Red light pin code did not hinder Shweta’s quest to excel

Special Correspondent
Daijiworld Media Network

Mumbai, Nov 7: The facebook pages of Shweta Katti, the first girl from Mumbai’s red light area to go to university abroad, give us a glimpse of the beginning of a new life at Bard University in New York.   In August this year she joined the Bard College to pursue a degree in psychology, after she won a scholarship from that prestigious university to graduate in Psychology.   This chirpy 18 year old is quite adept in adapting to the vast changes her life has undergone in the last two years.  Her new life in USA is a far cry from the ruthless a harsh realities of life she faced having grown up in the infamous Kamathipura area of Mumbai.  Shweta’s voyage as the daughter of a Devadasi from red light area of Mumbai to Bard University in US,  makes an intriguing reading.  What Shweta and her mother has undergone to  live as normal human beings make us sit up and take notice of what life is all about.

Shweta who is originally from Belgaum in Karnataka, is the daughter of Vandana, a Devadasi who was brought up in a Pila house in  Kamathipura, Mumbai’s red-light area.   Her grandfather who  had came to Mumbai in search of greener pastures decades ago, had set up a brothel in Mumbai but lost it when he became a slave to alcohol and other vices.  Her grandmother wanted to send Shweta’s mother back to her native place but it did not work. Instead she became a second wife to one Suresh Hosmani and landed up in the same area from where her grandmother had  sent her back. Circumstances forced her mother to live in Kamathipura after the death of her  husband Hosmani,  leaving her high and dry.  Though a Devadasi, she was not a sex worker, but worked as a daily labourer in a factory to meet both ends meet.

Not being a sex worker and living in red light area, that too without the support of a man was not easy.  Her mother fell in love with Ravindra Katti who accepted both the mother and the daughter and that is how Shweta  got her surname Katti. But growing up in red light area was not easy for a   young girl like Shweta.  Apart from being a witness to the lives of sex workers who were hounded by police following raids she had to face the most heinous situation of escaping from the lecherous eyes of men who mistook her to be a hooker.  She had to be indoors by 8 pm to escape from such appalling situations. 

Monster at Home

But then trouble started brewing from home with her adopted father sexually abusing her and Shweta was in a big quandary not knowing how to deal with the situation.  Here she took her mother into confidence and somehow managed to keep away from the prying eyes of her father. Apart from appalling living conditions and sexual abuse Shweta had to face harassment from her classmates who found every opportunity to pass snide remarks and belittle her.  Her dark complexion was   often the favourite subject for her classmates to abuse and insult her calling her with names like “kaali”, “cowdung” or “kala bamboo”.  These remarks had wounded her psyche leaving an indelible mark in her personality.  She became withdrawn, was scared to face the society   and even suffered from low self esteem. 

Even in such an awful situation her mother wanted her daughter her to pursue her studies and insisted she join “Apne Aap”, a NGO, which works for the betterment of children of sex workers.  It was the best thing that could happen to Shweta and her mother because it changed the destiny of their lives completely.  Apne Aap helped her to be in touch with Robin Chaurasiya, founder of Kranti, a NGO and she had a profound influence on Shweta completely altering the direction of her life.   Her association with Robin gave her the much needed self confidence and Shweta slowly began to emerge out from her cosseted life.  With Robin Chaurasia on her side Katti came out of her shell and through their support she took to reading as a passion.  Having gained enough knowledge which boosted her self confidence, she toured different parts of India as the face of “Kranti”    creating awareness among girls, their rights and about sex education. 

Many such talks and conferences later she was noticed by people who really matter.  Her essay on the Delhi rape case which she had prepared as part of the application process in foreign universities, resulted in her featuring among the New Week’s list of 25 among under-25 women to be watched.  An alumnus of Bard University, who was stunned having learnt her background, encouraged her to apply for Bard scholarship and with that Shweta has created history.  Though the college has given her $50,000 scholarship she had to raise another Rs. 9 lakhs through fund-raiser programmes and online donations by individuals. 

Maturity beyond age

For 18 years old Shweta looks quite matured and grown up girl speaking eloquently about her goals, dreams and what it means to be where she is today.  May be her upbringing in the infamous red light area of Mumbai and the exposure she received in her childhood might have contributed to her maturity beyond her age.   After her graduation she plans to come back to India and start a therapy centre for sex workers and their offspring.  At the same time she wants to enjoy the new chapter of her life and give a comfortable life to her mother who has been her pillar of strength. 

Shweta has clearly demonstrated that given proper guidance, facilitates and opportunities   there is certainly a way out of the difficult situation through education even to the poorest of the poor and those from the deprived section of the society.  Her extraordinary strength to come of the morass of her life, to withstand the snide remarks of school/college mates, neighbors and of her own step father,    calls for tremendous will power and grit.  Her struggle to lead a normal life like any of us should serve as an inspiration to today’s youth.   It is a great irony that for Shweta red light means the signal to go and keep going higher and  reach greater heights of glory.  

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Comment on this article

  • godwin, mangalore, mangalore

    Sun, Nov 24 2013

    good luck shweta.You have created history. now it is your responsibility to work for your " friends" and to guide them to follow you.wish you all the best.

    DisAgree Agree [2] Reply Report Abuse

  • Verna Fernandes, Kuwait

    Sun, Nov 10 2013

    I salute you and your mom Shweta. Congratulations and God bless you with a successful career in life! Your dedication and hard work have brought forth you its reward! Keep it up!

    DisAgree [2] Agree [11] Reply Report Abuse

  • Ramadas Acharya, Udupi/Pune

    Sun, Nov 10 2013

    It is indeed an eye opener for both men and women of modern India! Good luck to Shweta.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [11] Reply Report Abuse

  • Lionel D Silva , Rosario/Kuwait

    Sat, Nov 09 2013

    Congratulation & God Bless you Shweta Wish you a successful journey in your mission. I want to support you. Daiji world please can you provide me the detail.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [11] Reply Report Abuse

  • Abdul Mazeed Tandel, Mangalore/Riyadh

    Fri, Nov 08 2013

    Shweta got an opportunity to show the world that "Everybody has their own time"!
    it does not matter what & where she was. This article is enough for young generation to understand the challenge of a common girl.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse

  • mohammed aslam, mangalore

    Fri, Nov 08 2013

    they r leaving their life happily,so if publish like this means she is from red light area,it make so many difference in their life,people wants weakness of the peopel who is growing with respect,

    DisAgree [5] Agree [7] Reply Report Abuse

  • Mahesh Prabhu, Bajpe / Bahrain

    Fri, Nov 08 2013

    Unfortunately Daijiworld readers waste hours and hours via stupid and baseless comments in so many articles.

    Here is an article of Shweta Katti that is not just inspiring instead one that could make a huge difference in our lives! The response in appreciating this article from Daijiworld readers is very poor. Truly sad!

    DisAgree [2] Agree [14] Reply Report Abuse

  • haneef, mali

    Fri, Nov 08 2013

    All credit should go to her mother.If all the political parties will spend their 2014 election fund to less privileged india will not hany poorer in 2014.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • Rita, Germany

    Fri, Nov 08 2013

    Here not only Shweta's Determination to study helped her,but the important part was her mother.If the mother didn't insist her to go to School ,even today she would have been in the red light area.Its a rare case in this "Business"girls come so far.Hope she will take this Chance and not Forget her mother later.wish you all the best shwetha.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • simple, Bangalore

    Thu, Nov 07 2013

    Gutsy girl -
    Do not bother with what the world says.
    Go ahead with your education and become a somebody who people look up to.

    Then have a quiet smile.

    That's how the thing goes on in this world.

    Down and out - one is looked down upon, thrown out of society.
    Then, by sheer guts come up in life and those same people praise that same person they looked down upon and spit upon.

    Wish you everything that works out well for you Shwetha and attain the goals you set for yourself in the future.
    May God be with you always.

    DisAgree Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • Charles D'Mello, Pangala

    Thu, Nov 07 2013

    Hat's off to this girl. After red light green light has come into your life. Keep going.

    DisAgree Agree [5] Reply Report Abuse

  • Homer, Bharat

    Thu, Nov 07 2013

    God bless Robin!..people like you are the real inspiration. Good luck Shweta!

    DisAgree Agree [15] Reply Report Abuse

  • Cliffy.P., Mangalore

    Thu, Nov 07 2013

    Salute you Swheta. Highly appreciate your hard work and determination. You are the model for us all that dedication and focus on studies can take you any heights in life.n Keep it up.

    DisAgree Agree [14] Reply Report Abuse

  • Vincent Rodrigues, Katapadi/Bangalore

    Thu, Nov 07 2013

    When there is a will,there is a way.This is Swtha's life principe.Congratulation and all the best.Thanq.

    DisAgree Agree [11] Reply Report Abuse

  • sid, mangalore

    Thu, Nov 07 2013

    God Bless Shwetha , You are a better person with all the hardship you have faced. All the best

    DisAgree [1] Agree [22] Reply Report Abuse

  • Fredrick Correa, Pernal/Mumbai

    Thu, Nov 07 2013

    Very touching story. God Bless all those who helped her to reach where she is today. The parents should teach their children not to discriminate anyone because of their color, creed or race. The parents do teach their children to be truthful, honest etc. but they may not be aware that their children pass remarks which can affect the personality of a growing person. May God Bless Shweta abundantly. I am sure that she is proud of her mother who did not become a sex worker but struggled the hard way, in spite of all the odds against her.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [21] Reply Report Abuse


    Thu, Nov 07 2013

    We are proud of you Shweta. It is an incredible achievement, especially coming from India with that background. Don't look back now, go forward and make best of the opportunity. Salute to your mother who kept the fire in you alive. God bless you

    DisAgree [1] Agree [35] Reply Report Abuse

  • Flavian, Mangalore/Kuwait

    Thu, Nov 07 2013

    Shweta, you are one in a million who has fought all the ills and evils of life and proved to the world that where there is a will there is a way. May be many more will take your example and succeed in achieving the right path in life.
    God bless you to have a bright future and life worth living.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [34] Reply Report Abuse

  • Amin Bhoja, Patte / Riyadh

    Thu, Nov 07 2013

    Life is a struggle and sometimes it's results are so sweet and Shweta is a pure example of it.My wish and my hearty congratulations to Shweta to her career to her goal towards life and it's achievements and it's rewards.'GOD' bless you always Shweta.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [40] Reply Report Abuse

  • Clvie, Kuwait

    Thu, Nov 07 2013

    Congrats to this brave girl, Shweta. She won against all odds and she should give thanks to her mother and that NGO lady, Robin, for helping her all the way.
    She could have resigned herself to her fate but she challenged it and won against all her conditions/ detractors. I saw this story on Crime Patrol on Sony TV. Hope this story proves to be an inspiration for other Shwetas to emulate.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [27] Reply Report Abuse

  • Lydia Lobo, Kadri

    Thu, Nov 07 2013

    I wish Shweta success in her endeavors. Go girl scale the skies with your determination and dedication that you have to support the most vulnerable but abominated section of the society !

    DisAgree [3] Agree [34] Reply Report Abuse

  • Anand, karkala

    Thu, Nov 07 2013

    In order to excel, we must be completely dedicated to our chosen field.

    We must also be prepared to work hard and be willing to accept constructive criticism.

    Without 100% dedication, we won't be able to do this.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [24] Reply Report Abuse

  • Felix D souza, Mangalore

    Thu, Nov 07 2013

    Good luck Shweta.May God bless you and support you in you mission.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [33] Reply Report Abuse

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