On June 1, 2001, I entered the gates of a remand home for the first time. To conduct a theatre workshop with trafficked minors. The workshop was scheduled for two days---
Early that morning, I had woken up, my makeshift bed on the floor--- surrounded by brown mountains.
The brown mountains were the landscape of my life----my belongings, furniture, luggage and my life of several years, packed in brown cartons, parked all over the flat waiting to be moved.
It wasn't the greatest phase of my life---- The worst, infact.
I stuffed my face in the pillow wondering if I had the strength to get through this workshop.
But I had volunteered for the workshop myself, three months ago, when Nandita from the ngo Akshara had invited me to be chief guest at a "stree mela".
They were screening the music video 'Mann Ke Manjeere' that featured me as a gutsy truck driver, living her life and singing in Shubha Mudgal's unmatched voice.
Nandita wanted me to be the chief guest on the last day of the mela, give away the prizes, and also to say nice things to the girls/women.
Nice words to 'downtrodden' women in terrible situations suck... I'm uncomfortable with those We love you and feel for you and we are with you and everything is going to be just fine speeches.
But I didn't tell her that.
'I'm in Delhi..' (I was)..' Can't you just say hello to them from me and tell them I will return soon and do a theatre workshop with them' (I meant that)
'A theatre workshop?' Nandita's voice shot up several decibels...
'Oh please Meeta not those awful theatre things where you make them cry and tell their stories and do cathartic things..' She had obviously suffered one of those.
'No no no... that's not theatre, not for me anyway. Listen I can't explain..except to assure you that it will be fun'
'But you have no experience of these girls...they are young and have been through hell'
Nandita has a way of pulling you into a debate.
'Listen Nandita...I teach at the NSD..young first year students. They're hysterical, tough, full of fears and insecurities--- sexual- professional- personal- economic- you- name- it- insecurities. They can be nasty as hell and can have the teacher leave the class with a nervous breakdown in five days. They come from different backgrounds, across the country, economic, social you name it---and half of them are thrown in with the opposite sex, for the first time ----I have to deal with their LIVES even as I am teaching them about acting or directing. I have to be bloody good at what I do, and I am----I'm gentle and subtle and half the time they have no idea that I am changing their damn insides even as I am talking aesthetics with them.'
I paused for breath, Nandita said okay okay we'll think about it and hung up.
Three months later Nandita called me and reminded me of my offer.
So here I was, heading for some remand home in some place called Deonar --- a place for somenthing known as trafficked minors.
I suddenly remembered. I dialled frantically, my mobile, and hoped I would get through to Nandita this early in the morning.
'Nandita..? Hi this is Meeta..ya ya I'm on my way to the remand home...I'll find it...listen I just wanted to know...what is 'trafficked minors?'