It had been eight long months of waiting for this day. Night after night standing in darkened lanes; her face glinting with jewels and painted with a sad smile. The routine was familiar. He would come – one of the regulars, or perhaps someone new. They would negotiate. The terms were matter of fact: what and how much. It would happen, like it had a thousand times before, and he would leave. Then, in sordid reprise the whole sequence would play out again. In exchange she could feed her son, pay her rent. Stay alive.
It was an impossible web – a lattice of theft and betrayal, power and injustice with no escape for being glued by the black gravity of a future without hope or possibility. That is, until they had come.
They…Them. The people who walked the lanes, and whispered about hope; about mukti (freedom). They said it wasn’t here yet, but they were fighting for it and wouldn’t stop until it was won. And when that day came…they wanted her to share in it – if she could but wait.
The news came as time ebbed by. A month, three months, five months… After countless dead-ends, they said a building was at last theirs, and the equipment was on its way. The nights were longer now than they used to be; the searing burn in her chest of a future straining to pull her out of her present which seemed to extend time. When they said they were ready to interview, her heart began to beat; it’s chambers filling with hope – real hope this time – and slamming closed with excitement. And then they called. They said she had to be first one to know – they couldn’t wait any longer to tell her. The job was hers. She would start on the 14th of May.
‘Today’ was a year ago now – for her and ten others in her mukti family. It’s the 14th of May again, already, and it’s a flurry of colour and busyness. Balloons bob around the room and women – her sisters – are swathed in flowing sari’s. Husbands and families have come too. Peels of laughter climb above the beat of the music, the blaring of party horns, and the chatter of children playing games. It’s a happy cacophony.
A chorus of voices join in on ‘Happy Birthday,’ the candle falters and a thread of smoke winds delicately in to the air. She watches on, and the curve of a smile tips her lips. Today, she says, it’s her real birthday. It’s the day her new life began. Tomorrow a new year begins, and this year family will grow again. She already can’t wait to meet her new sisters. It’s freedom’s sweet reprise.
The Loyal Workshop wishes our wonderfully brave family a very happy birthday. We are so, so proud of you, and all that you have fought for and continued to fight for; for all that you hope for, and for the trust you have gifted each other. We have loved this past year of walking with you, of crying with you, of problem-solving with you, and becoming family. We love watching who you are becoming, how you are flourishing, persisting, learning, hoping, and loving those around you. And to our extended family – the aunties and uncles, cousins, friends, supporters – it takes a village. You’re ours.
Sincerely, thank you.