Kalyani: Eighteen-year-old Kajal is one of the few girls of her community to have studied till class 10. But that hasn't stopped her and other boys and girls of the Harijan community in Kalyani to take a giant leap of faith - fight the evils of discrimination through theatre.
"In spite of being from a low caste, I feel wonderful that we could change things and make them better not just for us but for others as well," Kajal says.
Her friend Suresh Basfore says, "People used to pass our neighbourhood by covering their nose... we used to feel bad. We realised we need to change things. We don't have it written on our head that we are from the sweeper community."
The group has one vision: an improved life and a change in the mindset of people. Armed with confidence, they walk door to door, sensitising the neighbours about issues that afflict their community.
Deepak Bafone, one of the members of the group, says, "Firstly sanitation, second literacy, third drinking problems, fourth education for women - we wanted to weave it all in our plays."
The result has been phenomenal - a sharp decline in the number of diarrhoea cases especially among children, new toilets, clean drinking water and better living conditions.
"When people talk about our work, our chest swells with pride," says Ratan Prasad, another group member.
And supporting them is Dr Kasturi Bakshi, the town's medical officer, who decided to bring about the change by empowering the boys and girls with bright ideas.
Dr Bakshi says, "Handing out dole-outs is demeaning. I thought it's better to empower them instead."
This Harijan-para has now been recognised as the cleanest locality of Kalyani. For the community of 93 families, it's a life ahead of dignity and self respect.