Girls from Kamathipura do Mumbai proud but struggle to find a home
As part of the NGO Kranti, the 20 girls have earned international recognition, but had to struggle to find a home in the city as nearly 60 landlords turned them down because they are daughters of sex workers
As daughters of sex workers, 20 girls have had to work hard to build new lives for themselves and, in recent times, earned international recognition for their efforts. Closer home, however, they have to go through hell just to find a place to stay.
Robin Chaurasia, who runs the NGO Kranti, said they found this 700-sq ft room in Vakola after two months of being turned down by close to 60 landlords. Pic/Sharad Vegda
The girls went through a two-month ordeal looking for houses after they were asked to vacate their last apartment in May, when the landlord learnt that their mothers were or are sex workers. Their past continued to haunt them as nearly 60 landlords turned them away for the same reason.
Last month, they finally managed to find one landlord who was willing to let out an empty industrial workshop in Vakola – where the 20 girls will now have to share a single 700-sq ft room and one toilet. mid-day had earlier highlighted the trials and successes of these girls who are supported by the NGO Kranti - one of them went on to win the UN’s Youth Courage Award, another scored a drumming scholarship in the US, two more attended an international course at sea and the rest have been to the US to stage their own play, Lal Batti Express (see box).
But none of these accomplishments mattered to their former landlord, who read about them in the newspapers and learnt of their family background and immediately asked them to vacate the house in Marol. At the time, the girls were heading to the US to stage their play, and requested him to wait until they had returned and found another house. It wasn’t until the end of July that they managed to find a place to stay, however.
“We asked some 60 landlords, and initially, they had all agreed to rent out their houses. But this time, I didn’t wish to keep them in the dark, and the moment I informed them that the girls were the daughters of sex workers, they immediately said no,” said Robin Chaurasia, who runs Kranti.
When they finally found the house in Vakola and vacated their old flat, there was another rude shock waiting for them - their ex-landlord refused to return their deposit of R5 lakh. For the two extra months that the girls stayed on in the house, he charged them close to double the rent at R1.5 lakh a month. The remaining R2 lakh were also written off as expenses incurred on installing grilles, etc.
The former landlord, Ramdas told mid-day, “If I had known the background of the girls before signing the agreement, I would have never allowed them as tenants.” The girls said this wasn’t the first time it had happened either. In 2013, they had been ousted from their home in Kandivli over the same issue.
According to Chaurasia, the new landlord is more understanding and has only asked that the girls ensure neighbours don’t find out about their history. “We told him the truth and he has been really supportive. He said we should only tell neighbours that we are an NGO but not reveal the name of the organisation. He says ‘what if someone checks on Google’,” said Chaurasia.
The new house comes at a rent of Rs 65,000, which is Rs 20,000 less than the previous house, but the girls no longer have the money to pay the rent or the Rs 5 lakh deposit, as they haven’t received the refund from the previous landlord. The girls will also have to face additional expenses to make the new place liveable.
The house is a former industrial unit comprising just one long room that doesn’t even have a kitchen. The NGO will have to renovate the premises, add a kitchen and more rooms. Mahek, a 12-year-old living at the new house said, “It’s also difficult getting to school from there every day. But while it takes me an hour to reach school, it takes two hours to wait in line for the one bathroom in the house.”
“I’m thankful that someone has given us a place to live, but it’s really hard for us. Even though we spend so much time doing workshops and raising awareness so that people won’t discriminate against us, in the end, is our work changing anything?” asked Danish, a 17-year-old girl at Kranti.
Want to help?
The NGO has appealed to the public to help them with funds to pay the R5 lakh deposit for the new house, and have started a webpage for contributions on https://milaap.org/campaigns/Home4Kranti