Diksha Singh had no idea of the life ahead of her when she moved to Mumbai from a small village in Uttar Pradesh.
Although she was born in Mumbai, Diksha’s mother developed severe lung and heart issues and her parents sent her as a baby to live with her maternal grandmother halfway across the country.
She finished 10th grade in a government school and then reunited with her family in Mumbai to attend junior college. She said she was terrified of the big city, and she was dismayed to find unsavory living conditions in Dharavi, one of the biggest slum communities in Mumbai. Diksha and five other family members, including her grandmother and uncle, share a one room home that also serves as the kitchen and bedroom.
“I don’t want to live in Dharavi,” she said. “It’s so crowded and dirty and girls aren’t treated well.”
Diksha also had a difficult time in junior college, where she was treated poorly because of her background.
“I was picked on a lot by my classmates because I was from the countryside,” she said. “I used to cry a lot. I wanted to go home where I had friends.”
On top of it all, Diksha’s family was facing a financial crisis, and she felt like she needed to get a job immediately to help. After a year of searching, she was still turning up empty handed.
Discouraged, Diksha felt like she had very little options left, until she met a friend who introduced her to Magic Bus. Her friend went to the Magic Bus Livelihood Center in Dharavi for a three month program, taking practical courses such as computer skills, English literacy and learning how to master an interview.
“At first I was really quiet,” she said. “Within two weeks, I became really comfortable with the people there.”
In addition to valuable social interactions, Diksha said she was groomed for interviews, which was one of the biggest challenges for her in attaining a job.
“As a woman in India, you’re taught to avoid,” she said. “You’re not supposed to look a man in the eye because you might get harassed. I learned at the Center that I need to maintain eye contact in interviews. That was helpful.”
Magic Bus arranged a job interview at Fidelity National Information Services (FIS), a financial company, where Diksha was selected as a data entry employee. At 20 years old, Diksha is thrilled to have her first job, where she works 10 hours a day for about $150 a month.
“When I got my first salary, I bought presents for everyone in my family,” she said. “I am extremely happy and proud because I am finally realizing my dream of being independent.”
Originally produced for Magic Bus.