Born to Indian immigrants in the United States, I now call Kolkata, India my home. I've travelled to and from India since I was young. I was always eager to go back, enthralled by women in brilliant sarees and children running barefoot on the street. I liked to people-watch and India was like a movie in living color. At any given moment, there were a multitude of people, animals, workers, transportation, and businesses harmoniously co-existing among the chaos. As a child, how was I to know the impact this country and its people would have on me?
Around two years ago, I was leading a comfortable life in the suburbs. I had a steady job, a beautifully decorated apartment and a loving boyfriend. From the outside, it seemed idyllic. But I started to panic. I remember thinking, "Is this it? What's next?" Something wasn't right. After much soul-searching, I ultimately realized why I wasn't happy. Although I had acquired materially, I wasn't finding the fulfillment I needed out of life. I got stuck in a cycle I never wanted to be a part of. I wish I could say that I set off to India to help those who truly needed help but selfishly, I went there searching for my own answers.
My first year in India is a time near and dear to my heart. Through the help of family and friends, I navigated my way around the city and explored the different neighborhoods. I soon realized there was a particular street most people avoided. It was the red light district of Kalighat. I saw young prostitutes, younger than me, scattered here and there, waiting to be bought. Most of them were wearing jeans and t-shirts, with scarlet lips and kajol-rimmed eyes but perhaps the image that haunts me most was the girl wearing a saree, like the ones I admired as a kid, sitting crosslegged near the curb. Her head was covered and she kept her gaze lowered. What distressed me most was that the locals' solution to this area was to simply go around it.
I was certified to teach English as a Foreign Language, which is what I started out focusing on. My hope was to improve the lives of others and share what little knowledge I have. There are many jobs and opportunities that require English speaking skills. I felt capable of my abilities in this area. Where I am completely lost is how to use my abilities to help these girls, who seem to be lost and in need of guidance. I have experience in other areas, such as photography and social media marketing, that I want to utilize in making a change.
By no doing of my own, I was blessed to be born in a country where basic education is a birthright and equal to all. It seems so unjust that there are intelligent, young girls who, by circumstance, do not have the same resources I had. It is unjust that they lack access to sexual education, feminine hygiene and contraception. Moving to India was the best decision I could have made and I want to continue to working with women here to better their lives in any way that I can.