S Maria: No film can come close to story of my life
The street had been her home till she was orphaned at the age of 13. Today, she is an actor
I have acted in the film Poorna: Courage Has No Limits. The greatest achievement of my life is to have worked with a great actor and human being like Rahul Bose from whom I have learnt a lot. A lot of time, my story seems to be more interesting than all films. I am currently staying at Rainbow Homes in Murshidabad, Hyderabad. My younger sister Raina lives with me. Rainbow Homes provides shelter to orphans like me, homeless children living on the streets, children facing violence, women who have been forced into begging.
My mother had begged for a living. I have seen her do that all my life. She was an expert at it. But she had only one lesson for me—whether you beg or not, you should dream big. I don’t know much about the background and the ordeal that she underwent. I do not know what made her take to begging. My mom didn’t like to talk about herself. She only used to tell me that her mother cooked tasty mutton. Whenever we had some money to buy a little mutton, while cooking, she always talked about her mother. Her eyes always got teary while talking about her mother. She was a strong lady. She always said that she wished that we didn’t come across the situation that she went through. She struggled a lot to ensure that I studied.
I don’t have my mother anymore; she died. She committed suicide. Her name was Saroj. I don’t know why she did it. I only got to know that she was no more. Now I can only say that she should not have done that. She was so strong. Then, how can she kill herself? These are questions which I keep asking myself, but I get no answers. We also need time to to reflect on the loss, but we really don’t have the time to do so. Such is the life of rag pickers.
My mother told me that I was born in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh. My mother was a rag picker and she used to beg. I never knew who my father was. Many men lived with my mother at different points of time but after sometime, they would all leave us. It is very important for a woman living on the streets to have male company. Otherwise, there will be crimes against them every day, they will be raped and harassed. My sister and I were my mother’s priorities. She always strived hard to ensure that we would have a safe future. I also learnt to collect garbage and beg from my mother. We, as children, would invariably roam around with her. She was a vagabond. She never begged in a place for more than three to two months. We came to Bengaluru from Warangal, then we went to Tirupati, Trivandurum, Chennai and then Hyderabad. Maps of these cities are still inscribed in my head. I learnt about life in these 13 years, I developed my understanding of the same. There is so much to write that even if I wrote for 20 continuous years, it would not be enough. Then I also think whether anyone will care to read my story. It is not so special. There are lakhs of girls like me on the streets who have to do seemingly unthinkable things just to stay alive.
This film has changed my life. If a girl is willing, she can scale the Everest. This is the film’s message. I know from experience that achieving something like this is a tough job. I salute Poorna’s courage. She never gives up hope though she has been brought up in abject poverty. In the film, she achieved the world record of becoming the youngest girl to climb the Everest. I play the character of Poorna’s younger sister, Priya. Poorna could not have achieved what she did without Priya’s help. Priya is ready to go to any extent for her sister. In the film, Poorna wins, she climbs the Everest and Priya dies.
I am a fan of Rahul Sir (Bose). He decided to cast children like me. It was not like he was doing charity. The auditions were tough. I didn’t know much about acting. But I learnt from my mother how one could benefit by acting according to the need and the situation. I used my mother’s training and was successful. Rahul sir was also impressed by my acting skills.
I watch movies a lot but I can say this with confidence that none of them stand a chance in comparision to my story. No film can even come close. Although I am just 16-years-old, most people on their deathbeds won’t be able to equal me in terms of life’s experiences.
If I achieve something, which I will, I will do something good for these kids. I don’t think any parent or their kids should land in a situation that forces them to beg on the road. This is shameful for the whole society. People siting in the safety of their homes don’t know about our pain. Everyone indulges in superficial talks. I want to pursue an acting career and, if things go right, I want to make a movie on my life. No one feels for these people.
As told to Bhasha Singh