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We were in India with an anti-human trafficking organisation. These guys were frontliners in the fight against the slave trade, coordinating teams who helped local law enforcement infiltrate brothels and strongholds of modern slavery.
India is one of many developed countries for whom modern slavery is a massive blight. Many of the country’s poor are far from the law’s protection, sold or forced into slavery, joining a global crowd of 30 million for whom simple freedom is a pipe dream.
We were filming with the Field Director of the organisation. He was an unbelievable interview. He articulated the tide of injustice he fought against daily with so much passion. We switched the cameras off and he began to tell us his story.
He had grown up in a family who worked in giant brick kilns, knee deep in mud clay pits on the outskirts of his hometown. These kilns fed the huge demand for the cheap bricks upon which India’s modern urban boom had been built. From early childhood to his teenage years, he had climbed into deep pits of wet clay and acrid coal soot-filled air, making up to 1500 bricks a day – by 9am each day, he had knocked off his first 200.
His father, determined to carve his son a better life, had learned English by reading Nietzsche paperbacks, teaching him word by word.
As he told us his story, the director explained to us that India’s slavery problem was inherantly a cultural one, a paradigm burned into his country’s people. India’s outlook is defined by two ideas; fate and caste. When you’re born into a life of slavery, it’s all you know, it becomes your worldview; you learn to believe that it is written into your unchangeable fate. Add the ever-prevalent idea of the caste system and you have a recipe for a social captivity that seems inescapable.
With his father’s help, he had climbed his way out of the clay pit. And he would spend the rest of his life pulling others out.