survivor girl ukulele band

bringing restoration and hope to survivors of human trafficking through the healing power of music and love

two weddings and a funeral

mysore gold train car 2

at the bangalore railway station

where to begin. i’ll start with some good news.

in december, shortly after i arrived in india, i got a call on my mobile phone from an unknown number. the person on the other end was speaking quite excitedly, but i couldn’t understand what she was saying, so i said in my limited hindi, “kaun?” “who are you?”

“bindu! bindu!” she said.

“bindu?!! is that really you?!” i said. i could hardly believe it.

“ya! bindu!” she said, laughing.

“yay!! i’ll call you back tonight!!” i said.

bindu* was one of my survivor girl ukulele band students from last year in pune — and i hadn’t seen or heard from since she left for home in may 2013, so i was very excited to hear from her. later that night i had a hindi-speaking friend call on my phone to bindu and ask her where she was and how she was doing. bindu said she was in mumbai and that she was married and that i should come and see her! i was so happy!

then in february i got a call from the mother of another of my students, preethi*, who is from pune. when preethi was released from the protective home in pune she was quite sick, and my last text to preethi asking how she was had been unanswered. when i asked how preethi was i couldn’t understand anything her mother said except, “please come my house,” but i knew something was wrong.

a couple of weeks ago, i set out on the 28 hour journey to pune and mumbai to see preethi and bindu, worried that something had happened to preethi.

soon after my arrival in pune, i heard the bad news. preethi was dead. she died in october 2013. she was only 19.

and i thought to myself, how does this happen?! a 19 year-old girl just dying like that?! what did she die from? did she have the correct diagnosis? was she getting the right medicine? so many questions.

a friend agreed to accompany me to preethi’s mother’s home and translate. her mother told me that many times preethi said, “call laurie madam,” and that they tried my number. but by then i was back in the usa and my indian number was switched off.

it’s true that the life-expectancy of a prostitute in india can be very short, but this was a complete fail. i failed preethi. her family failed preethi. her friends failed preethi. her doctors failed preethi. and the government system along with the ngo that kept her locked up without medical attention failed preethi. we all failed preethi.

i can’t believe that she’s gone and i keep thinking of all the things i could have should have would have done differently. now it is all too late. it’s a sad and messy story and i am still trying to process it.

*****    *****    *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****

in sharp contrast to preethi’s story is that of mina*, another survivor girl ukulele band students from last year. last june, soon after she was released from the protective home, she got married, and i was invited to the wedding. here are a few photos from mina’s wedding:

IMG_3123

arrival back home after the temple wedding ceremony

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bashful bride

mina is surrounded by some really good people who love and support her, and is very much enjoying her new role as a housewife.

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from pune i caught a bus to mumbai to meet with bindu. bindu doesn’t speak much english and i don’t speak much hindi, so it took a number of phone calls with a translator-friend to arrange a time and place to meet: platform 10, kalyan junction.

when i disembarked from my train at kalyan junction, i spun around in the surge of hundreds of people. where was bindu?

my phone rang. it was bindu. “bindu, where are you?” i said.

“ya!” she said.

the crowd dissipated. and there on the next platform over, in bare feet and a blazing yellow sari, was bindu.

it was like a scene out of a movie. the long lost friend, now found. we each ran up the stairs and met on the bridge and hugged and laughed.

then she led me barefoot through the maze of the station and the narrow side-streets and out to a busy road where we caught an auto-rickshaw.

i had no idea where we were going, but as we sped down the road i pulled out my iphone for some selfies of the two of us. bindu snuggled up against me, her chin on my shoulder, her cheek pressed against mine. together we smiled into the camera.

“oh, bindu, bindu,” i said.

“yeaah?” she said.

“it’s so good to see you!!”

“ya!!” she said, and we laughed and smiled, pleased at the selfies we were making.

i clicked off my camera. we couldn’t talk to each other much, but it didn’t matter because we were together. despite the heat and humidity we sat close to each other for the next forty minutes as we bumped along toward her home.

bindu brought me to her home, which was little more than a shack. on the floor a plastic political poster with some padding underneath serves as bedroom and sitting room. on the other side of the room, a makeshift shelf holds a few kitchen items.

she introduced me to her her husband, who clearly loves her.

“are you happy?” i asked.

“ya!” she said.

bindu's kitchen

bindu’s kitchen

the whole afternoon i felt like i was in a movie and this was the happy ending. after the horrors of the brothel, bindu has overcome many obstacles. she’s found true love, has her own snug little home, and carries hope and joy into her future. i can’t claim that survivor girl ukulele band played a major role in this happy outcome, but i am thrilled that bindu contacted me, that i was able to see her, and that i am able to share the story of her new life.

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these are just a few of the stories of survivor girl ukulele band project. i’m so grateful for the many family and friends around the world who are a real part of this project through your love and prayers and financial support. thank you.

pune 2014 auto-rickshaw selfie

 

* names changed

 

 

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2 thoughts on “two weddings and a funeral

  1. aakture on said:

    I miss you Laurie!

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