Wonderwomen

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Practicing for a performance in the courtyard of Kolkata Sanved.

On a bright December afternoon in Kolkata, I watched a handful of young women throw their arms in the air, swirl the scarves of their salwar kameez and leap from one end of the courtyard to the other. They danced their cares away. Literally.

The women had all been forced into prostitution or into abusive relationships. Dance was their therapy. For some, it was their only joy in life.

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Sohini goes over steps with a star dancer who was abducted as a girl and forced into prostitution.

Their leader is Sohini Chakraborty, a sociologist and dancer, who launched Kolkata Sanved after experimenting with rehabilitation for sexual violence survivors through dance. A poster she saw once at Kolkata’s massive book fair steered her in that direction. Under a photograph of a girl  were these words: “They sell me, my own blood for gold and silver, I rinse and rinse my mouth but the treachery remains,’ printed underneath.”

Chakraborty says she went inside the book stall to learn more about that girl and “embarked on a new journey.”

I spent many hours with the women and girls at Kolkata Sanved. It was amazing how uplifting it was to watch them come alive through music and movement. I even danced with them on my last day.

Today, on International Women’s Day, I salute Sohini, her staff and all the women who have rediscovered themselves through Kolkata Sanved. And all the other brave women I have met through the years on my travels around the world. We have a long way to go. But we have also come a long way.

Read more about Kolkata Sanved.

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A very difficult story

Me, reporting in Maharashtra. Vivek Singh, the photographer on the story, took this in Nawargaon.
Me, reporting in Maharashtra. My friend Vivek took this photo. He was the photographer on the story.

I have reported difficult stories before. It was never easy to tell tales of tragedy from places like Iraq. But a piece that published on CNN.com today is the hardest story I’ve ever told.

Because it became very personal. Because it was raw.

The producer, the photographer, the cameraman who went with me to Maharashtra for this story had no idea how I was feeling. Even I did not know, really, the emotions that would surface and then haunt me as I returned home from India and began writing the story.

But in the end, I felt it would be disingenuous not to reveal a horrible truth about my own life.

I hope you will read the story on CNN.com. Here is the link:

http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2013/11/world/india-rape/?hpt=hp_c4

As always, I have indebted to my editor, Jan Winburn. She edited the story with her usual brilliance and grace. But most of all, she believed in me. Again.

I hope rape survivors will be inspired by the quiet strength of Mathura. I know that I am.