Scavenging to Walking the Ramp

Vijay Laxmi Sharma, journalist with India News

Bimla Athwal worked as a scavenger in the Alwar District of Rajasthan and the question that troubled her was “Why am I a scavenger? Why had I been chosen to work as a scavenger?” Bimla narrated the incident when she first time put the filthy human waste on her head, “I could not have my meals for the entire week. I would never forget the eyes of those upper caste people who stared at me as if I were not a human being, those were the most torturous and unbearable moments of my life.” Bimla wanted a renaissance in her life, but nothing changed: wheel of life ran with the same speed and Bimla was forced to work as a scavenger.

Bimla had a long list of problems but didn’t have any solution. She often used to express her emotion and pain to her husband, who is a graduate, but to her disappointment, even being a graduate he didn’t have any answer to her problems.  She always found him saying “what else can we do.” Bimla always got an answer that she had to do what her forefathers did. But Bimla was not ready to compromise her life with these decade-old clichés. Bimla made up her mind; she revolted. She made it clear to everyone that, no more would she do this filthy work.  But her revolt on the one hand brought her in-laws’ cruelty upon her and on the other it crumbled under economic hardships.  Bimla was back to square one.

Though circumstances didn’t allow Bimla to revolt but now more things had started annoying this new princess of Alwar. She was worried about her children’s future. She didn’t want her children to suffer the same pain that she had been a victim to in her own childhood. Bimla knew what she wanted, but she didn’t have any idea how to do it.

When it was all dark in Bimla’s life, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak’s NGO, Sulabh brought a ray of hope. Dr. Pathak in spite of being from the upper caste, is working for the betterment of scavengers. His NGO has taken an initiative in rehabilitating them. Now Bimla is getting Rs. 1800 per month as stipend. She finds this amount to be enough for her livelihood. Bimla now makes pickles, chips and other eatables which are being sold in the local market and that is how this NGO works. Bimla now has dreams for her children, She knows these dreams are not going to be shattered as her own had been. She is happy with her life. A long awaited renaissance has finally come into her life

Sky was the only limit for Bimla’s happiness when she came to know that along with 55 other erstwhile scavengers of Alwar she had been invited to the UN to share her story of happiness with the whole world, though Bimla had never been inside an aeroplane and she did not know where America was on the world map. But she was desperate to share her experience with the whole world. Dr. Pathak’s initiative and hard work had helped Bimla and many more become new princesses of Alwar.