Monday, August 5, 2013

Escape to freedom - a real life adventure

Age need not be the criteria for one to have an experience of a life time. Sometimes one undergoes such experiences at a very young age. This was the saga of one such person whom I got to know. This girl who is now in her early twenties had this to tell me.

She hails from a village where once upon a time her grandparents owned farm lands. As is the case many a time with the farmers where they depend on the vagaries of nature and on the money lenders over a period of time they could not sustain to retain their land and slowly lost all their land. They were reduced to a poverty stricken life.

This girls parents had four girls and one boy. The father being a drunkard, used to eke a living working on others lands. Once a person came to their village and told the villagers that he had come to recruit people to work in a far off place promising good pay. So about ten families opted to go to that land of hope. Now this girl was at that time about 6 years old and hence they left her older sisters and her brother at their grandparents place and took their little one along with them.

Within a few days these people became aware that the promised land of hope had reduced them to being bonded laborers! Everyday they were herded into a van and taken to a quarry where they were made to work for long hours. Food was provided. After work they were taken back in the van to the tents where they were put up. The catch was they were not allowed to go outside the perimeter and they were paid meager wages.This was the way they ensured that these people would not run away! They were actually like prisoners of war. The children were also not spared and they were made to work along with their parents. As this place was in a remote area with no habitat around, these people did not even know the name of the place.

The next part reads like an adventure. After a few months these people decided to escape form there. Since they were living in isolation and several miles away from civilization they did not have any means of contacting the outside world. They decided on a plan. Every night two members from the group would venture out to chalk a route to get to the nearby village. They had to do this very cautiously as they had to be back to work the next day morning. Day after day they would go further and further and finally one day they were able to locate a villager who gave them directions to the closest village. On the day they decided to escape, they set out clandestinely and luckily made it to the closest village by early morning and as soon as they saw a bus boarded it.

Since they had very little money, they were not able to go to their village. In order to earn and save enough money to go back they had to work.They landed a job at a coffee estate. This again turned out to be a nightmarish experience for them. All of them had to stay cramped in one room. This little girl also helped her parents with their work. One day there was trouble at the estate. The workers went on a strike demanding better pay and better working conditions. The situation got out of control and some of them got hurt and bruised. Finally this girl's family decided that they had to go back to their village. Atleast they had freedom there. And that is where they are now. The three elder sisters of this girl are married and this girl with her sister and her brother is now working here.

As she finished, I was awestruck by the fact that at such a young age this girl had undergone such extreme experiences which normally we only read about. But here she was right in front of me. I salute this girl and many like her who with sheer grit and determination have come so far in life despite all the odds that life has doled out to them.