Mumbai is full of beauty. Bright flowing fabrics, tropical plants, and sunsets. Everywhere we turned there was something pleasing to the eye. It's an incredible place to capture beauty with a camera.
Photos symbolic of evil from left to right: A dark hallway in Crawford Market . A boy wearing devil horns purchased from a vendor "just for fun" according to his mom. A woman in a market who seemed to be delivering curses.
But, there is also a very dark side of Mumbai. Bondage. Abuse. Slavery. Rape. Distortion. Girls are bought and sold to become the objects of perverted pleasure. Every night 10,000 to 15,000 women and children are subjected to sexual slavery. This is a very terrible truth of Mumbai.
For the women stuck in this evil can there be any hope?
Hope can be found. In the past year 15 women have been rescued and employed by the people at Aruna Project. They are on their way to restoration and joy. These women have chosen to have a future much different than their past. They are earning income and becoming whole again.
On day 2 Nicole and I visited these women for the first time. We found them sitting in a bright sunlit room on the 3rd floor of a new building in a Mumbai suburb. Perhaps a bit timid at first they warmed up to us quickly and we exchanged gifts (quite customary in Mumbai). A little bit later they turned on their sewing machines and began stitching drawstring bags that will be purchased by customers in the U.S.
Creating these bags and being employed by Aruna Project is a pathway to continued freedom. These artisans (as the women are referred to) make a good living wage so that they can provide for their families. Some have children to care for. Others send money to their villages to help provide for their siblings. A full-time "after care" specialist counsels the women and provides the emotional and spiritual nurturing that they haven't experienced before.
Nicole and I saw happiness in these artisans. It was so much different than what we expected to find in victims of human trafficking. Clearly, they have experienced horror in the past, but on this day they seem to be living in joy. Although we got to see the light in their eyes our cameras did not. Due to fear of the women being discovered and subsequently re-trafficked we were asked not to reveal their identities in today's photographs. Perhaps in the coming days we'll be able to show faces since that's where the real joy is visible.
Tomorrow we'll learn more about how exactly the Aruna Project operates. Today we simply observe them at work and wonder how something great could come out of the darkness of human trafficking in Mumbai.