I Kick and I Fly
April 18, 2023
Fourteen-year-old Heera’s life in Girls Bazaar is one of poverty, degradation, and eventual prostitution. But Heera knows she’s meant for something more than the struggles of the Nat caste she was born to. Fights at school and home lead her to safety, and kung fu, at a local hostel for at risk girls. Through king fu practice and competition, she builds skill and confidence that start a domino effect of changes in her life, her family, and her community.
Inspired by her experiences with an anti-trafficking NGO in India, Ruchira Gupta’s novel, the hostel, character ideas, and martial arts influence all spring from the community she serves. Gupta tells their inspiring story from Heera’s no nonsense point of view, making the brutal setting and secondary characters even more heartbreaking. Stark descriptions of Girls Bazaar, from the filth, to the substance abuse, to the organized crime, paint a harsh picture of Heera’s world. Her struggles with hunger, school, and family expectations to contribute focus her motivation and reveal her guilt about trying to break free. Innately independent, but committed to her family, Heera builds a confidence and self-worth through kung fu that push her through fear and doubt, and to succeed for all their benefit. Moments of triumph, like kung fu wins and rescuing a friend, help to balance darker themes of human trafficking, abuse, and deprivation, and keep the plot from veering too dismal.
What may feel like small steps—and kicks, and blocks, and punches—move Heera and her family toward independence in an empowering story of perseverance and self-worth.