My son was born out of a live-in relationship with a married man, and I do not feel guilty. Every time I found myself thinking about how I wanted to live my life, I had just one answer—I wanted to live unafraid. That was asking for a lot, considering I hailed from a conservative Muslim family in Allahabad. My father was not in very good health and the responsibility of five daughters and one son fell on my mother’s shoulders. I was determined to share the financial responsibilities, and started working from a very young age.
I used to write scripts for a local radio station in Allahabad and do theatre. There were days when I would come back late from practice sessions and the boys in our theatre group would drop me. In the Dariyabad locality in Allahabad, where we lived, that was taken to mean that I was a girl of “loose character”. What others thought about me or how they perceived me never mattered; all I wanted was to earn for my family. That is when I took the decision of moving to Mumbai in the hope of finding better opportunities.
In 2000, I came to Mumbai with just `1,200 in my pocket. I had no plans; I knew I was here to work. In three days, I had exhausted all my money. I lived in a gurudwara for a week, even as I went around looking for jobs, but found nothing. I took up three part-time jobs to sustain myself in the ‘city of dreams’ and started staying in a paying guest accommodation. It just came with one caveat—you couldn’t stay there from 10 am to 8 pm. You could just go there to sleep. I barely found space to sleep but I had no other option.
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October 27 2015