For the 30-something Pooja, life seems to have just begun. Trafficked to Delhi about 10 years back, Pooja spent a nightmarish six years at Delhi’s red light area before her escape in 2004. She says, “I have been through hell, I won’t let that happen to anyone else.”
So three years back, when the NGO Shaktivahini introduced her to the National Capital Region centre of Childline — a national helpline for kids — she found a way to do that. Now, through the helpline, Pooja helps children who are lost, abandoned, trafficked or have run away to find their way back.
Says Pooja, who was brought from Maharashtra’s Latur region and sold to a pimp in Delhi, “Till the police traces their homes, I take care of them and help them overcome the trauma.”
Her job is not only to attend calls 24X7, but also to create awareness within the local community and the police regarding the helpline. “Once it was me, now these kids are being sold.” Initially, the children are ‘scared and sceptical’, but with her soothing words it doesn’t take long before she becomes their ‘Pooja didi’. “I tell them that they should study, it’s very important for their future. But I don’t let them get close to me, after all, their destiny lies elsewhere,” she says.
In a way, this has helped Pooja put behind her murky past and battle an irreversible remnant of it — AIDS. Pooja has little time to waste. “I want to help other children and girls like me from falling into this trap. Also, I want my two kids to do well for themselves,” she says, before attending to the next distress call.