Born to a sex worker in a brothel, life was tougher for her than we would imagine. Ashwini knew nothing of the bigger picture than what her surroundings offered. She spent half her life running; running away from her mother, running away from the land of pimps, running away from haunting memories of hostels but one thing she didn’t run away from was hope of a better tomorrow. Today, she has made in New York University with full scholarship.
Ashwini was born in a brothel in Mumbai to a sex worker who did not live long enough to see her daughter grow up. It was catastrophic for her as there was no one else she could turn to. But once she got over her grief she strengthened her faith and followed the right path.
“I’ve been running my whole life. When I was 5, I ran away from my mother who was a sex worker and used to beat me up black and blue only for something as trivial as losing her lipstick,” says Ashwini.
One of her childhood memories is of a time when she was playing with her friends. She pushed a row of bicycles making all of them collapse. This was seen by the locality watchman who locked the children up in the building and informed her mother. Ashwini was scared to death when she saw her advancing her with a broom in hand. As soon she was released she ran as bolt of lightning to escape the assault.
At the tender age of 8, her mother sent her to an NGO where she had to bear the beatings of the teachers. It was a Christian hostel, where if she failed to follow the rules she was beaten and starved for days. Life took a turn when her mother died during this duration. Ashwini was left with no other option than to take the abuse for 10 years.
However, a beam of light came when a few inmates ran away to other care shelter called Kranti. They suggested that Ashwini joins them. She followed their guideline and ran away from hostel. It was the best decision of her life. In Kranti they learned through therapy – dance, art and other forms of healing. After learning these forms of therapy, Ashwini started volunteering and helping other kids. She brought these various techniques to Tata Memorial Hospital where she helped children with various art forms who were waiting for their Cancer treatment.
Together they performed various art forms that enable kids to express their fear, problems and hopes with much ease. In the last two years, Ashwini has traveled to West Bengal learning theater, Himachal to learn photography and Gujarat for volunteering with NGOs and to Delhi to work with dalit communities.
“My experiences convinced me that I wanted to be an art therapist and spend my life helping others who found it difficult to express. I applied to New York University and got in with a big scholarship— my entire tuition is covered! For me, this was the biggest validation — that I could get into a college of my dreams, study what I love and make a difference all while the police is still running after me to drag me back to the hostel I ran away from. But I’m finally stopping to run. I’m finally finding peace and stillness within me and the hope of a better tomorrow… the hope of a second chance to live a different life and to finally just…be.”
There is nothing more demanding in life than building something of your own for which you fight against all odds. But with determination and approach everything becomes possible. Ashwini’s journey was tough and full of roadblocks but she got over them with sincerity howsoever difficult the path was.
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