Chennai: Life started for Valli in bonded labour shackles in a rice mill in Kanchipuram. She could do little to save her parents who fell victims to the situation when they once borrowed money from the rice mill owner. She watched her helpless father Kumar, who already has hearing issues, getting beaten up and subsequently developing more complications. He had asked for permission to let the family travel to their native village Nedumaram to attend the funeral of his mother. He was not allowed to send his children to school from the rice mill premises. She also saw her mother Geetha slumped in deep dejection as her cries for financial help for Valli’s treatment when she had headaches and stomach pains, fell on deaf ears.
Valli surrendered to her daily work at the rice mill - boiling the paddy, spreading it in the kalam to dry, piling it up to put in the machine for fine rice to come out and in the end, sweeping the kalam.
Liberation came in 2013 when the Chengalpet RDO, after information from the International Justice Mission, rescued the family from the rice mill premises. It was one of the relatives who on learning about the plight of the family, informed the IJM, which in turn informed the Chengalpet RDO and helped with the rescue operation.
Valli enrolled in a local school in her native village, but difficult days were ahead. As destiny would have it, Valli lost her mother soon after and her father turned alcoholic. He stopped acknowledging the monetary and emotional needs of his family. Her youngest sister Nandini fell severely ill, suffering from acute malnutrition.
Valli dropped out of school and took upon herself the role of a caring parent and slowly nursed Nandini back to health. Though she was made to feel like a burden at her maternal grandmother’s house, Valli would make sure her siblings had her back and that they did not feel they were unwanted. She took up housework for a family. There were days when she would put her father’s money without his knowledge in her piggy bank, lest he should spend it all on alcohol.
Today Valli is on a life mission to live a dignified life, and for that she is grateful to her father who, though mostly unpredictable, recognized the value of education and enrolled his children in school after a counseling session he had with the International Justice Mission.
Valli along with two of her siblings are at a home in Kanchipuram while her other three siblings are at a hostel near St. Thomas Mount. Valli reads in class 9. As she enjoys schooling, her basic education shows through every time as she becomes a mother to the other children whenever they need a shoulder to rest their heads on.
She aims to be in a position one day where she will be able to free whoever is trapped in bonded labour....