This is Lakshmi. She's a thirteen-year-old girl that lives with her mother, Ama (pictured in the middle), and her stepfather (far right) in Nepal. They struggle to earn enough money to survive since the stepfather cannot work and gambles away the little money Lakshmi and Ama manage to earn.
"I ask Ama why. "Why," I say, "must women suffer so?" "This has always been our fate," she says. "Simply to endure," she says, "is to triumph."" (pg. 16)
Lakshmi's stepfather sells her away to a man called "Uncle Husband". Lakshmi was under the impression that she would go and work in the city to earn money, perhaps looking after children or housekeeping. When Lakshmi and Uncle Husband's friend, Auntie, arrive at their destination, however, Lakshmi discovers that she has been sold into the sex slavery industry.
Mumtaz, the person Lakshmi was sold to
""You will take these men to your room," she says. "And do whatever they ask of you..."" (pg. 106)
One day, Lakshmi manages to snag an American man as one of her customers for the day. Instead of demanding sex, however, the American asks the girl many questions that could get her, the other sex slaves, and Mumtaz in serious trouble. The American man gives Lakshmi a card with his company's phone number phone number on it so she can be rescued.
"He takes his wallet from his jacket. I wait to catch a glimpse of his riches, but what he hands me is a small white card. It is full of American words I cannot read, and in the center is a drawing of a bird in flight...How odd he is, this man who pays for a girl and does nothing but talk." (pg. 205)
The kind American
After lots and lots of waiting- weeks upon months of waiting- for the kind, American man returns with a promise to get Lakshmi out safely and soon. Lakshmi shares with the man the little English she knows.
""I will come back for you", he says. "I will come back with other men, good men, from this country- fathers and uncles who want to help- policemen who are not friends of Mumtaz. We will take you away from here."" (pg. 249)
The kind American
Lakshmi's kind American returns with help and rescues her.
"Something inside me breaks open, and I run down the steps. I see Mumtaz, her fat mango face purple with rage, her arms pinned behind her back by two policemen. She lunges in my direction and spits. But the policemen hold her back. I see my American. There are other men with him, Indian men, and the American lady from the picture. "My name is Lakshmi," I say. "I am from Nepal. I am fourteen years old."" (pg. 263)