Source | LinkedIn : By Rachna Sharma
Born into a poor Dalit household, Kalpana Saroj was the eldest daughter of a Maharashtra Police constable in Akola. She lived in a small chawl for Dalits, the lowest Hindu caste that is considered to be untouchable, with her parents and 5 siblings in Akola. Under family pressure, her father was forced to marry off Kalpana at the age of 12 to a man who was 10 years older than her. Kalpana Saroj’s husband took her to Mumbai where they lived in a slum with his family. As the youngest in the household and an outsider, she was forced to work at home. Her husband’s family would physically and mentally abuse her at every opportunity.
Six months after her marriage, Kalpana Saroj’s father visited Mumbai and was shocked to find his daughter emaciated and living in a slum. Against his family’s wishes, Kalpana’s father took her back to their home in Akola.
Being a Dalit and married girl who had left her husband’s home,Kalpana faced social ostracism every day. She had to even give up going to school after Class IX. People would “shame her” for having brought dishonour to the family name. Depressed, Kalpana Saroj tried to end her misery by consuming poison.
Fortunately, Kalpana’s aunt spotted her on time and rushed her to the hospital, where she spent several days in the ICU.Following this incident, Kalpana has never looked back and she never let her determination and perseverance be affected by social and gender constraints. She started work as tailor in Akola and earned Rs 2 for her work. She then convinced her father to let her return to Bombay, the place where she was first tormented, to earn a better living so that she could support the family.