Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Life in blue, live in red

“You have a child, where's your husband? Why do you stay in this area?”
“Leave it. Once a woman becomes impure, she will remain impure.” 

kamathipura chawl prostitution red light area

Mumbai is a financial capital of India, I feel something more when I first landed in this city. Mumbai creates a distinguished distinction because of its culture and hectic life folks lead here in all day. The long train journeys, hectic working hours – everyone seems running. Nevertheless, I feel a tremendous life running in the veins of the city. When the night drops on the city, not all but many people find recluse in bars, pubs, beaches and red light areas. In South Mumbai alone, there are approximately 1 lakh based sex workers. Most of these girls and women are not voluntarily sex workers, and sold by relatives or trusted family friends.

During my visit to Mumbai, I made a point to visit the second largest red light area of Asia once. I wanted to find a reason why human passion turned into a filthy business. How in India where prostitution is illegal, and where every red light area has a police station then also things are in mainstream business, without a bit problem. Surely, there must be a chain of influential people including politicians who are involved in the racket, otherwise how can be possible that involuntary sex workers work in the area.

kamatipura prostitution

Life in the red light areas is indeed difficult. Most of the women and girls are involuntary sex workers and come from either villages of different parts of India and Nepal or very lower income group. They come with a hope and push into prostitution. Poverty, drug, alcohol, gambling and sometimes violence are regular features of red light areas. These women are not a part of “our” society, frowned upon and deliberately ignored because they sell their skin. 

Moreover, brothels in India are dangerous places. You enter the area, dark, shaddy, lots of cigarette butts, used condoms spread here and there, and then there is a continuous fear of police raid. If you are a journalist from a reputed house, you can easily escape but if you are not, then it might end up in a wrong foot. I was walking on the lanes without cluttering my mind with all those risks. It is illegal everyone knows but there are always easier routes to escape from the clutches of police.

Kamatipura, Asia second and India’s oldest red light area suffered a lot during its time period. The patrons of the place, sailors who set the place during British time for their pleasure, brought young girls from different parts of India. Then came Indians followed by HIV and STD. Then political power plays, police and local rogues, the only thing that remains unchanged is the suffering of women.

Kamatipura hangs on with all suffering; diseases, human trafficking, scoundrel pimps and corrupt net of power games of politics. The small rooms are named as ‘Pinjara’(cage), it will be lit in the evening and women sit outside to find clients. The clients are from different walk of life; the rich ones have their own contacts, prefer young and even children, the poor are satisfied with a single shot ejaculation, so they can try anything that fit into their budget.

“So many people come and go why to bother? Like you have a life, we also have a life and we are used to it. After all, you are also not happy with your life. Isn't it?” 

I met some prostitute and lucky enough to had some conversation with one of them. She was from Nepal, working hard to earn some money so that her boy who lived in Nepal went to good school.  It was heartening to hear the tale, but there was not a single commotion on her face. She consolidated herself with the fate and desires of the city, which found its outlet in Kamatipura.

Most of the old prostitutes have now moved back to their villages, or shifted to suburbs. The builders have taken much of the place and created buildings. The precious South Mumbai area is too tempting for builders to throw prostitutes out of that area and finally they have succeeded. There are some NGOs such as ‘Prerana’ working hard with women in the red light district since two decades to empower them and spreading awareness about AIDS, education and healthy living.

After visiting first time a red light area, I feel people are same at everywhere. Circumstances change, things change and sufferings and enjoyment are different for different people. The more I travel, the more I understand people are good in heart, everywhere.

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