A Beautiful Soul - Minu
Last week we lost one of our own. Our Community Organizer Minu Chetri passed away from tuberculosis. TB is very common in red light area, where Minu lived for much of her life. Minu was a beautiful soul who brought light, hope and a much-needed sense of humor to everything. I first met her in 2006, when she was working at a partner organization in Kolkata. She went on to work at a different organization, and then we were lucky enough to recruit her for our team, where she worked for the past 18 months. Minu organized the sponsorship group session for HFC in her locality and offered her home as the base. She also coordinated and led our COVID emergency food distribution in the red light area.
Minu originally came from Nepal. She had a raucous laugh and was effusive in her love for the kids, for our volunteers and staff, and for me. She used to show her affection by shoving bananas directly into my mouth while I was running workshops. Minus’ English and my Bengali were equally limited. We communicated either non-verbally, through a translator or in rudimentary English or Bengali.
‘Something, something, English, English,’ she used to say when she didn’t have the words.
‘Something, something, Bangla, Bangla,” I would reply, as we both cracked up laughing. It became our catch phrase.
When Minu first came to Kidderpur, she became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter. When her daughter was thirteen or fourteen, the girl was trafficked to the Middle East by Minu’s trafficker/husband and was never seen again.
Some years later, an anti-trafficking organization – Sanlaap – came into the community offering support and opportunities. Minu took the opportunity and became a community advocate. Incredibly, the husband who had trafficked her daughter made the same choice. He chose to stop being an exploiter and instead to help women and children by working as a community organizer and security guard at Sanlaap. In an act of forgiveness which I cannot begin to comprehend, Minu forgave her husband for the abuse and betrayal of the past. Together they raised a son, who was found abandoned or orphaned in the red light area. Minu’s son was one of our first school-sponsored kids and one of the inspirations for starting our education program back in 2008.
I am humbled by Minu’s incredible love and forgiveness. She found the strength to rise above the abuse and loss of her past and to focus on building a future for herself and her son and helping many other women and children throughout her life.
Minu’s job at HFC was to organize and support our school sponsored kids in the Kidderpore red light area. In her honor, we pledge to continue supporting the children she loved so much, and to make sure they have the opportunities she hoped for them. I miss you, sweet friend.
“Something, something, English,English. Something, something, Bangla, Bangla
With love and sadness, Sarah