Abused and raped, this Mumbai girl is turning misery into inspiration and has a strong message for Indian parents!
Mumbai girl Sandhya Nair faced discrimination throughout her life, but she is now hitting back with her inspirational story and a question for Indian parents
If you happen to read a matrimonial advertisement, you'll probably read the same requirement. "Wanted, fair and beautiful girl. Should be educated. Should be tall and willing to live with in-laws and of X community," and the list goes on.
But notice carefully, how the word fair, beautiful and community point is emphasised clearly. And no matter how the boy looks, everybody wants a 'fair' girl of the same community.
It is this mindset that is slowly destroying the fabric of our integrated society. We forget to teach our kids that 'dusky' or 'dark' is just as beautiful and no matter which caste or religion they maybe, they are all equal.
That is exactly what this young girl faced and today she is speaking out against the discrimination she faced based on her colour, caste and community. Mumbai girl Sandhya Nair was featured in the Humans of Bombay page and has a strong message that all parents must read!
Starting humbly and differently
Nair begins her story with how her mother became a victim of human trafficking and was brought to Mumbai forcefully. But after a few years of living a dark and morbid life, her father came into the picture and their lives changed.
"I was born in Kamathipura. My mother used to be a sex worker because she was trafficked here from Kerala, but when she met my father who fell madly in love with her -- she gave it all up. Even though they were married and she started working as domestic help - my family couldn't afford to move out of Kamathipura," she begins.
And the discrimination began
It wasn't just the fact that Sandhya was born to a domestic help, but also that she was dark skinned that she faced immense discrimination.
"Growing up, I faced a lot of discrimination. I had everything going against me - a dark skinned Indian girl from a red light area. At school, the other children refused to talk to me or play with me. They would call me a 'crow' or 'black cow' behind my back and treat me like an untouchable," she says.
But just when she thought that was the only thing she would have to face in her life, she was raped by a person she knew and trusted, changing her entire life.
"I was always by myself and at the age of 10, one of my professors at my school took advantage of the situation and raped me. Our education system is such that we're not even taught about what a good touch or a bad touch is, so how was I to know? I was too scared to tell anyone until the age of 16 when I began therapy and realized that I had been raped," says Sandhya who in a way explained why parents must teach their young kids about 'good touch, bad touch.'
Continue reading to see what Sandhya did next. She also has a very important for all Indian parents!
Coping with the sexual assault
Soon after she found that she had in fact been raped, Sandhya decided to enroll in a vocation as a part of her therapy and theatre helped her come out of the rut.
"My only coping mechanism through everything has been theatre. I'm part of a street play group where we go around explaining through theatre what a 'bad touch is' or about menstruation and sex," explains Nair.
She goes on to add why parents and schools must make kids learn the difference between a good touch and a bad touch.
"So many times, the cops in Bombay have shooed us away because they here the word 'sex' -- it's so infuriating that we live in a place where we'd rather let our daughters get raped then explaining these things...just because it's considered a taboo," she says.
Friends like family
When Nair's parents moved back to Kerala, she decided to stay in Mumbai and at the same place she was born. She says that even though her parents were not there to support her, she got all the support she needed from the women of that place.
"My parents moved back to Kerala in 2013, but I've been here in Bombay because Kamathipura is my home. And it's a beautiful home -- there's so much love here. The women here are amazing, beautiful humans who have treated me like their daughter," she shares.
"I remember, a few months ago I was crossing the road when a taxi drove over my foot and refused to even stop. To him, anything he did in Kamathipura was acceptable because everyone there is 'dirty' according to him. But these 2-3 women charged upto him and said 'how can you treat our daughter like this?...get out of your car and apologize'. So many times men will look at me and make lewd gestures, but these women will come to my defence and tell them to back off," says Nair.
Helping parents learn about body image
Once she was ready, Sandhya joined an NGO called Kranti and has been working with them to educate parents and schools about body image and child sexual abuse, through theatre.
"Through Kranti I went to San Francisco for a programme called 'Girl on the Run' and I learnt so much. I found people were so accepting of my color, my background and my abuse. For the first time, I could speak freely about sex without worrying about a cop shooing us away. I learnt so much that I wanted to come back here and make my home a more accepting place through my theatre," says Nair.
She finally asks a few pertinent questions that all of us parents must ask ourselves. It is also something we need to teach our kids.
"Why is beauty so superficial? You maybe fair and I'm dark, but I still feel beautiful. Why is beauty associated with skin color? Why does where I come from matter? Why can't we see people for the good in them? Why can't we just accept?" she asks.
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