Humans with a “PRICE TAG”
(This article is based on a true story but names have been changed to protect the privacy)
My name is Priyadarshani and this is my story. I was born in Nuwara Eliya to a family of five. I had an elder brother and a younger sister. Growing up isn’t easy in our part of the country. Families are not always supportive and protective, and at times we may need protection from them. My mother laboured away in the Middle East for nearly 6 years to earn a living for us. Unfortunately, my father was an alcoholic who preferred spending my mother’s hard-earned money on liquor instead of his children. My brother soon followed in my father’s footsteps, eventually developing a drug addiction. Thus, the little we had left for ourselves was also lost at the irresponsible hands of my brother. The addiction also made him violent and he would regularly assault and abuse my sister and me. At only 19, he got married and started abusing his wife in addition to my sister and me. I almost took my life when I thought a bottle of Licine, a chemical treatment for live, (hair product) could kill me. Thankfully, it did not go as I expected.
I never knew what it meant to be taken care of. My parents were not the loving and caring type. I know now that they did not fulfill even the basic responsibilities towards a daughter. I tried hard to educate myself, but the pressures at home were too much so I was unsuccessful. One day, a local agent approached my parents. He is known for being a broker of sorts, ‘selling’ girls of the village to rich people in cities to serve as ‘helpers’. I was sold for ten thousand (10,000) rupees and a promise of a monthly salary of twenty thousand (20,000) rupees. I had to take care of household work and a six-month-old baby. It was a three-storied luxury apartment. I thought it was heaven. I thought that here, I will find answers to all my problems.
Each of the three stories had helpers like me. Slowly, they shared their stories with me. The master of the house kept a recorder in the room where we helpers slept and abused us later by using these recorded conversations for blackmail. I was told that he had paid to abuse me for at least one year. All of us ‘helpers’ went through similar abuse, torture and pain.
This made my mental health deteriorate further. My suicidal thoughts got more frequent and intense. We did not get proper food or sleep or even time for a proper bath. At that age, it was too much work for me. They had a nickname for me: ‘mongol’. I did not know what that meant, and I did not know they were teasing me. I smiled when they called me by that name.
Then one day, another helper was accused of stealing a gold chain. She was stripped searched and was physically tormented to accept the guilt. Her parents took her away in silence. e. Once I was feeding the baby and he accidentally swallowed an ice cube he was playing with. That day I was abused and tormented even more than usual.
Whenever my family reached out to ask for money they were told I was doing fine. When I completed 7 months of service my father came to see me. At this point, I had earned up to Rs. 140,000 from the monthly salary, yet I only had savings of Rs. 16,000 and a few new clothes that I had bought for my sister. My father could barely recognize me. My hair was trimmed, I had lost weight, and my clothes were dirty and tattered. He was shocked to see me in this state. He asked for leave for 5 days and took me back to the village. The owners only let me go on the condition that I kept back all my belongings, including the gifts I bought for my sister at the apartment. So, I went back empty-handed to my home. I fell sick and I had to stay home for a few days. My parents realized my plight and the extent of the abuse I had endured. They asked me to stay back, and kindly requested my former employer for my salary and belongings. At this point, my employers falsely claimed that I had broken the television and ran away. They threatened to file a complaint against me. My parents had to sit back in silence.
It was not all love and kindness to me back at home either. They wanted me to take care of them and all household matters. Things had not changed. After some time, however, my aunt took care of me and directed me to a house with people who understood what it means to be human. The new family adopted me and treated me with respect, kindness and compassion. For the first time, I felt what it was like to be taken care of.
I think I might have been lucky. Things could have been much worse for me. But am I not a girl like anyone else? Is it a crime to be born poor? Do I not have the right to have dreams? Do I not deserve respect and dignity? Should I not have the ability to trust those around me? I too like to be loved and cared for.
I think all of us have a price tag in this world. But some of us pay a higher price to survive.
Article by Roshani Jennifer Joseph
The views expressed on this blog post are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of Hashtag Generation.