If not this, what would have been your career?
I started early so I never thought of anything else. I was just 17 and I thought with my heart rather than my head.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Social ostracism. It was quite contradictory to what I was taught in school. You are told to become crusaders like Raja Ram Mohun Roy and Bhagat Singh, but when you try to emulate them in real life, people turn against you. It is bewildering. Everyone wants a Bhagat Singh to be born, but not in their house! They would rather it be in the neighbour’s house. I also faced attacks by brothel keepers, who were protected by the state machinery. In other words, the whole system is vengeful. Instead of registering cases against the culprits, they registered cases against me.
What has been your most memorable moment at work?
I was teaching children in Shivdaspur when there was a police raid. The nervous kids started running and a girl fell into a nearby well in the melee. I saw that she was drowning and jumped in, though I didn’t know how to swim. I managed to cling to the walls and the girl clung on to me. Fortunately, the well was narrow, though it was deep. We remained there for more than an hour before being rescued. The incident took away my fear of death.
What gives you strength?
My greatest strength has been my stoicism. I do not want to sound like a pedantic. The day you realise you are just a speck of dust, you rise above the feeling of winning and losing. This realisation comes through an inward journey and it requires ample courage. It is not something you can get in a departmental store.
Do you think prostitution can be stopped in India?
My vision is of a world where no human being is sold or purchased for carnal pleasure. Nothing is impossible in this world. I am an optimist. At the same time, I am not judgmental. I begin by accepting people for who they are. Prostitution is not an isolated phenomenon. It has many causes like gender inequality, poverty, unemployment, social customs and absence of rule of law. If these are tackled properly and practically, I feel prostitution can be stopped. Generally, morality is linked to promiscuity and corruption. But the bigger corruption emanates from the politics of underdevelopment.