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Daughter of a Sex Worker, Tumpa Now Helps Other Kids Like Her

Tumpa Adhikary, daughter of a sex worker, was determined not to follow her mother into the flesh trade.

Updated
Women
4 min read
Daughter of a Sex Worker, Tumpa Now Helps Other Kids Like Her

She felt the worst when the clients came calling to the ladies she called ‘aunties’ next door.

Her mother would take the clients outside, sparing her the horror of knowing the details of her harsh profession.

But Tumpa Adhikary, 28, was determined she would get out of this vicious circle where daughter followed mother into the flesh trade. And she managed to do so with flying colours.

Tumpa Adhikary was determined she would get out of this vicious circle where daughter followed mother into the flesh trade. (Photo Courtesy: Tumpa Adhikary)
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How Tumpa’s Shelter Helps Children of Sex Workers

With the help of Diksha – an NGO that works with the children of sex workers – and Bajoria Charitable Foundation, she has helped build a shelter that today, provides a space for adolescents of her area, to study, learn and even babysit their siblings while their mothers are busy.

This is the first such centre within the area that gives sex workers’ children the option of seeking a life outside the trade. We have introduced a TV for entertainment, music, drawing and dance classes for the youngsters and we assist them in their studies and serve light snacks when they return from school. Many of us now study and earn degrees. Being born in a red-light area doesn’t mean being doomed anymore.
Tumpa Adhikary, daughter of a sex worker
Tumpa has helped build a shelter that provides a space for adolescents of her area, to study, learn and even babysit their siblings while their mothers are busy. (Photo Courtesy: Tumpa Adhikary)

Daughter to a sex worker in the Kalighat red light area of Kolkata, Tumpa has seen it all – from being propositioned by men who came to the area while she played with kids her age, to being sexually harassed by her tuition teacher just because she was a prostitute’s daughter.

Her attempts at going to a distant school to escape her identity didn’t work out either; when one of the teachers got to know, she was humiliated and had to leave.

“I was ashamed of where I lived. I could never tell my friends about my mother. By the time I was in the fifth standard, I – like most of the girls in my area – had completely grown up. So when I tried to take a stand against the system, our own mothers thought we were biting off more than we could chew.”
“I was ashamed of where I lived. I could never tell my friends about my mother,” says Tumpa. (Representative image; Photo: iStock)

In 2014, she applied for the Changelooms With.in programme, a year-long leadership journey for 100 passionate and enthusiastic young leaders who get mentored to lead social change initiatives that address social exclusion within their communities.

Her work to empower the vulnerable girls of her community has been long and impressive; apart from representing Diksha and her cause in many young leadership programmes, Tumpa has been shortlisted for several fellowships and grants. She has researched extensively on sexual abuse of minors and now imparts that knowledge to the children of sex workers at Khidirpore and Kalighat through workshops.

Of Huddling in a Corner and Sharing Tales of Abuse

Her biggest gratification is that the mothers have come on board with the progressive idea.

Tumpa has researched extensively on sexual abuse of minors and now imparts that knowledge to the children of sex workers. (Photo Courtesy: Tumpa Adhikary)
“Earlier, when a child was getting harassed or raped by the father or a client, we would be blamed and asked to shut up. Now, if someone picks on a daughter – asks for her rate – the rest of the society beats him up. We even have a team of mothers, all very senior, who keep a lookout for such incidents. No new women are allowed to come into the profession in our area.

From being shy about interviews to now sharing her photos and speaking up about her childhood horrors, Tumpa has come a long way.

“We used to huddle in a corner and share our woes of abuse. So, this assistance shelter was a dream in the making since 1999, when I was just 12. Now, these two rooms will act as a guiding light to our children and we will constantly work on it till every youngster in the area gets the chance to study and opt for a life outside the trade. We have proved that it’s possible,” declares the young girl.

“We used to huddle in a corner and share our woes of abuse.” (Photo Courtesy: Tumpa Adhikary)

Incidentally, she also takes care of her 60-year-old retired mother – after her two brothers refused to do so.

Tumpa continues to live in the Kalighat red light area even though she has plenty of opportunities to leave it behind.

“I am not ashamed of my roots any longer. I want to live within the system and change it.”
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Support Tampa

23-year-old Madhuri Zutshi, a Delhi-based professional, will celebrate her birthday in a few days. Instead of celebrating with a lavish birthday party, she has decided to support girls like Tampa, who grow up in the most trying conditions.

This is her appeal:

I need your support to help these girls feel safe. You can do so by contributing to my Birthday Campaign for the girls living in Red Light districts. Nothing will make me happier than achieving my target and providing these girls with an opportunity to grow and break the cycle of prostitution.

Click HERE to support the girls.

(Runa Mukherjee Parikh has written on women, culture, social issues, education and animals, with The Times of India, India Today and IBN Live. When not hounding for stories, she can be found petting dogs, watching sitcoms or travelling. A big believer in ‘animals come before humans’, she is currently struggling to make sense of her Bengali-Gujarati lifestyle in Ahmedabad.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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