Jyoti barely remembers her parents. Her first clear memories are of working in a house in Patna, Northern India, when she was five.
When she was 10 the householders ‘gave’ Jyoti to a relative in Delhi. Life as a housemaid in Delhi was even worse than it had been in Patna. Her new employer was a violent bully. “I was scared every day because I knew that anyone in the house could beat me for my smallest mistakes,” Jyoti told us.
Jyoti lived in a constant state of fear and loneliness. She had no-one to love and protect her and she’d never been to school.
Eventually a neighbour saw what was going on and told the police. But she had no family to go home to, so the local Child Welfare Committee sent her to live in a government-run home for girls. And that’s where Jyoti has lived for the last six years.
Jyoti had missed out on so much education that she couldn’t enrol in school. With little to do, she and her friends spent their days gossiping and sleeping. It was a depressing existence - and Jyoti’s future looked bleak. Until she met Rani.
Rani is one of our key workers. She’s been working with Jyoti for over a year now. She’s taken the time to get to know her and give her the kind of caring, trustworthy adult relationship she’s been craving all her life.
Jyoti was desperate to get a proper education so Rani gave her the intensive tutoring she needed to get to a level where she could go to school for the first time in her life. Jyoti is overjoyed to be going to school every day now and she’s a bright and responsible pupil. She is finally starting to believe in herself.
Rani told us: “Jyoti has made remarkable progress in her education and now she wants to be a social worker so she can help girls like her. I believe in her and we’ll stand by her to help her achieve her ambition. I couldn’t be more proud of Jyoti.”
I’ve found my big sister in Rani.
Ever since she met her, Rani has been working hard to try to trace Jyoti’s family. She told us: "We still hope that we’ll find Jyoti’s family one day but in the meantime Jyoti has found her family here at the girls’ home.”
In India’s children’s homes we found a lost generation of girls who don’t go to school. We’re sending teachers and counsellors into India’s children’s homes to find these girls.Find out more
Photography: Sujata Khanna for Railway Children