Age: 12

“My father forced Afsaana, my oldest sister, to marry. She wanted to study, but he walked all over her dreams and imposed his decision on her. I and my two siblings were all associated with My Angels Academy. Sylvester bhaiya, the founder of the academy, wouldn’t have let this happen had he known about it. None of us knew or anticipated her marriage. My entire family went back to our village for a short trip, but we came back without her. She wasn’t ready for this; she was too young for marriage.

“My father often says that I should quit studying and join my mother’s profession and become a domestic help like her. I tell him in clear words that I won’t. I also add that he I won’t let him ruin my life like he ruined Afsaana’s. I never had the courage to retaliate earlier. It was only after Sylvester bhaiya intervened, I matured a little and was a little more confident that I started raising my voice.

“I told Sylvester bhaiya that my father was covertly misbehaving with me. I often felt like my father was touching me inappropriately. I was always very uncomfortable around him, and I still am. When I’d ask him to leave the room because I wanted to bathe, he’d just tell me that he’ll look away. This used to make me very uneasy, I wouldn’t bathe for days sometimes.

“My father would also upset my mother a lot. There would be no food at home, but he would buy things to gift other women. He would also threaten my mother that he would marry someone else. She used to cry a lot. I told bhaiya everything. Bhaiya gave us some money and ration to run the house and explained to my father that he wasn’t doing the right thing.

Bhaiya didn’t confront my father or tell him that I’d told on him. He did it in a very different way, I don’t how. Had he taken my name, my father would’ve beaten me up.

Bhaiya has changed my life for the good. I was really young, probably in Class 1, when my mother used to send me to the temple to beg for money. I was enrolled in a government school, but I was every irregular. I would probably go to school for a day and then bunk to sit at the temple the next 10 days. There were a lot of official complaints about this as well from the school, but my mother paid no heed to it. A year or two later, my mother started sending me to the academy. When bhaiya learnt that I used to beg at the temple, he was extremely furious with my mother. He told her that I was too young for all this, and that I deserved to live a respectable life. She understood. I haven’t begged for anything since that day.

“He also rescued me from living the same fate as my mother’s. I was in Class 5 when she said I should quit studying and join her as a house help. She said we needed money for Afsaana’s dowry and that we could use some of the savings later for my marriage as well. I told her that I wanted to study, she didn’t agree. I told bhaiya and he explained to her that it was in my best interest that I don’t quit studying. She came around eventually. She understood that if I took it up even for a month, it’s all I’ll be doing for the rest for my life. Even though my father occasionally says that I should drop out and work, my mother never said it again and has only encouraged me to study.

“I pray for My Angels Academy to turn into a residential one each and every day. I want to live with all the other angels and move out of my house. Currently, I’m focusing on my academics, football and Bharatnatyam. I want to become a Bharatnatyam teacher after I grow up.”

– As told to Tania Goklany. She met Farzana at My Angels Academy in Delhi’s Vikaspuri colony. 

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