SUMMARY [ This is a controversial post. Controversial, not because of it’s content but mainly because of the emotion that it might bring about in those readers who haven’t stepped beyond their sweet cocooned world. I usually pen stories of issues I have seen during my activities in the social sector.
Discussions of the red light areas in Mumbai usually bring about a snicker or an elitist contempt from the do gooders of the world who would wax rhetorical about how they want to change the society yet remain woefully silent when those very ‘issues’ dance stark naked before them.
I am of course referring to the ‘whores’ of Kamathipura or the ‘Randees’ of Sonepur. I see that you blanched at those words. Blame me not for them, these are after all the standard slangs used in those parts ( or rather any other parts for the matter!) ]
Ten years ago, the immature idealist in me somehow convinced my teachers at a Management Institute to conduct a survey among the commercial sex workers in Mumbai. And there I was, a 21 year old standing outside the shacks of those ladies along with a friend of mine.
Opening the communication was tricky enough when your subject responds ‘ Kya huan, chiknay?… girlfriend nahien hai kya .. Jo iddhar ayyan re tu ??!!’ Needless to say, like most other things in India, a ₹ 100 note opened doors to what good intentions did not.
She was pretty happy with the amount and went at length on how many sessions she had to do to get as much. Trust me, you don’t want to know. She did seem like one of those waiters who got tipped despite not doing any ‘service’ at all!!
I remember asking my first question, ‘Aunty, aap AIDS ke baarein mein kyaa jaanthein hein ?’ While I expected some angry reaction at the ‘AIDS’ term, it seemed my fears were misplaced when she took offence to the other worse ‘Aunty’ term in the question. Note to self: Using the term ‘ Behenji’ makes things worse.
My inexperience clearly showed. My colleague meanwhile was enjoying at my expense.
The remaining questions went without any issue , unless you would discount the occassional and rather frequent way she often corrected her blouse. She was a professional, this one!
Anyways, as I concluded the survey, she asked me to speak to the social worker who introduced us to the sex workers and ask about his history.
He was a charming young fellow, a year older perhaps than me and seemed very upfront in telling me the tale of his mother who also was a sex worker… And this is his story ……
Born in the brothels of Kamathipura,
you would easily mistake me for a swine .
I wouldn’t blame you, good Sir, for that
the credit would go to the dear mother of mine .
You jump into conclusions about my ancestry ,
about the man that might have been my father .
Honestly I little cared for who he was,
the possibilities countless .. I painfully gather .
I could romanticise my mother’s tragedy ,
the barbaric girl-trading in this world .
But dis not the sob story of a common whore..
This is the tale of my dear mother .
She never uttered about her dealings
Painfully aware of an unbreachable wall..
Her money equally spent on my siblings,
all three of us ‘bastards’ to the core.
You would never call her an ‘ideal’ mother ,
her past clouding your views .
and yet she was always with us ,
inconspicuous as the morning dew .
She stood behind in all our victories
never coming to the fore .
She feared about our ‘bright’ futures
so far untarnished by her chore .
And then one day , her health began to fail
the thing you surveyed, that same dreaded disease.
I shift between the hospital & the temple ,
my arms in supplication.. and soreness in my knees.
I am a bürden to you , oh blood of mine .
Your future being eclipsed by my past.
Death be the best of things for me , my son
now go forth beyond the shadow I cast.
i return to this very place I was born,
I see my mother where the society sees ‘whores’
Her love gives me all the strength that I need
just like your mother would have handled her chores.
Needless to say…. It was an eye opener. We often view the world through prisms of our own perceptions , ignoring the fundamental essence that connnects all human beings irrespective of their race, catse, color annd even wealth. I think I learnt a lot fom that gentleman’s story than from what a decade of education could do.
My next blog would be about a gentleman who was pretty suicidal. He is alive and well now. While I dont know whether to congratulate him for his ‘failure’ at not succeeding in his prime objective, his story does give hope to a lot of others who are deprived of it.