My mom and dad were first cousins. They fancied each other and were married when they were just teenagers, ages twelve and fourteen. Their first two babies died so when I was born, they were terrified that I would be the next to go. My mother enfolded me in her sari, and carried me from house to house asking for blessings. Normally, girls have their noses pierced around adolescence. My parents had my nose pierced at only 3 days of age, as a way of begging the gods for extra protection.This is why I am named “Pichamani”, because it means “begging or longing for" and "jewel". After me came three more kids, and they all survived.
My Dad managed a rich man's dairy cows and did farm work. When I was seven, a coconut fell from way up high, landing on my father’s feet, breaking them both. The bone doctor bandaged him up and prescribed bed rest for a year, meaning that we had no source of income. Since I was the oldest they sent me off to work as a maid for a rich family. The other siblings were sent to school. This is one thing that makes me proud and happy. It is because of ME my brothers and sisters could get an education. I never had the chance to go to school.
When I was sixteen, my parents arranged a marriage with my mom’s younger brother. It was all ready to go but he cancelled at the last moment. Afterwards my parents kept trying to find me a husband, but to no avail. I kept resisting and they didn’t force me. Then one day, my uncle changed his mind and decided to marry me after all. After our first son was born, he left me for an older woman my Mom’s age who lived in the mountains. He told me that he had married me just to get the villagers to stop talking and that he really loved this other women. He wanted nothing to do with me. I was so distraught that I tried to throw myself in the village well. My girlfriend stopped me and brought me to my dad.
“No man is worth my daughter's life,” he said. "You and the baby come home and live with us. I don't care what the village says."
The next few years, I was constantly hassled by men wanting to hook up with me. It was awful. They would stop me on the street, and torture me with bad words. I heard that Blue Mango was a safe place for women so I joined in 2002 and have been here ever since.
My childhood and growing up years were rough, but now I feel free and happy. I have many friends and a steady income.
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