Slum girl collects trash to fund own, sisters' education
Rashmi (not her real name) is a ragpicker in the morning and the evening, a passionate student in the afternoon and a great help to labourer father and homemaker mother in the remaining time.
Rashmi, a 16-year-old class 9 student from an Indore slum, not only funds her own education but that of her two sisters too. The father's income hardly suffices for basic needs.
"My aim is to become the most educated member of my family. I want to become a doctor and treat the people living in Indore slums," she said.
"I have to work hard these days. I am aiming at earning Rs 200, double of what I normally make in a day. Therefore, I often walk about 15km across the city to collect trash," Rashmi said.
After four hours of work in the morning, she goes to school. After school, she changes her dress and walks to another part of the city for the next six hours to avoid detection by schoolmates.
"I only fear my classmates. If they come to know about my work, they will begin to distance themselves from me and I would lose some precious friends," said Rashmi, who started collecting trash from the age of seven.
But for the past four months, she has not paid her tuition fee, as her meager savings went into a sister's treatment. She is resolute that she won't beg for help.
"I just want people to change their attitude toward ragpickers. They talk to us as if we are animals. We want some respect, that is all," she said.
Rashmi plans to clear the pending fees soon, as her mother plans to join her.
A research has shown a staggering 80% of girl ragpickers, some of whom are initiated into this work very early in their lives, are into some form of drug addiction. But Rashmi has not only resisted intoxicants, but plans to fight the evil.
"I never like people who chew tobacco or take drugs," she said.
And her inspiration is Anandi, the lead character in a popular TV serial about a child bride's hard journey.
"I love Anandi's attitude and will someday meet her," she said.