Saturday, June 5, 2010

Insecurities and fears of an activist

It has been a long time since I blogged. I am not going to give excuses of work pressure or other crises which is a day today package for all of us who are fighting similar battles. It is simply a case of emotional crash. It all started with somebody stealing 4500$ from my handbag. This is the money I have been saving for the last 18years from my various international tours. Whenever we are invited for an International seminar or a conference we are paid a per diem for our stay. Being a full time volunteer in Prajwala I do not a draw a salary. Before my marriage it was imperative that I do some kind of consultancy work outside the organization to sustain my living, so these per diem become a source of income for my sustenance.Most often I would skip meals to save this money.And being a finicky Indian vegetarian helped, as my options were any way limited and so a lot of money was saved foregoing meals. After marriage of course saving for sustenance became a lower priority and buying a gift for my husband a compelling need.
For some reason I have always resisted converting this amount into Indian currency. Maybe because we as activist do not get a credit card. So for some unknown reason it made a lot of sense to carry all these dollars in the hand bag just as a security in cases of emergency.And the few times I was able to exercise this option,I was more than ever convinced that my handbag is a better place than a bank or a locker. For years it was safe and one day it was all stolen and I realized it just 15 minutes before I left for the airport to attend a conference in Geneva.
Something within me crashed. I had a hollow feeling in my stomach(it has still not gone). For years I used to tell Raj, my husband that this amount is my back-up for all the surgeries I have to have, for my care if I am bedridden and of course for my funeral. And suddenly it was all gone without a trace. And absolutely no clue about who or when?
For the first time I pondered whether it was a wise decision to work as a full time volunteer, not having either a regular income or savings. What happens to people like us when we are sick or bedridden and need financial support. Should I then seek charitable support? Of course I have done it in the past whenever I was beaten I received free medical treatment by altruistic doctors. Maybe it is my mid-life crises that I have become very insecure and the fear of being penniless on the road suddenly is a scary option. For the first time I wondered what will happen to me if my marriage did not work out...and I realized under the grab of a courageous activist lies a very insecure person who craves for all the securities/safety that other people toil hard to create.
And here I thought I was different...and sometimes when people called me a saint( sometimes I nearly believed it)...what a sham!
Today I know for sure that I am no different from others, I also crave for securities/safety, maybe my need is not strong enough to make that as my first priority but definitely it is strong enough to shake my insides once in a while...
As I muse on my goes on...rescues continue...and thankfully throughout this ordeal even for a single moment I have not regretted my choice to fight sex trafficking as my life mission.


  1. I can understand this feeling reasonably well if not very well. This was one of my reasons for having shifted from the NGO field to a fixed timings and a reasonably comfortable job in a totally different field.

    I touched 40 and I changed my career options (I never thought I would!)... Perhaps as you said it was mid-life crisis. But without much thought I just took it as it came my way... Yes, I did it, but deep down I feel incomplete.

    I keep wondering often 'This is not all what life is about!'! I used to always wonder about your zest and commitment for the cause you are working for! I hope you have a lot more fire in you not to give up. I guess what you need to do is to get yourself a regular income from a certain source... I have always been wanting to visit the home run by Prajwala, but I never did it. Guess I will visit it soon! Wishing you a sense of safety and security... ALL THE BEST!!!

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  2. Dear Sunitha,
    Full time volunteer is not good. I also do some volunteer work in Madrid. And as a coach I always tend to help people. However, I soon realized that helping for free sometimes doesn´t work. No effort, no selfawareness, no responsability.
    Thanks, Sunitha for your reflections.
    Michael Thallium

  3. First of all, for whatever it is worth, I am really sorry to hear about your losing the savings that you had painstakingly built up over 18 years. Of course you have a hollow feeling in your stomach, that is but natural.

    It is in times like this that we are most severely tested. Our world is shaken, we begin to have self-doubt, we are exposed to our vulnerabilities.

    I know it sounds crazy to say this but from the bitterest experiences I have had in life I can say that usually everything happens for good. Seen in hindsight of course.

    Perhaps this is a jolt which will make you decide how you see the course of the rest of your life shaping up.

    It is very admirable that you still consider your fight as anti-sex trafficking as your life mission. Perhaps now, with this happening, you continue on that mission but without completely sacrifing yourself in the process. As the old adage goes, charity begins at home - you first need to take care of yourself (at least the basics) so that you can then confidently provide shelter and support to others. You owe it to yourself.

    We know you as a courageous person - you would not be able to do all that you have done if you did not have tremendous courage.

    We know you as an honest person - you would not be sharing your innermost fears and realisations (as you have done in this post) if you had been pretending to be somebody you are not. Actually this takes courage too.

    All I can say is that there are not many in this world who show such tremendous courage and who are so passionate about a cause. For this, you have earned tremendous respect around the world.

    While I understand your sense of financial insecurity, I want to assure you that there are enough well-wishers for you around the world (including myself). Don't worry, sister.

  4. Thanks much for providing a glimpse of your own personal crisis. This glimpse was crucial to your readers and admirers, since a majority of us have a poor understanding of the obstacles faced in that noble path. Moreover, this blog resolved a personal dilemma of my own, for which I should be thanking you again.

    Mr.Raja Swaminathan is right in saying that when thought in the hindsight, the bitterest happenings in life seem to have a reason and purpose to them.

    I wish to visit Prajwala sooner and hope to see you and your organization.


  5. Mam... i like the way u put it tht u r not different from others.. but the very fact tht u think u r no different from nyone els.. sets u above all of us! and ppl call u a saint.. cause u possess many of the virtues tht a saint ought to have. ther s no shamming there,and evn IF ur priorities change.. the world will continue to applaud u for all tht u ve and are accomplishing!

  6. Heyee! Sunitha,
    This is terrible- can understand what you would have gone thru! Anyways all i know is what u lost will return believe u me double the amount as the work u do is no easy task..Know it as I do just a fraction of it but have glimsed the evil! Take care and to be insecure is what makes us delightfully human on this earth.. and people like u are rare gems to inhabit it..:)

  7. Sunitha, I have heard a lot about your initiatives.I wish to visit 'Prajwala' when I come to India during vacation.That apart, I want to meet you personally :-)


  8. Dear Sunitha,
    As Mr Raja said, you have gained lot of respect around the world. Just give us a shout when you need us. I am not as courageous as you but the women in me, the human in me will be always there to help!


  9. Hi Mam,

    I just saw one of your vidoes in TED and I feel utterly useless sitting inside my office and typing this in your blog right now.

    I would like to volunteer for any kind of manpower you might need in chennai. Please feel free to contact me in my email

    If I could be of any use to you and your organisation, I would be much delighted to be.

    Looking forward to hear from you
    Aparna Janakiraman

  10. Dear Sunitha,

    I am so sorry to hear what you went through. Your experience stayed with me for a while and also I felt deep inside my heart how important it is to be secured inside and out. I would like to request fellow visitors of this blog if we can do something to build up your savings account. This would mean a lot to me to help you and your organization. I respect the work you are doing and the time and commitment you put into all these aspects of building and expanding the organization to support women and kids who have been trafficked.
    Please let me know what is the best way to contribute.
    Thank you,
    Sandhya Kandru

  11. Sunita,
    I just heard you speak and It was absolutely the most wonderful presentation I have seen, clear, forthright and had a so much of energy put into that . I will keep in touch with you . I for sure would like to help and be a part,. I have a few things I am planning. Will try to connect .
    I am so proud of you , you courage and your selflless acts of random kindness is truly a lesson to all of us to learn .
    Tk care , god bless,

  12. I happened to see your video this day. I cannot stop thanking God for how safe and protected he has kept me and my family. I am amazed for all the strength and commitment you have. Just want you to know that you have touched millions of lives...esp the lives of so many traumatized souls. I am a strong believer in God and I believe that prayers get answered. Will pray that whoever took that money from your wallet will return it back to you.

    God bless!

  13. Dear Sunitha, though you don't know us, yet there are many in the world who admire and love you. It is terrible that anyone would think to steal from you, and I'm so sorry for the hurt it gave you and for the feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. I pray that God will lay on many hearts the desire to replenish your savings and that you may have so many blessings poured out upon your head that there will not be room to hold them all.

  14. Dear Sunitha,

    I love you a lot. I want to be like you, I want to rescue innocent children and girls from those hellholes, but I'm too scared. I have a family that I love too much, I'm in a relationship with a guy for the past 7 years, I'm afraid of being beaten up, afraid of dying mainly thinking about how my family and my boy friend can deal with it, apart from this I'm really afraid of death. Whenever I think of you, I feel ashamed of myself for being so selfish. I don want to say that you are gifted and tats why you are able to be so courageous, I would rather say You have been a gift onto yourself. Don't worry about anything, don't worry about your old age. I'm there for you. You don't have to know me. As long as I'm earning, until I have my own last dime I'll send you a monthly money, please use it for your personal expense. Buy any food you like, wear nice clothes, buy gifts for your husband.. do anything you want. Please take it like a daughter giving to her mother. I'll wait for your response for a couple of days, then I'll speak to Deepa Xavier and get your bank account deatils. Please don't let the fear of future spoil your present. You are my true inspiration. Love you a lot and will pray for you.

  15. I read about you in Reader's Digest sometime ago, dear Sunitha and I was deeply touched. You are a rare person, no doubt. And this loss is terrible indeed. But come what may you are not going to be left without help for your imagined treatments and funeral. God, our dear parent is far more loving and compassionate than we can ever imagine. And you have been helping others so heroically at your personal risk. So you are not going to be abandoned by our dear dad. No,never. As you rightly said it may be midlife crisis-like emotions, and you are sure to get over it, in case you haven't already.
    My prayers go with you and your endeavours.
    God Bless you.

  16. Hello Sunitha,

    I am Somya and working as a copywriter in some media firm in Ahmedabad. Heard you on Ted and felt great that someone is there to speak boldly on such issues. Herd about your personal experience as well. Every female in this world has undergone some kind of physical molestation but is not able to highlight the culprit because thinks that it is entirely her mistake. This leaves the culprit (that particular male) to roam around with superficial grace and dignity. Such males should not only be imprisoned, but castrated brutally and must be given a city ride in their naked forms and then they must be imprisoned. So that in future if any male see female of 3 yr old or 50 yr old, before getting sexually aroused, he will be bound to think about whatever he would facing.

    Sunitha, I am completely with you and want to talk to you personally. I too want to work on such issues. Plz let me know what I can do, whether it is about writing on such issues, acting in such films, working in such NGOs, making females aware about such matters or any other thing. Plz let me know.
    Searched for your contact no. but cudnt find. I know you must be very busy, but plz contact me on my cell no. 09978442788.

  17. Dear Sunitha,

    I tried calling to your office number to ask for your personal bank account details, but whenever I call the phone line is not clear. Can I call to your personal number? I'm afraid you ll be busy and I'll be disturbing you. Please reply or i'll try to drop in to your office.

    Love and prayers be with you. Forever.

  18. hello mam ,
    i am really moved by the video in which you spoke about human trafficking...maam i would like to suggest few websites from where you can work to get additional income you have to work for for minimmum 4 hours and maximum any time and you are paid good..these are online teaching, (i think it has its head office in chennai) and there are many have to work from home or any where you can..youcan suggest such work to your staff as well who are educated..well i would also like you to approach foundations established by microsoft..infosis etc as well as schools and colleges..may god give you lots and lots of strength to fight further..god bless you and all such people who are with you to fight such a nobel cause..

  19. Hi Sunita
    Unlike all the people above , I wont advice you not to continue this 'earn not a penny' job.
    What we earn is a few green notes, what you earn is much more. The joy a rescued childs smile gives you , 10M dollars cant give you.

    I know its easy said and hard to do, but you have been and you can.
    And whenever you need money, just post a new blog, I dont think any of your well-wishers would even question why you need the money.
    I for one would donate the whole months salary to you.
    Hats off.
    Please let me know Prajwala's account details, so that I can donate.

    I am also ready to work, not full time until I earn 5Ls and a house for myself, but as much as I can.
    And once I have those two, I would be joining, full time.

  20. Hello Sunitha,

    I am equally angered at the unbothered nature of our law & order in letting go such beasts back into society, what we learnt and grew up as CIVILISED ! No more words, but i feel sorry for those innocent kids...I am a father of a 4 year old girl and at times i fear how i may fail to ensure safety in this ruthless world of trafficking. I have no words to express my grief...So Pls tell me how i could contribute. UDAY KIRAN

  21. Sunitha, tears started running through my eyes as I read your posts.. I am so moved by your honest efforts.I know that you need a lot more than empathy to help you keep doing what you are doing.
    I grew up in Hyderabad, in a so called respectable family,I am a victim of child molestation and rape myself when I was 8 years old by my father and it took a lot of years for me to come to grips with the reality,I spent years in agony and soltitude and struggled within myself to be able to forgive.. My childhood was lost in anger and helplessness.. what a waste.I am 28 years old now, independent and successful and I am now capable of helping young girls who go through the same hell that I went through.
    I have a long way to go and would like to associate myself with your organization.
    Sunitha, by helping these children I feel like I can help myself.I will try to support this cause in every way I can.
    .. swapna.

  22. Rajesh Bothra was born in Mumbai 1968, in Marwari family from a Rajaldesar village in Rajasthan. When he was aged about 16. He decided to quit his further studies, because his ambition was to become an excellent businessman. After quitting his studies he decided to start his business. In Present days his Business is popular by brand name Mercury, which is sold and uses his product Worldwide by common people.