LittleHumansOfMumbaiStreets – Giving Up On Her Dreams For Her Younger Sisters

Little Humans, in collaboration with Prerana, brings to you the stories of vulnerable children from the streets and communities of Mumbai who are either forced into, rescued from or are found begging. 

Every morning, Savita (name changed) hops on to the local trains on the Harbour Line in Mumbai to sell a sack of garbage bags. This 14-year-old girl has a family of five, and is the eldest of the three daughters. They live in a shed made of aluminum sheets by the side of a highway in Chembur, a suburb in Mumbai. 

 “You are home early today!”

 “Yes, I completed my day’s work and returned early.”

 “Where do you go for work?”

 “I sell garbage bags in local trains; one packet for 20 rupees and three for 50.” 

 “How many bags do you buy every day?”

 “We buy a sack full of the garbage packets. Each sack contains around 100 packets. 

“How much do you buy those for?” 

“Each packet? Nine rupees per packet. Mother buys the sack.” 

 “From where?”

 “Somewhere in Mulund, I don’t know the place.” 

 “And so you sell the whole sack all by yourself?”

“No, my mother and I do.” 

 “How much do you earn?”

 “Around 500 rupees per day.” 

 “How long do you work?”

 “I leave by 9 am and return by 8 pm sometimes.” 

 “What do you do once you return home?” 

“I cook, and eat the same food the next morning too.”

 “Do you want to continue working this way?”

 “(Shyly) I don’t have any choice, I have to eat and survive, for which I have to work. My family depends on the money I earn. I have to take care of my sisters. Nobody cares about us. I don’t like working. Women customers bargain and higgle-haggle even for 10 rupees. Men on the platforms ogle at me. But yet, I have no choice Didi. I have to work.” 

 “Do you complain to anyone about it?”

 “No one. It is part of the work I do. I can’t even complain to police or they will ask for hafta (extort money) from me for selling the bags in the train. I can’t afford that. If I get arrested, I have to pay a 1,200-rupee fine to the police. The women police come and take away our things. Earlier, I used to sell clips, but I got caught once in six months and had to pay fine. Also, the revenue is not that good in selling clips. In selling bags, I don’t get caught easily and the profit is good.” 

 “How many family members do you have?”

 “We are five people — two younger sisters, father, mother and me.” 

 “Does your father work?”

 “He does, but he spends all his earnings either on gambling or drinking. He does not care about us. If we try to talk to him he beats us up… all of us.  Also, he wanted a boy child, and we all are girls.” 

 “What about your education?”

 “What education Didi? I tried going to school, but was ridiculed by my teacher. I was bullied by my classmates for not understanding a word in the class. There were times, due to tiredness, I would doze off in the school and the teacher would scold me in front of the whole class. It was unpleasant and humiliating.” 

 “Do you ever want to complete your education?”

 “I am not sure Didi. All I want is to take care of my sisters. I want them to be educated. I want them to complete their education and have a stable job. I want them to be addressed as ‘madam’. In the next few years, I may get married, but I will still take care of my sisters.”

Photo Credits : Prerana

Words By : Prerana

Prerana is a civil society organization that started its work in 1986 by addressing the issue of intergenerational trafficking in the sex trade. It subsequently addressed larger issues around sex trafficking, gender-based violence, child sexual abuse and child protection, and has been instrumental in bringing policy-level changes through its strong advocacy. You can follow them on instagram and twitter.

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