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HindustanTimes Thu,17 Apr 2014

Girl from Mumbai's red-light area goes to US performing arts camp

Bhavya Dore, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, June 30, 2013
First Published: 08:24 IST(30/6/2013) | Last Updated: 08:32 IST(30/6/2013)

After several weeks of uncertainty and despair, Pinky Sheikh, the girl from Mumbai’s red-light area selected for a performing arts summer camp in the US, finally got a passport.

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After several weeks of uncertainty and despair, Pinky Sheikh, the girl from Mumbai’s red-light area selected for a performing arts summer camp in the US, finally got a passport.

She left the city on Friday night after her passport arrived on Thursday and the visa on Friday.

The trip had seemed almost out of reach for Sheikh, 16, the only Indian to be selected for the camp, with several bureaucratic hurdles coming in the way of procuring documentation. HT had first reported about Sheikh’s predicament on June 10.

“We did the police verification and dispatched the passport on Monday [June 24] itself,” said VK Choubey, regional passport officer, Mumbai.

“The system is so difficult. What is a girl in this situation supposed to do?” said Robin Chaurasiya, founder of Kranti, a non-profit group working for girls in red-light areas.

“There were times that I cried, but you get over it and see what can be done next. There were also a lot of wonderful people who helped us".

Raped, trafficked, living in the city's red-light areas, her mother often absent and her father dead, Sheikh now has an opportunity to create a different identity for herself.

“She says the only time she loves her body is when she dances,” said Chaurasiya, with whom Sheikh now lives. Her love for song and dance has now flowered into a passion.

Sheikh has already missed a few days of 'Songs of Hope', a 6-week performance camp for young people from around the world in Minnesota, as it started on June 17. Participants were selected through a written application.

"[She] submitted a thoughtful application and we were impressed," Jeanne Junge, programme’s artistic director said by email earlier.

They also waived 75% of Sheikh's fees and the rest is covered through donations.

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