Chandra Kala held my hand through the dusty streets of Kathmandu and taught me the words for 'dog' and 'chicken' in Nepalese as we walked toward the Tusal Badi Girls' Hostel. That morning she had told me her story, or rather, she had told her story to the world, speaking unhurried Nepalese into the camera, recounting things that I could not imagine even if I had understood her perfectly.
When Chandra was six-years-old, she lived in India with her parents, who worked mowing grass and washing clothes. Her mother married another man when Chandra was nine and moved to Nepal, leaving Chandra with her older sister and brother-in-law. Chandra failed to cook food for the family one day, and her brother-in-law flew into a rage and beat her. She ran away to Surkhet and asked the hotel owner if she could stay the night. She stayed for seven, washing dishes to earn her keep.
Her relatives heard of her presence there and assured her they would look after her and help her study, promising a good life, a brighter future, but instead they drugged her, sold her to a Delhi brothel. She was twelve-years-old when she was introduced to her first man. She fought him and cried. The brothel owner beat her into submission and promised her 5000 rupees a month, but he kept half that money and gave the rest to the relatives that had sold her. She was held in the brothel for eighteen months, forced to have sex with up to sixty men per day.
The police raided the brothel at JP Road 40, Delhi, and she was taken into custody with other girls--their pictures were published in the newspapers in Nepal. Chandra Kala remained in police custody for twenty-three days where she was raped repeatedly by her captors, before the brothel owner bribed the police with 50,000 Indian currency rupees. The brothel owner put Sunaina (Chandra Kala's brothel name) into a bath and attached electric wires to the water, shocking her into a concussed state that lasted for thirty days. She was conveniently unable to incriminate her owner. Even in this state, she was forced to have sex with men, kept naked to arouse the customers, continually drugged, and kept under strict camera surveillance.
She eventually grew weak from the lack of sleep, constant abuse, and sedative drugs. She was no longer considered useful, and her owner informed the community in Surkhet. Upon finally hearing news of Chandra, one of her sisters travelled to Delhi by begging bus drivers along the way, and brought Chandra first to the hospital and then to Zuprakala, where she called Pastor Raju, who is now leading the Badi project in Kathmandu. Pastor Raju immediately arranged for Chandra Kala to come to the Tusal Girls' Hostel in in January this year, and she has lived there since.
I interviewed her this last Tuesday, along with her four friends, and she gave me my Nepalese name: Kushi. Smile.