A few months later Maya reconnected with Payal, a classmate from school. They soon became thick friends. Payal married a boy she was deeply in love with and went to set up house with him in Washim, a city approximately 2 hours from Akola. Maya visited her often. On one such visit Payal introduced her to a couple, Ramesh and Aarti. Payal told Maya to spend time with them as they were a really nice couple. Off Maya went to the couple’s house. The first few days were pleasant enough. But then Maya noticed many young girls donned in tight fighting and revealing clothes plastered with make-up loitering about the house.  Before Maya could react to the warning bells that were going off, she was pumped with drugs and forced to drink large amounts of alcohol.  Maya barely knew what was happening. For three days, she slept with multiple men.  When she finally got out of her drugged stupor, she screamed and threatened Ramesh and Aarti. Neither of them looked the least bit worried. Out came Aarti’s phone that had dozens of explicit pictures and videos of Maya, taken over the last three days. One peep out of her and the couple promised to release all the pictures and videos. They even used it to blackmail her to continue sleeping with customers but magnanimously agreed to pay her Rs 500 per customer (while they pocketed Rs 1500 of the money they were paid per customer.)

Maya started going to their house thrice a week and serviced up to 10-12 customers a day (at age 14 Maya was suddenly  earning roughly Rs 60,000 a month.) 

Mahesh, the young boy who Maya called when she was trapped in Rajasthan, and Maya started dating. Though Mahesh may have been a hero that one time, he soon turned villain. Mahesh used to beat Maya up and also forced her to sleep with customers.  Maya gave most of her earnings to Mahesh.

On 17 June 2021, the Akola Police raided Ramesh and Aarti’s home styled brothel. Maya along with another girl was rescued. Maya’s rescue was reported in an online newspaper. That’s when we first learned about Maya and those involved in her exploitation.  Our liaison officer spoke to the Akola police and told them about our work with minors forced into sex trafficking. The police shared the First Information Report with us. Once we got all her details, we met the superintendent and spoke about the case.  Maya was at the hospital. The superintendent shared that she was ill.  Worried about Maya’s health, the shelter home staff  took her for a health check up and discovered she was pregnant.  

We visited Maya’s mother Vani at home to learn more about Maya. She shared much about their early life. Though she knew about Maya getting sexually exploited in Rajasthan, she was totally clueless about Maya working in Ramesh and Aarti’s brothel or servicing customers for her boyfriend. When we shared the information with her, she started weeping.  She pleaded with us to help Maya.  Maya was totally out of control. The few times mother and daughter spoke, Maya was insufferable . She asked us to help get Maya into a good hostel.  We suggested that Maya stay in the shelter home.  She would receive attention and care. She agreed.

Though we were unable to meet her, we spoke to Maya a few times on the phone. We told her a bit about ourselves and how we help minor girls who were so badly exploited by people.  We shared a bit about our life skills and vocational programs.  She seemed so traumatized and sad. 

We have requested the Child Welfare Committee in Ankola to transfer Maya to a shelter home in Nagpur, so we will be able to meet her often and include her in our life skill sessions in the shelter home.

The shelter home staff in Akola share that Maya isn’t adjusting well to shelter home life. She isn’t happy with the chores she’s been given.  And after earning so well for so many months (probably more than the shelter home staff,) there’s a part of her that wants her independence. 

We have seen this attitude and behaviour in many of the girls we have rescued. Once they get a taste of the big bucks; the finer things in life, the sharp smart phone that takes the best selfies, the fancy clothes and shoes, dining at different restaurants, suddenly life in a shelter home with a strict routine seems stifling and unbearable. 

The restoration process is a long and sometimes hard one.  Girls refuse to cooperate with us and want to be released so that they can get back home- to parents or boyfriends that were exploiting them, except they don’t see it that way. They are dismissive, often non participative, make fun of us and refuse to listen to us.   Good thing we have thick skins and have experience working with hurt and broken girls like Maya.  Our goal continues to be the same, to help them discover their true value and worth, develop confidence and skills so that they can live with dignity and not live life in the shadow.