The iron gate had been ripped out of its hinges and now stood mangled, leaning against a wall. Someone or something with significant strength was responsible for this damage. The wardens at the home had one name on their lips – Suchitra.
We first met Suchitra at the halfway home when she was 15. Two years later she was still there. Shunted from home to home ever since she first ran away from her home in Kolkata, Suchitra felt like she did not belong anywhere. At the will and mercy of the system, she was increasingly frustrated that she could no longer determine the course of her own life. Despite the hopelessness of her situation, our counselors found that Suchitra had a fierce tenaciousness that belied her tiny form.
Knowing she had a deep interest in sports, we made sure she made use of all opportunities to participate in such activities. None of the girls own shoes or other sporting goods. A testament to her tenaciousness, one day, Suchitra found a pair of maggot ridden shoes in the common rubbish pile. They were disgusting to the point of no return. But that did not stop her. She scrubbed the shoes clean, put together pieces of cloth to build laces and wore them proudly. We knew that no matter what, Suchitra would find a way to survive and if we could give her the tools, thrive.
Suchitra had been at the home for far longer than mandated by procedure. Her frustration easily boiled over into anger and no one was spared, be it a fellow resident or an iron gate. We worked with Suchitra every week, identifying the underlying reasons for her temper, helping her cope and respond with restraint. She trying running away and every time she was caught and brought back, her trust eroding away.
Much like anyone trying to fight the odds, be it trauma, depression or loss, Suchitra had to work to find the will to cope. Her tenacity was an asset that could easily be spent on less fruitful pursuits. It was important to direct the tenaciousness into resilience, where it would have a purpose, providing the skills needed to break out of the cycle of hopelessness. Sheryl Sandberg puts it well, “Let me fall if I must fall. The one I become will catch me.” Slowly.” Suchitra and our counselors would try and fail, some days were good days and others bad but as long we were working together to be the person we would become, we were working towards a worthwhile goal.
As we worked with Suchitra, we knew that staying at the home as long as she had, was not to her benefit. We lobbied officials and other leaders to try and get her moved closer to her home in Kolkata. Finally, the papers came through and Suchitra heard that she could now move out of the home. Our staff went along with her, accompanying the government in repatriation, to Kolkata. Suchitra received a brand new pair of perfectly fitting sports shoes with great excitement. She is now one-step closer to joining her family again, calmer, slower to anger, resilient and tenacious as ever.