The year 2002.
After an amazing holiday in Goa, we arrived back to Sarangan’s New Year’s Eve party in G.K. 2, Delhi.
Towards the end of the evening a few of us were on the balcony overlooking the park. Creeping around in the shadows was a young woman who was very disturbed. Lata and I went down to talk to her but she “ran” away. She had a bad limp and it seemed she was paralysed on one side. She kept looking back as we kept calling her. When Lata spoke to her in Hindi and mentioned “Prabhu Yeshu” she came towards us with a big smile. We took her up to the party and the smile stayed on her face as she gobbled down lots of food. Her name was Looli.
She talked with a slur but we could understand what she was saying. She had lived alone in the park for five years. The residents believed she was insane and violent so they left her alone. It seemed she was happy for them to believe that. She told us how her family had beaten her and that she was too scared to go home. It seemed they didn’t understand why she wouldn’t co-operate and being un-educated, started to beat her to get her to obey them. She embarrassed them. They beat and broke her feet so she couldn’t run away. She was also burnt with “beedies” (small brown local cigarettes) and cut with knives.
She was filthy dirty and smelled of 5 years of grime and Delhi dust. Her hair was full of lice. Her teeth were yellow and there were bloodstains on her grubby kurta. She was homeless and was more than happy to come home with us.
Lata got her into our washroom and gave her a good scrubbing. We could hear them laughing and chatting the whole time. With her permission I shaved off her lovely curls so we could get to the bottom of the lice-infestation. She looked so pretty when her teeth were clean and shiny.
We kept her with us for a few days and she was such a pleasure. She was a bit mentally challenged but definitely not stupid. She was bright and loved music. She had learnt the lines, “We will, We will rock you!” from one of the houses around the park and she would slurringly sing it when she was bathing or when we gave her a guitar to “play.” We gave her little jobs to do and found that she was a perfectionist. Sweeping was her favourite thing and she would automatically clear the table after meals. It was fascinating to watch her. Lata developed a good relationship with her and they talked for hours at night about her life and Prabhu Yeshu. Her HIV and TB tests were all clear.
We knew we couldn’t keep her with us forever. We tried to put her in a place of safety but she only lasted a few days. She was too hard to handle. When we found out where her family lived, Arun and Tony went to see them. They told them to treat her well and give her work to do to keep her busy. They also threatened to tell the police if the abuse continued. They got the message. It was hard to leave her there, but it was our only option. All we could do was check up on her every now and again and pray that she would be ok.
Her nickname was “Looli” (Handicapped). Her birth name was Rajkumari (Princess).
Amazing how much humans can mess humans up.
Last year (2016) I was driving around G.K. 2 and who should I see on the opposite side of the road, but Looli! I recognised her by her limp and flapping arms. I called to her and I was surprised she knew who I was. I crossed the road and we hugged. She looked so good. She had put on some weight and her clothes were clean. She told me she was with her family and that she was fine. I had often wondered.