By Sanjay Pandey
Kolkata: As a teenage boy dribbles a football through the dirty and defamed alleyways of Sonagachi, a sense of pride dawns on the sex workers of Asia’s largest red light district that houses over 11,000 prostitutes.
This development has given hope to the much-loathed community that thought their children had a bleak or no future and were destined to land in the quagmire of crime eventually.
“I have raised my son with a lot of difficulties. Sometimes we had to go without food for days. When Rajib was a toddler, I had to leave him at the courtyard while attending customers. During his growing up years, I was so worried about my son’s future. Today, I am very happy to see my son doing well in his career. I am sure he is going to make it big. My blessings are with him. One day he will find a respectable place in the very society that never hesitates to touch and frisk us in the veil of privacy but also never fails to brand us untouchable and outcast publically. I am sure will make a respectable place in the society and pull me out of this hell hole one day,”
said Rekha Das, 40, who has been confined to the brothel for the past 30 years and hasn’t seen even the Howrah bridge forget about London bridge.
Rajib, a coy class IX student of Rahul Vidya Niketan, a school for sex worker’s children, is living a dream with his selection to play for the junior team of English giants.
“I was very nervous when I met the coaches from the Manchester United. I knew I had to perform to get selected. But when the judges announced my name in Goa, I could not believe my ears. It is probably the best opportunity of my life, I have to make the most of it,”
So what is the first thing that he would like to do after landing in London?
“I would like to see the Manchester United stadium first. I have seen it on the television so far. I would also like to meet the Man U team and shake hands with them. I want to put up such an impressive show that they would ask me to say back forever. I don’t want to return to India,”
said Rajib, who has been selected for a 10-day training along with 10 other boys of his age from across the country.
Rajib’s ticket to London is hard earned. With his mother’s meager income of Rs 100 per day, it was impossible for him to pursue the sport.
“Earlier, when Rajib would come to me and ask for money, I would turn down his request and ask him to stop playing football. But he never gave up. He would take his pocket money from me after a lot of coaxing and cajoling, but spend it only on travelling to the match venues,”
said Rekha, caressing Rajib’s head, her only son.
The boy, who recently helped West Bengal win the National Slum Soccer Tournament in Nagpur in 2014, trains at Rahul Vidya Niketan run by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee that funds a soccer initiative among children of sex workers in West Bengal .
Rajib’s coach, Biswajeet Majumdar is a proud mentor.
“I had handpicked Rajib and got him enrolled in our institute. I had seen the spark in him then. I have complete faith in him that he would make it big at Manchester United soccer school. We aim to churn out more Rajibs in the future, too.”
Roy, who plays right wing is an attacking player. He loves to dribble just like his role model Oscar, Chelsea’s star midfielder. Roy is confident that like his role model he would also rise from poverty one day and find himself a respectable place in society.