From crime to social work
Our Childline receives over 300 calls from our district every day, from children themselves or concerned adults who consider a child to be at risk. While some cases may be resolved over the phone or through counselling, others require the rescuing of a child from harm. The team fearlessly take on all cases often entering into unknown and dangerous situations where those abusing a child will use force or influence to try to prevent the team completing their rescue. In these cases, it is Ravi who is the first through to door. Here Ravi shares what makes him so fearless in confronting these criminals and thugs.
"My family lived in the old palace premises in Bhingar, a suburb of Ahmednagar city. When I was about 13 years old, the District Superintendent of Police closed all the illegal pubs and gambling dens and I saw an opportunity to earn easy money to support my family. I learnt how to make and sell liquor and was soon making a lot of money. Gambling became my favorite pastime so I started my own gambling and drinking den for friends. One day I had a fight with one of these ‘friends’ and he lodged a complaint with the police. With a mere exchange of 100 rupees and a bottle of country liquor, all the charges against me were dropped.
"By the age of 16, I had started dealing drugs (ganja) and was making even more money which I used to gamble the whole night away with. Needing manpower to transfer drugs, I recruited a gang of local goons and petty thieves, taking responsibility for selling their stolen goods and bailing them out of prison. I was moving up in the criminal world, partnering other gangsters in illegal activities such as English liquor and sandalwood smuggling. My criminal activities began to escalate and with dreams of becoming a Don, I learnt how to use a pistol and was joining street fights. On 14 January 2009, I fought with some local goons over some petty issue and was arrested under IPC 307 for loot, disturbing the peace and eve teasing. I was imprisoned for seven days.
"These nightmare, eye-opening seven days changed my life. Upon release I decided to end all of my illegal activities. It came as a massive shock to my illiterate family, who, unable to see the harm this business was causing me and unable to tolerate the new me, threw me out of the house. Homeless, I had to eat discarded food from the streets and drink bore-well water to survive.
"I have a passion for dancing so previously, amidst all my illegal work, I had visited Ambedkar Bhavan for a dance practice, where I met and developed a good rapport with Jayashree Shinde from Snehalaya Balbhavan. It was while I was destitute that Jayashree called and asked me to help teach a dance class to her students and I met Hanif Sheikh (our Assistant Director of Education) who liked how I interacted with the children and invited me for the opening of Bhingar Balbhavan. After the opening I told Hanif I was looking for a job and a few days later he called me asking me to join the Balbhavan as a teacher.
"Those who knew and hated me as a local goon were so surprised to see me working with Snehalaya. It was a challenge to earn their respect but my hard work and commitment to my new career in social work paid off and after six months I was promoted to project coordinator, with many who had doubted me or previously worked for me in my criminal activities now joining me to work for the slum project.
"Working in the Balbhavan launched a new phase in my life and, in 2015, I moved into my current role as a member of the Childline team, working to uphold the rights of children. I love my new role working with children and making sure they don’t follow the same destructive path I took at their age. While words are my new weapon and I have well and truly left my criminal past behind me, when the team experiences intimidation in our fight against those abusing children, my former experience and daily gym workouts definitely work to our advantage in dealing with their threatening or violent behavior!"
You can help children tempted by a life of crime by supporting our slum community projects and Childline which work to provide fun and educational activities to keep keep them protected and on the right side of the law. Donate here.