“At the age of 7 I saw things that no child that age should see- I had an alcoholic father who would beat my mother up almost everyday. Despite being from different religious backgrounds, my parents had a love marriage – but my mother was never fully accepted into that home. It got worse when she gave birth to 2 daughters. My father’s mother has never picked my sister or me up…she would look through us like we didn’t exist. Every night my father would drink and beat my mother up for having girls, or some other vague reason and this went on for 7 years. She wasn’t allowed to work so she would have to beg him for 10 rupees to buy things for us. I feel so guilty today, because I’ve seen all of this happen in front of me and didn’t do anything — I would just hug my little sister and cry.
One day, he beat her up really badly and the entire situation got out of hand. That’s when she woke us up at 2 in the morning and we left in our night clothes without any shoes or money. We walked to this local bar which was still open, and my mother asked the owner if she could make a call — he immediately agreed and even offered us food. My mother’s parents then came to pick us up and that’s the last we ever saw of that family. He passed away a few years later, but that didn’t change anything for us.
My mother and grandparents changed our school and even our names in the hope to give us a new life and help us forget. Sometimes I would be in school, looking at the teacher in front of me and I would begin to cry. In order to divert my attention, she enrolled me for a Bharatnatyam class and that changed my life — since the age of 8 I’ve been dancing. My mother has worked round the clock to fend for us and even though her wings were clipped for so long, she gave us the liberty to pursue whatever we wanted. I’ve won a Belly Dancing competition in China, I perform all the time all over India and not once has she stopped me.
We have our own little world and we’re really happy. What has kept us going all these years is that we know that at any point we have each other for support and that’s how families are supposed to be! So even though we weren’t lucky the first time around — we feel so blessed to have rediscovered it within us for the second time.”
Reproduced from Humans of Bombay.