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Updated: Jun 19, 2021

The happiness a caged parrot would feel when asked if it wanted to fly and see the world, is what I felt when my mother agreed to send me to my relative’s house. Girls in our village were supposed to walk with their heads facing downwards due to the fear of ‘Log Kya Kahenge?’.

Our hell and heaven were in the four walls of our house.

Where I wanted to fly free, I didn’t even know the streets of my village. So when my mother agreed to send me to my relative’s place for a month when I was nine years old, I felt overjoyed. Who knew it was the calm before a storm in my life?

My relatives taught me to make tea and I thought it would be good to learn new things. From the next day, they woke me up at five and made me do all the household chores as if I was their maid. I showed as if I was happy on the outside on calls with my family back in the village, but in reality, I was weeping inside. They used to make me wear clothes like that of a beggar. They made me wake up at 5 am and made me massage fifteen people for one and a half hours each. On top of that, they made me make the food of all the people, sweep the house, do literally everything when everyone else just sat there, watching me.

One fine day, when I was at the market with my cousin, he said we would play a secret game where we both would feel good. I felt weird and asked my heart if I should go to his room that night. I sensed something was wrong and I didn’t go. I was saved. I told everyone what my cousin had told me the next day. They slapped my cousin, but told me, ”Kisiko zikr mat karna, rishte kharab ho jayenge. Phir log kya kahenge?” (Don’t tell anyone, the relationships will get spoilt. Then what will people say?). I still told my mother as soon as I got back about what happened because my heart didn’t want to lie to her because even though it wasn’t rape, it was harassment. This was the first time I consciously beat ‘Log Kya Kahenge?’

Fast forward today, I am a child’s rights activist and have my own foundation - Buland Udaan. I am a TedX Speaker who has been awarded The Changemaker Award by Smt. Smriti Irani and Young Changemaker Award by our ex-prime minister, Manmohan Singhji.

Story of - Anju Verma

Written by - Mahika Solanki

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