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Wednesday, October 23, 2019


Sold on Love


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Sold on Love “It’s heaven on earth’. Making our way up one of the many narrow, dark staircases that nearly disappear in the crowded lanes of GB Road, Delhi, we could not miss, amidst impoverished furnishing, the promise of a heavenly retreat on the image of a picture perfect house. Irony rammed home instantly.

With an intention to hunt for familiar familial settings in a brothel, inspired by celluloid impressions, when we accompanied Anand Sharma, founder of Savera NGO, into the Capital’s headquarters of the oldest profession on earth, we found our answers, loud and clear. There was none.

What makes it pathetic still is that half of them are running from their own families too. Molested by fate, this community of women the society calls prostitutes are caught in a rut that they have, after many an attempt to prove otherwise, now surrendered to. “There is nothing like happiness in here. Everyone’s up to their job to reclaim a modest living for, at least, their surviving kin back home,” relates Maya Bano (name changed) with a sad smile that refuses to leave her face. Drugged into the trade all the way from Andhra Pradesh, Maya’s woes didn’t even end at that. In the hope of leaving behind this wretched existence, she agreed to a marriage that a co-worker proposed, only to be mortified more than ever with daily rounds of abuse and beatings. “Once a prostitute, always a prostitute; she can never imagine an end anywhere far from here,” she is confident. Stating eternal indebtedness to Sharma of Savera for his continual endeavours at making their lives slightly more agreeable, whether with help for getting their I-cards, or their children’s admissions or creating bank accounts, Maya now lives for her two adopted kids who stay with her parents in Andhra. Around us, women, none too willing to talk, pretended to look busy with their late lunches as evening gave way to night. The only one who quickly responded to us was three-and-half year old Arti. Unmindful of the slimy world she is born into, Arti remembered going to ‘first standard’ but not the name of her school! “We do fight over clients but we also come together to celebrate, say birthdays of kids or organise jaagrans (nightly prayers)”, Maya accepts.

A short walk away from this den was one our Savera man introduced as an ‘A-class brothel’. Fairer, younger girls, mostly from Nepal, elaborately dressed while some helping others with the makeup, crowded the brightly lit room adorned with wallpapers. All this, while a Krishna bhajan played in the background and a man offered prayers at the little temple and Mecca model setups, burning incense and sprinkling holy water on the girls! A ‘madam’ and two stocky men making short shrift of their answers, it was clear there was no point looking for even remote semblance to a family amidst shameless hypocrisy. Despite Maya’s cynicism, we’ll have to find Arti another real family…
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017