Life at Sarai Kale Khan

GTP trained 110ish women and girls at Sarai Kale Khan.  I say ‘ish’ because after the first day of class, word got out to the community about what was being done and girls just started showing up.  So while the original schedule called for four one-hour long classes each accommodating 25 girls, 25 turned to 30 some days.  Thank god for Sajji; this training load really would not have been possible without her.  And while the 30ish maxed out time, drill capabilities and pushed the limits of the classroom-cum-training facilities, it just about killed me to turn anyone away.  Let me explain a few things more about Sarai Kale Khan.

Things happen at Sarai Kale Khan that can’t even begin to be fathomed by a mind raised in polite society.  Imagine you are a 10 year old girl living here.  Your ‘house’ is a 10 x 10 room where all the cooking, sleeping, studying, day-to-day living goes on for you, your mother, your father, and your siblings.  If you are lucky, your house has a solid wood door instead of a curtain, but even that door might not have a lock.  Each day, you must run a gauntlet to do anything.  To go to the bathroom, since there is no plumbing in your ‘house,’ you must walk down narrow corridors and risk being grabbed by drunken neighbor men or an opportunistic landlord.  If you are going to school, you will need to trust that the rickshaw driver will not drive to some remote area and attack you.  At school, beware teachers who want you to stay after class.  If you are at home, waiting for your parents to return from work, you hope your brother’s friends or a neighbor don’t barge through the unlocked door to find you alone.  And you pray that your father does not come home drunk to give you that ‘look.’   In a community where police are nonexistent and men look on females as cattle, life for a girl here is filled with depravity on a scale beyond what many of us in the West can imagine.  Self defense here is not a recreational luxury.

I can tell several women who participate in classes here have survived an attack.  They stand with their arms crossed, their gaze drifting in and out of the present, an expression of ‘oh-my-god’ flitting across their features when a drill I am asking them to do hits too close to home.  I make sure that they are not alone.  I position myself next to them, I might hold their hand, I say, “Koshish karna (try).”  They have no idea that I am talking to myself as much as I am talking to them, willing myself to stay with the task at hand, to not go running into those lanes and warrens beating up every single man I see.


1 Comment

  1. Sajji said,

    January 21, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    This is beautiful. I couldn’t have put it better myself. Belle, you are a godsend and you touch every single person whose path you cross. I’ve seen and felt it firsthand. Thank you, Dunyavaad times infinity.

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