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This article was first published 10 years ago

The love story of a sex worker's daughter

February 14, 2014 15:57 IST

Image: Naseema and Kabir
Shahnawaz Akhtar in Jaipur

Naseema and Kabir’s love story proves that truth, indeed, beats fiction hollow, says Shahnawaz Akhtar.

They are an unconventional couple, and that is quite an understatement.

He is a Hindu, she is a Muslim.

He hails from Rajasthan, she belongs to Bihar.

But treading the tightrope of religion, language and prejudice is not the toughest struggle this couple has had to face.

For, he is a social worker, and she is the daughter of a sex worker. 

Naseema and Kabir’s love story proves that truth, indeed, beats fiction hollow.

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Finding hope and happiness in Neverland

Image: Naseema speaks at an event in Pune
Shahnawaz Akhtar

Not a very long time ago, Naseema Khatoon was known as the ‘daughter of the brothel’.

Her birth mother had abandoned her and she was brought up by a woman who worked as a sex worker a Chaturbhuj Isthan, an infamous red light area in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. 

In a life of predictable wretchedness, choice was one of the many luxuries Naseema didn’t have.

But Naseema was determined to fight the hopeless destiny her foster mother, and many women like her, had caved in to.

While most teenagers her age were busy discovering the joys of college, dating and parties, Naseema had other, and better, things to do.

She was busy with Pracham, a NGO founded by her which focussed on educating young girls raised in red light areas and fending off police hostility directed at them.

Naseema even managed to put together Jugnu, a monthly handwritten magazine highlighting the issues faced by sex workers and their families. 

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Finding hope and happiness in Neverland

Image: Naseema receives an award felicitating her from cricketer Sachin Tendulkar
Shahnawaz Akhtar

While lust was an everyday commodity in the bleak world Naseema lived in, love was a rare surprise.

Holding on to that love was a rarer phenomenon.

That phenomenon, in Naseema’s life, turned out to be a social activist from Rajasthan called Hans Raj Kabir.

“I met Kabir in 2003, while I was visiting Patna to attend a national workshop on issues plaguing the Dalit community. I was quite surprised when he called me up later and proposed to me,” she says. 

Kabir, a resident of Jhunjhunu district in the desert state, is a lawyer who works for Dalit causes.

Kabir recalls his first meeting with Naseema fondly.

“Her speech during the workshop had touched my heart. Her thoughts were very clear. She was no ordinary girl. Luckily, during the eight-day workshop, she happened to be our group leader. So I got a chance to get close to her."

But Naseema was wary about the ruinous impact of her imperfect reality, even on an otherwise fairytale romance.

She refused to accept the proposal and insisted that she and Kabir get to know each other better before taking such an important decision.

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Finding hope and happiness in Neverland

Image: Naseema and Kabir with Ishu
Shahnawaz Akhtar

They kept on running into each other -- in Mumbai in 2004, in Delhi in 2006 -- while attending similar events.

“She told me to visit her town in Bihar and then think over my decision,” recalls Kabir.

“Finally, in 2009, he came to Muzaffarpur and visited the red light area where I used to live. He stayed there for three days, even though I was not in town for the first two. By the time I met him, on the third day of his visit, he already knew everything about me,” says Naseem.

“And,” she adds with a smile, “he stood by his decision to marry me."

But this was not the last roadblock on the bumpy road to happiness.

Naseema didn’t want to keep her past a secret from the family that would soon be her own. 

“I had started telling my family about her since 2004. They didn’t really think I would marry a Muslim girl. When Naseema insisted, I took her to my home in Jhunjhunu in 2009 to meet my family,” Kabir adds. 

Naseema had penned Safar, a heart-rending narrative of her life, and of five sex workers.

“While returning from Jhunjhunu, I gave that book to my father-in-law Ghisalal. After reading it, he called me up and said he would like to have me as his daughter-in-law,” says Naseema. 

She and Kabir got married in 2010, on January 14, her birthday.

Neither of them has found it necessary to convert.

They named their son, born on December 25, 'Ishu', after Jesus Christ.

Today, Naseema is busy completing her graduation.

She and Kabir are continuing their campaign to ensure a better life for sex workers and for members of the Dalit community.

Naseema was recently recognised for her incredible initiatives at an event where she was felicitated by none other than legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.

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