wiped her tears and hurried to get back to her business .

The children  of sex workers here have a very disturbed childhood. They also face a very bleak future,  especially girls. The owners of the brothels are powerful and force these kids into child-trafficking, child labour or prostitution.
_ _ _ _

One day a “World Vision” team visits this brothel to meet the sex workers. It was headed by a young, vibrant woman named Sheetla. Little did the people at the brothel know that Sheetla herself was the daughter of a sex worker here who long ago had died of AIDS. Sheetla was lucky to escape the child-trafficking racket and was adopted by a well to do family.

She’d always nurtured a dream to contribute towards improving the lot of the dejected souls here, where her own mother had died a painful death!

Her team set up a ‘Child-friendly space’ at some distance from the brothel. Sheetla gradually befriended the sex workers, listening compassionately to their problems and motivated them to send their kids to the Child-friendly Space, specially created for children.

Everyday that Space now springs to life with the giggles, laughter and the nonstop chatter of children, learning, playing and dancing together! Sheetla keeps the kids engaged in learning and recreational activities. She teaches them numbers, alphabets, nursery rhymes with patience and utmost devotion. The kids are also provided lunch during the day.

Sheetla treats these kids like her own. Because of the love and affection she showers on them, the kids who faced derision and rejection from the society have now become very close to her and feel loved. She and her team are striving hard to provide them the childhood they rightly deserve. Together with the other staff members of the World Vision they keep track of the missing children and ensure to protect them from child-trafficking.

As soon as Jhulia reaches the Child-friendly Space to drop her daughter there, Nimmi extricates herself from her mother’s arms and runs to embrace Sheetla, who plants a kiss on her chubby cheeks. A teary-eyed Jhulia mumbles a prayer, thanking God for kindling a flicker of hope in their dark lives, a hope that their kids shall be safe from the grotesque darkness of that soul-scarring business, a hope that they too like other kids can dream of a better life!