Like a piece of wood or a chunk of meat or a gang of apes being sold in a market. This is how the world of child trafficking operates if we are to go by SOLD.
Men and women in this business are devoid of conscience and laden with misplaced guts.
In SOLD, we are taken to Nepal, where we meet an intelligent young girl called Lakshmi. Her village is located on the slopes of Himalayan Mountain range. According to her, it is the swallow-tailed peak. She loves the mountain’s unpredictable winds, seasons, dew, its freshness and its mightiness. Basically, all the little pleasures of nature.
In their God forsaken village, women are even more God forsaken, they have no voice here, predominantly, their roles are procreation and respecting their men.
Respect, in this case, is bewildering. Because, if respect means looking for food. If it means taking care of children and homes. If it means worshipping the ground that men walk on. Then each act of respect in this village must feel like the rupture of a sore wound on women.
Lakshmi’s Step-dad is a wreck! total overload. He does one thing very well, gambling. It would make sense to gamble and win sometimes, but this man loses all the time.
He gambles everything to a fault. Only a goat, a wife, Lakshmi, another child and he, that survive in their homestead. He cannot gamble away his family … for now.
If a woman is married, it is honorable and it appends survival dignity among the women in this village, hence when Lakshmi’s real dad died, her mom was only lucky to get a man, who had a crippled hand to accept them.
Lakshmi mom is ever grateful to this man who restored her honor. It matters less that he doesn’t work, out of will and choice, yet he must eat.
He wakes up in the morning, takes breakfast, then he wastes an entire day under a tree. In the evening, he walks to the village tea shop to meet with fellow men. Where they gamble their nothingness and guts and pretend to make village decisions.
As fate would have it, drought strikes. And with no food, Lakshmi’s family barely survives.
And because when it rains it pours, monsoon arrives. Rains are so heavy, they almost wash away Lakshmi’s house.
The rains miss the house, but they don’t dare miss their rice paddy. It is washed away clean.
Without rice, there is no hope, the family can no longer pay their loans, and mom makes a daring decision. She sells her golden earrings. She is now less of a woman without them.
Indian culture, women must have a golden item, but moms would do anything for their children. Lakshmi’s mother is no different.
Yet, even that money, the man of the house scoops some to gamble. When he has lost all, he ponders of something more valuable to sell, well, gamble would be the right word. This time, he comes up with an inhumane idea.
When a man speaks here, he is the God. And the man speaks … Lakshmi needs to earn her keep.
So, the lie goes, she is to be sent to the city to become a house girl at 13 Years of age.
When she is taken to a link woman in the village, the step-dad is paid some huge amount which Lakshmi assumes is a down payment for the work she shall put, washing dishes in the city.
Within weeks, Lakshmi arrives in ‘Happiness house’, deep India. So much money was exchanged along the journey to India, her head spins. She is being smuggled unaware.
Just like a yoke of oxen, she is sold to the highest bidder, also, unaware.
Within a day, she discovers the meaning of ‘Happiness house’. She is horrified. Here, girls do not wash dishes for pay.
In this place, girls wash themselves instead. All too often, hopelessly trying to wash away shame and pain.
You have to admire Lakshmi’s guts because she is ready to starve to death not to sleep with any man. Literally, ‘Over her dead body’ she says.
Unfortunately, the venomous lady owner of the house drugs her. In that stupor form, she is dressed quickly for business downstairs.
Lakshmi is repeatedly raped, because I wouldn’t give these actions a dignified word, by countless men in under a week. In her own words-:
“the pain between my legs is like searing coal” That much rape! Mind you, she is 13 years of age!!!
Somehow, as a reader you want to cry, and just when you are looking for a reason not to cry, it suddenly hits you, SOLD is a true story and Lakshmi actually exists. This is when floodgates open and you shed a tear for a broken childhood somewhere in India.
It doesn’t help when you realize India is the largest child trafficking market. Foreigners travel to India to sleep with children for a week or two then they leave for their home countries never to be heard of again. What sort of men are these you may ask? I also have similar questions.
Let me digress a bit.
Last year in the Philippines, President Duterte’s Nation. You know that nuts guy, right? He is a special man that one. Now, in that Asian country, a foreigner was caught and jailed for making porn videos.
There are porn videos, but his kind of porn is the kind that would make the devil blush and hide his face in shame. This man, whose name eludes me, would kidnap little Philippine girls under the age of 15. Then he would rape them while recording and streaming the video.
His clients would be waiting for the live act in the dark web. Then, he would make these children dig their own graves, and sometimes he would help them dig, afterwards he would kill them. All these recorded live.
Search this news bit on CNN.
Watching CNN, I was baffled as to why this man was arrested and taken to jail. Duterte himself, in my opinion, would have taken this man’s punishment personally. Burn his balls in hot porridge, or feed him to hounds or use two tractors to tear him apart, just anything that would at least achieve 1% of the pain he has caused.
For such a man, there is nothing on earth we can do to him just to repay 99% of his crimes. This was a true story, my people. The lawyer representing the victims was a courageous woman, whose tears were part of this case.
Back to SOLD. Mc Cormick did justice in it. The book is a simple read, the details are journaled in the first person. Everything is described poetically, it’s short and succinct. But all the words, even a comma, will touch your soul.
WHAT YOU HEAR.
Before it starts
You hear a zipper baring its teeth,
Perhaps the sound of a shoe being kicked aside in haste,
The wincing of the mattress.
Once it starts,
You may hear the sound of horns bleating in the street below,
The peanut vendor hawking his treats,
Or the pock of a rubber ball as the children shout and play
In the school yard nearby.
But if you are lucky,
Or if you work hard at it,
You hear nothing.
Nothing, perhaps, but the clicking of the fan overhead,
The steady ticking away of seconds
Until it is over.
Until it starts again.
If you knew that child sexual slavery exists, then, it’s most likely the weight of those words had not hit you. For those words to hit home, you need to read SOLD and be brave enough to assimilate everything in courage and tears.
Yes, Lakshmi survives as a human, but I think her soul dies a million times over. Yes, thousands of children in child sexual slavery survive, but their souls die a trillion times over. This is the reason why this book deserves praise. It speaks for the world’s child.
Patricia McCormick for her travels to Nepal to collect these stories and do justice to them, it takes courage, the writing is audacious, heart-breaking to both her and us, yet that pain is not a speck of the horrendous events described in the book.
I highly recommend that everyone reads this book because we need to and we must see what men and women are capable of when they flush morality and brains down the toilet.
I thank a dear friend, Salma Abdulatif Jan for lending me this book. Our friendship has never been more heart-warming.
By: Kelvin Karanja
(photo courtesy: Unknown)