On 25th September, Padma (name changed) turned 20.  She celebrated her birthday in a private shelter home for girls in Pune. If you saw her smiling and cutting her cake, you would never imagine the horror that this 19 year old went through over the last three months.  

Padma was born in a small town in Kolkata’s North 24 Parganas.  In 2017, shortly after completing her 10th exams, she eloped with 19 year old Surya (name changed) and they made their way to Gurgaon to start a new life. Padma worked as a caretaker on the school bus and Surya worked as a peon in the principal’s office. Their wedded bliss lasted 8 months and after several fights with her young husband, she came back to her parent’s house.

Finding love in the middle of lockdown

Padma started working in a neighbour’s shop where she stitched curtains.  In May 2020, during the lockdown she got a friend request on a social media platform from a Prem Patil. One look at his dashing profile picture and Padma already had stars in her eyes. Prem turned on the charm; he complimented Padma’s good looks and her personal videos which she uploaded on a popular video channel. Soon the light and slightly flirtatious friendship soon blossomed into love. Prem shared that his real name wasn’t Prem but Vinay (name changed.)  He was totally smitten with Padma and wanted to marry her.  Barely 2 months into knowing Vinay, once again Padma left home to find her happily ever after.

With the Rs 2000 that she saved from her stitching job, she waited for Vinay at Kolkata’s Howrah Station as they had planned.  She spent the entire day looking for him through the throng of commuters.  When evening turned into night, a tired Padma booked a room in a lodge close to the station.

At 00:30 am, Vinay turned up on his motorcycle with a male co-passenger. The lodge staff refused to let them join Padma in her room, so the trio left on Vinay’s motorbike. Their destination – Pune, a  1900 kilometre ride away. They only stopped for meals and restroom breaks. After five days, they reached the Maharashtra border. A little before entering Pune, Vinay’s friend got off.  Vinay and Padma continued. Vinay rented a room and to show how serious he was, smeared some sindoor on Padma’s forehead. Padma accepted this gesture as a sign of his commitment.   Vinay left Padma in the room and went to get them provisions. He told Padma that he couldn’t take her to his parent’s house as they would never accept a Bengali daughter-in-law. 

The abuse starts

After a few days when Padma was going through one of Vinay’s social media pages, she found pictures of him with a young woman and a child.  When she questioned him, he shared that the woman was his wife and the girl, his daughter. This led to a huge fight and Padma getting a beating. A few days later,  an inebriated Vinay stumbled upon Padma talking to a male neighbour. As soon as they entered their room, Vinay took out his belt and gave Padma a severe thrashing. A frightened Padma called her parents later that day and told them about the abuse and that she was coming home. Vinay took her phone and smashed it.  He quietly took out her SIM card from her phone and put it in his phone and uploaded compromising pictures and videos of Padma on her social media page.

Love disappers and fear takes over

Padma realised what a huge mistake she had made with Vinay. She felt totally humiliated and feared returning home thinking her ex- husband, friends and neighbours in Kolkata had probably seen her pictures.  Vinay kept threatening that he would release more of their explicit love making videos if she didn’t listen to him.  Vinay even told Padma that she needed to support herself and the only way she could earn money was by prostituting herself. He even took her to Pune’s oldest red light area Budhwar Peth and introduced Padma to an agent who congratulated Vinay on bringing a good girl. The agent told him that instead of bringing Padma to the red light area, where there were frequent raids, it would be better to have her service customers in a hotel near the red light area.

A very desperate Padma called her parents and pleaded with them to do something.  Once again she was caught by Vinay who threatened to release her videos. Later he called up Padma’s parents and told them she ran away with a Bihari boy.

Padma knew she was doomed. Her foolishness in running away with this man had been extremely costly, humiliating and painful (she was beaten often.) She had no place to go and was completely alone.

Little did Padma know that a team in Kolkata and Pune had heard a part of her story and were already looking for her.

Read about Padma’s nail biting rescue on Monday.