This is a story I feel I must tell as my journey in India progressed. I have been here for a couple of months experiencing culture shock and seeing awful things. You acclimate to your environment in time; however, this experience took me to hell.
I travel to a small town way out in the middle of nowhere to meet a young woman, named Sanjari, and her team. Today we are going to a small village where very young girls are being held as sex slaves to bring food, clothes, and medicine. Previously, I asked her if I could accompany them to the site, but she flatly denied my request several times. She argued that the mission was already dangerous without bringing a five-foot-ten blond American woman! However, I was relentless, and she finally acquiesced.
I meet them at their office; small and dingy, papers piled high everywhere. Sanjari enters the room; young and beautiful wearing a bright sari with patterns as gorgeous as Versace! She has an incredibly strong presence for her age, and it is evident that her compassion and tender heart is the glue that holds the team together.
With courage and tenacity, she marches forward as, "The Bold Defender." We load up into a small rattletrap of a car with two of her muscular Indian bodyguards who squeeze in as best as they can. The heat is sweltering, and the humidity is thick. I am sweating profusely and steaming off my body is the strong odor of mosquito repellent. For the sake of the others, I hope it is just an olfactory hallucination, but I doubt it.
We drive for a long time before arriving at a cluster of old ramshackle huts situated by the side of a dirt road, used as a traveling highway. We unload the food baskets from the car and walk through a dank and dark alley which reeks of booze and urine. It is infested with cockroaches and mosquitoes, and the ground is covered with blood red stains from beetle nut; a stimulant people chew and spit.
Sanjari tells me that in these huts the children are forced to work as sex slaves day and night. Tortured, starved, alienated from their families, most of them will die from disease or disappear from the surface of the earth. The pain and suffering they endure is a never-ending nightmare.
As we enter the central courtyard, we encounter a heavyset man sitting on an old broken stool. With eyes black as night and a big rifle next to him, he is scary as hell. Sanjari says he is the pimp master guarding the girls against opposing pimps and escape.
The door to a hut opens with several barely pubescent girls emerging. They run toward us with evident joy. They are very thin, looking like rag dolls in the dusty heat of the day. Their skin is dried and filthy, and the scars on their arms look like cigarette burns from past punishments.
We offer them rice, cookies, and candy which they devour as if they had not eaten in days. Suddenly, the pimp master—whom I call “the Devil”—yells to the girls to line up. Several men approach and a repulsive, dirty old man advances toward a very young child around seven years old, taking her hand. At this point, I snap and run toward them, screaming, “No, no, not the little one.”
The Devil pimp master jumps to attention and points his gun at my head. The two bodyguards who had accompanied us run from behind me lifting me from both sides. I kick and scream while they drag me back to the hut where we are camped out.
Sanjari yells at me, Are you crazy? You could have been killed—you stupid woman! At this point I don't care, it is a reaction that comes from outrage and cannot be controlled. I hear the cries of the children, but there is nothing I can do to stop this from happening. I cry so hard that I vomit my breakfast up over and over again.
As we gather the last of the food and leave, she warns me not to say another word. We enter the courtyard just as the children emerge from the huts after enduring horrific sexual abuse. They run up to me and hug me tight begging me with their eyes to save them. The little one is crying, lying in a fetal position in the dirt. I desperately want to hold and comfort them, but I know I can’t right now.
The Devil looks at me his cold stare unmistakably threatening to send me a silent message: Don’t come back, because next time, I will kill you, lady!
Vengeance fills my heart, and the fear and toxic adrenaline building in my body take me to places in my mind I don’t want to go. I want to kill these men, and I feel shame for thinking like that, but in the intensity of the moment, I lose myself.
The ride home is torturous, and I have trouble sleeping and eating for weeks after this experience. I feel that I could cry with righteous indignation for the rest of my life; because when you are helpless to save a child, it haunts you like a never-ending nightmare.
This is a story about the grotesque atrocities perpetrated on children around the world. It is also an inspiring display of courage from those facing endless suffering.
On this dreadful day, I found my calling .As overwhelming and challenging as this problem is, I will do everything to save the children, even if it’s just one. I have been blessed to walk among angels.
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