She must of been 13, maybe maximum 15.
She was young, but she had had to grow up fast, it was evident in her appearance. Life hadn't been easy for her, you could see it in her eyes, her face, her body language.
She carried bruises and scars, the latest one a bloody wound above her right eye. Distorting her view slightly, and making her look even more vulnerable to her young frame. Who knows how it got there; a fight, an abuser, a family member, there were many possibilities yet the answer remained anonymous.
She sat on the bus and was cautious of everyone near her, her eyes glaring a hard stare. She was on her own, and had every reason to be defensive.
She was a poor girl, I could read that from the holes and stains on her garments. But she tried every effort to make the best of her situation, tidying up her hair and smoothing out any creases in her clothes.
She was selling tea strainers on a clothes hanger; about 50 different colours all dangling, costing a mere 30 rupees per piece (roughly 33p). All the money she earned she tucked neatly into a little bundle in her sari, made a knot and tucked it into her bra. Her collection so far was just a few coins, but you could see it meant everything to her.
I met her on a bus, we didn’t exchange much, she was cautious of me. I was a foreigner, an ‘outsider’, I could get her into trouble, or cause her trouble - it wasn’t a risk worth to take.
I tried to flash a smile, show her a friendly sign, “I’m not here to hurt you..” But she wasn’t here to make friends. Whatever life experiences she had been through, trust had become an issue.
She seemed alone in this world; too young, too much pain and too much responsibility weighed on her shoulders. Not respected, not loved, not valued.
A thirteen year old should be at school. A thirteen year old should be loved and looked after by her parents. A thirteen year old is still a child.
She had experienced too much, too little, and now, her future would always be tainted with what had happened in her past.
She was no longer a thirteen year old child, yet a woman. Her childhood had been taken away from her, aged her, deprived her of a different outcome and now, controlled her.