Sunday, November 25, 2007

Living - My Life in G. B. Road

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A sex worker on living in Delhi's red light district.

[As told to Mayank Austen Soofi; pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi. No picture can be used, either in internet or in print, without the prior permisiion of the author.]

You will perhaps never invite me to visit your family. For I am one of the 4,500 sex workers who live and work at Garstin bastion Road, the city's red-light area. No pity, please. I have no objection to selling my body for the sake of roti. Besides, I have become used to this neighbourhood. My three boys were born here. The best friendships of my life were made here. My six co-workers live together like sisters. This kotha is my home.

G.B. Road has 20 buildings. Dark corridors with steep stone stairs lead to kothas (96 in all) on the first and second floors. Mine is on the first. I usually wake up around noon. The bustle starts an hour earlier when the shops downstairs roll up their shutters. They say it is Asia's largest hardware market. It could be true. Stores are forever stocked with pumps and paints, tiles and toilet seats. But what's there for us? No parks, no playgrounds, not even a beauty saloon. It is the pethi walla who brings nakhun-polish and lipsticks around midnight.

We face many problems here. The kerosene sold in the ration shop is so diluted that we are forced to buy it in black from Kamla Market. The sweepers demand a monthly bribe of Rs 500 or else they dump rubbish on our stairs. If latrines get choked, plumbers ask for Rs 2,500. We can't even complain to the authorities. There is always the risk of harassment.

While we entertain customers throughout the day, evenings are busier. We dress up, apply powder, body lotion, and lipstick; and stand out in the balcony. By then the thoroughfare has started teeming with cars, scooters, rickshaws and pull-carts. Men stare up at us while the women, passing by in rickshaws, throw discreet glances. Sometimes, when we spot photographers, we take out our sandals and threaten them.

G. B Road, of course, is a world of its own. But I can glimpse other worlds from here. Hotel Holiday Inn can be seen from our balcony. New Delhi railway station is 10 minutes away. Across the road is the Indian Railways Coach Care Centre from where firangi tourists secretly take our pictures. A theka stands next door. If a customer buys me a whisky bottle, we all share it. Dena Bank and HDFC Bank are down the lane but what do they have to do with us? We buy vegetables at Sitaram Bazaar, behind Ajmeri Gate. Niyambar meat shop sells good mutton.

There are two mosques in the back lane and a Hanuman Mandir in front. We celebrate all festivals. Have you walked beyond the mandir? Kothas there attract more crowds due to their fair-complexioned girls hailing from Nepal and Assam.

People say there were originally five red-light areas in the city, set up during the Mughal era. But the British closed all except the one at G.B. Road, which is named after a British collector. The name was officially changed to Swami Shradhanand Marg in 1965. It has now been 15 years since I moved here. I'm from a small village near Bangalore in Karanataka. We lived in poverty so I came here to support my old parents and younger sisters. There were other reasons, too. It is complicated.

G.B. Road had more life then. Our daily customers have gone down from 15 to 2. That we are growing old is not the only reason. A few dalals, in the payroll of wealthier kothas, solicit for customers in front of our stairs. Occasionally, they snatch the mobile phones and wallets of our regulars. When we ask these goons to go away, they dare us to complain to the police.

Nowadays we are able to get a good number of customers only on select occasions - like Republic Day, Independence Day, or during political rallies when men come visiting the city for a day or two. However, it is the immediate future that appears more worrisome. The government is bringing in a law that will class our clients as criminals. Who would then come to us? How would we earn? What would become of our children?

There's an MCD school here but I send my boys to the one at Minto Park. G.B. Road is a dangerous place and I don't want them to keep the wrong company while away from my eyes. Teachers are sympathetic and understand our problems. They have promised not to disclose our address to anyone. You see, my boys are always worried about their friends discovering where they live. Babu, my oldest, wants to be a maulana, and Chhotu a lawyer. I try to bring them up well. A tuition master comes in the evening to teach them Maths and English. The rest is up to their kismet.

Money is always a problem. Out of my monthly earnings of Rs 5,000, I spend Rs 1,500 on my children and another 1,000 on new saris and makeup items. The monthly rent of the kotha is Rs 500. I also regularly send a money-order worth Rs 1,500 to my parents in the village. But it becomes difficult to sustain your income as you grow older. Some women manage to save and start a new life outside G.B. Road but I will have to stay on.

It's My Life



We Face Many Problems



Best Friends



No Customers = No Earning



Our Kotha, Our Family



With the Author

103 comments:

Anonymous said...

Real good work,

keep it up....An unusual peek into the life of many whom the society has given no space. Hope this piece will definitely help in sensitising people towards the problems of these helpless women folk called prostitute.

Aliskandar said...

Wow, excellent post! Thanks

Sreekumar said...

Great work on bringing the unheard stories to the attention of people around the world.

Imran said...

Fantastic coverage Mayank!! Ever since I saw on your blog that you are going to cover this topic in Nov.. I have been eagerly waiting to read the article.

Truly commendable effort!! What can we expect next??

Shaheen Sultan Dhanji said...

Mayank,

You captured the 'truth' very well... Keep up the great work you are known for!

Regards,
Shaheen Sultan Dhanji

Anonymous said...

Excellent reporting.

Separately: your photos are terrific. Wish I could see them in a larger size.

dua said...

very gud effort...God Bless.

Anonymous said...

Excellent work man!
The ugly face of our great country!
Why don't u actually publish these in the newspapers!
This can make a difference! :)
Keep it up on the great writing!

Anonymous said...

Dear Friend
You hav done really a good job. Your Article touched heart. It showed the pitiable condition of these women. It also shows the view of society towards them, but we should understand that most of them are forced into it or accept it due to their basic need of life. Hope this will affect other sensitive people in the way by which it has affected me....
Really Really good job......

Rohit Agarwal said...

You write on real social issues, you should go ahead and write letters to the editors of leading newspapers, where you will get more readership and you will be able to make an impact on a larger section of the society

Anonymous said...

MY SCHOOL WAS IN DARYAGANJ BUT I COULD NEVER DARE TO GO TO THIS PLACE EVENTHOUGH I ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW THERE LIFE. U R DOING A GREAT JOB.HELP THEM TO COME INTO MAINSTREAM.

Anonymous said...

HI there, i read thru the tragic life experiences here, But unlike all other readers of this blog, i decided to help u earn more than what u earn at the moment.

Mayank, as u can see at the bottom right of ur blog,there is something called google ads.

Encourage ur readers to visit ur blog daily and click on these ads. Google pays you in cents for all the clicks. U may start earning additional income without selling ur body.

I understand that has been ur journey so far,but one should try to overcome it as well.

To start off,m clickin all the ads here on this blog.

Bonny
Bangalore.

Raju said...

This is a wonderful piece of work. I really touches our herat. It makes us feel the eesence of their severe pain facing throughout their life.
Keep it up!

raj said...

Good work man!
they are the people who prevent many from being criminals. sidelined by society they also need a place in mainstream society.
hope some people will see them in a new light!

shanks said...

good work man, i heartily appreciates this. we must have to take in the notice that the kids of theses people must not be allowed to spoil there lives as there parent does they must be given proper education and care.

Anonymous said...

great work
i think u r such a great who bring
unheard truth to our society

Kartikey said...

Say, this deserves major appreciation and an addition to the bookmarks.
Liked your Delhi Girls post as well and shall read your other posts.

"Someday I shall be,
the scavenger, of life"

Maneesha Jacob said...

Hi..
Read your piece and I thought it was very interesting and beautifully written. I am a DU student and am trying to make a documentary on prostitution. Could you please help me out? You could mail me on maneesha_jacob@hotmail.com. Please do help. I would really appreciate it. And all the best for the future.

kingshuk said...

Liked your way of looking at the things and lives all around.

Simply great.

Reagards
Kingshuk

Anonymous said...

Good work man..
Your work is greatly appreciated....

Anonymous said...

WHEN I VISTED IN THE DARK STREET OF GB ROAD I FOUND THAT DAY OF SEX WORKER IS STARING NOW AND IT IS THE WROST PART OF LIFE THAT AT A TIME AND IN ONE NIGHT PLAYED THE SEX GAME WITH 10 TO 20 PERSON

Anonymous said...

good job..brother

Ravi Manoram said...

Its a nice blog,and the experiences that you have described are wonderful.....I would also like to share my thoughts with the world and I hope you find it equally intriguing ... Good day mate and keep up the good work...
the url of my blog is:

http://ravimanoram.blogspot.com

Naveen Sharma said...

GOOD Wrk Boss KeEp it up...
Try to bring some more Stories abt there LIFE Style..
u really .."IMPRESSED"

pankaj said...

It's Superb work whcih you have done boss it's not easy to show the interest in life like those people u did excellent!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

i am a guy.i only wanted to tell evry guys not to go throuh dalal.an incident is already happend wit me,that dalal tuk me to call girls.those call girls were like aunties.they sntched 1000rs 4m me.so beware.soch samjh ke jao.aur jada paise mat le jao aur cell phone b nhi.

Anonymous said...

what the hell u are trying to show here. You know u can't even help a single women there. If possible just help them not publicise them becoz all the damn people who are reading this post n posting a comment here belongs to the same society. These social animals don't have enough guts to come in front. Ask if even a single guy is ready to marry with a prostitute or can adopt their child.

sorry, but either by creating a blog u can start a site that can help these poor womens

Ravi Aggarwal said...

I was planning to go dere next month but by reading about dere life....i jus cried...but wat we can do for them...we can jus pay...we r nothing but also a sex worker for them....life is really hard n we didnt know...as we r said to be Shareef....but the person go to GB road.....how can be so called Shareef???....

ur work is really gr8....after seeing a indian movie"dil dosti etc" i thought that it was to be fun over dere....but the truth is something else.....which opened my eyes....i will try to promote ur blog n make this truth alive...

may be they get some other work then to be a sex worker......

u done a great job man!!!!

god bless u mayank!!!

regards,
ravi aggarwal

Anonymous said...

HI
I READ UR TRAGIC STORY. IT IS REALLY A TRAGIC EXPERIENCE. I REALLY HELP U GIRL WHEN I CHANCED.I AM SANDEEP SHARMA

adi said...

Life is not easy,
Problems are standing on your every next foot step but you have to fight.I personally think tht prostitutes are helpful to reduse rapes goverment have to modify there lifestyle and help them.

kanikanayan said...

very good,an excellent and touching account.i know that people are not sympathetic towards them.they say that even guys struggle for jobs,so,why take an easy route.i am not supporting those girls who are captivated by glamour and high life and to fulfill these ambitions,become callgirls.i am not even saying that these girls are right...so many people are poor but not everyone is a prostitute.but instead of being judgemental,i would like to say that there could be a move to better their living standards.that prostitution can be banished ever,i don't know.because men will always look for the warmth of their arms and be bored of their wives,but,as least we can respect them.if we can respect the liars,cheats-the politicians,policemen and the bollywood brigade-these people are at least honest about their deeds.anyway,showing anyone any respect doesn't harm us in any way..

Realistic me... said...

Fabulous work there!!!!

M@#!T said...

gud overall

Aman said...

Excellent work done !

Its completely touching.

UjSen said...

An amazing piece of work! Very touching indeed.

Tarun said...

hey its really touching, and on some areas i feel so bad about that. but if i will get any chance to make some changes in it then i will surely do that...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Post...
Keep it up man really good work....

Anonymous said...

Great job dude!! However, those fair complexioned girls in G.B. Road do not belong to Assam. I tried hard to find a single Assamese prostitutes in my numerous visit to G.B. Road. But could not find a single one. They do not even belong to any north eastern states. By the way, that was her version that those girls are from Assam.

Anyways, hats off to you. How did you manage to take pics of them?

ravi said...

WHAT A JOB WHAT A JOB EXCELENT MAYANK THIS IS ANOUTHER FACE OF PEOPLE LIFE I M LEAVING NEAR G.B.ROAD BUT I NEVER THOUGHT.HEADS OF YOU

ravi said...

heads of you

Rajiv said...

Masalaaaaaahhhhh,u r superb,Mayank

;) said...

:)

varun said...

really a good work appriciated but bro have u done something for it .... u have taken a step to go over there and tried to be simpathetic ,,,i guess u have the power on camera and media in broader term ..go and help dem these ppl really need some kinda help from ppl like us!

VARUN 9711911191

Anonymous said...

really a good work appriciated but bro have u done something for it .... u have taken a step to go over there and tried to be simpathetic ,,,i guess u have the power on camera and media in broader term ..go and help dem these ppl really need some kinda help from ppl like us!

VARUN 9711911191

Anonymous said...

really a good work appriciated but bro have u done something for it .... u have taken a step to go over there and tried to be simpathetic ,,,i guess u have the power on camera and media in broader term ..go and help dem these ppl really need some kinda help from ppl like us!

VARUN 9711911191

varun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

GOOD WORK AND GOOD EFFORTS
I REALLY APPRECIATE UR LIVING-MY LIFE IN G.B.ROAD

Anonymous said...

Great work buddy, i have worked for legalisation of prostitution in india. i really feel the gasps of suffocated reality. its good that someone is sensitive towards them as a human.
hats off buddy may god bless you

raj said...

gud very gud guys
keep it up
u r doing really exclient job
ur story tuches ur heart

jam said...

i want to do one work for one she, she is on to khota age18 i met with 7 days continuous my heart touch with her she told me i am not happy at their,somebody sold me, i like that she i want to do the help but i can not power to do this. she is new at their age 17 or maybe looking 18, i like her also,

deepak said...

i m very sad about read their stroy but it is the truth as people of india we should think about them if we want to give them better life we should fight about their rights

ratheesh_3 said...

real nice work!!!!!!!!!

Prateek said...

whatever it was...,it will touch your heart

Rajender Chuahan said...

Totally unbelievable!!!!
They way you present the truth!!

People will see just one side of coin…you have showed them the other one!! Great

Rgds,
Rajender Chauhan
http://rajenderblog.blogspot.com

Amit said...

a great job indeed...certainly they deserve respect which they are void off...
thanx alot...at least my perspective changed for them...

Anonymous said...

what u did was fantastic not because u have click some real pictures but u have touched the inshight out which people wants to know,one more good thing what i like about ur article is that ur article is full of reality rather than masala.i always wanted to be there to shoot a documentary but i always had fear in my heart that if i'll go there,they will snatch my mobile,cash etc.but after reading ur article may be someday i'll paut my step forward.

thanks keep doing good work

Yash said...

Dear all,

This is a great blog to read.

It is unexpected that these many people will comment on this blog. I need your help regarding this. This is regarding someone's life at G.B road who is just 22.

Please contact me at yashpalsingh84@gmail.com

aman said...

awsome dude keep it up........if u need any help from to do any type of work on any topic then mail me at thukral.mann@gmail.com
i will be highly thankful to u ...........

Anonymous said...

great job done.....
u made me change my opinion for these poor women.....I really feel sorry for these women and I hope things get better for them in such a way that they will no longer require to do all these things....

Anonymous said...

HI i went to the but my condom break can you tell me all the women is safe hiv aids infection doctor check every months call me

Anonymous said...

great job , if some body want help them , in terms of money and good or fees for childern , then how he can help them

samar said...

Amazing work! Just one question though? These sex workers are usually not so open about getting photographed I thought, are they?

Anonymous said...

excellent work done buddy!! keep it up!!

Anonymous said...

A comment here from my side

girl's flesh become cheap now a days with free sex every where and college girls and housewives selling body (high class and middle class prostitution) for pocket money.

This is the great civilization we live in.

Joy ho.

Dilip Dwivedi said...

Love you Man!!

Anonymous said...

i just want to cry my friend....

Anonymous said...

certenly this story and pictures excited me to see the realism of the society which over looked.Never unfolded chapter.Good work

Rishabh jain said...

applause for u

Anonymous said...

i am very shock to read this story
these helpless women are facing very big problem n there children also indian govt. have to do some work for them so that there children also get well educated in future they really live very very hard life n we selfish people call them prostitute

Manab said...

Hi Good Job and All the BEST

Azeem said...

keep it up....An unusual peek into the life of many whom the society has given no space. Hope this piece will definitely help in sensitising people towards the problems of these helpless women folk called prostitute.

Azeem said...

Once I went on Khota No. 68 there was a beautiful girl age between 18-19 I sex with her but she told me that she is not Happy for this profession but she had a lot of resposibility on her solders.
but we should think about them how we can relief them

pradeep tyagi said...

really a good starting ,after reading this story i am able to understand the problem of sex workers.and government started some benificial policies for them so that the new generatios able to change their profession...............

Anonymous said...

It is all useless to go there, When went there and finding a shop for food,a dealer told me to come with him,he take me to upstairs in a room, A "madam" comes in he introduce me with her,told she is a madam..And they start looting me, they check all my pockets they found Rs.200 in my pocket, they take it ..and give me Rs.25 back in my pocket..and show me the door...

Anonymous said...

I shall suggest don't ever to go there..they beat me and looted me..

Anonymous said...

hi,what could be done nobody thinks about it.....they or sex workers dont want to do but they have as they dont have option....but our government should think atleast to end this series...............not to repeat the history.... we are sorry...................

ajay said...

hey m really feel srry fr these workers bt wat nxt just feel sry n den k. guyz we hav 2 do sth to stop these n or dis govt. should delicense this profession dere z no need f givin license bcos no women wants to do dis,..guys lets raise our voice to DELICENSE SEX WORKING PROFESSION

with regards,
ajay

rameshh said...

keep it man keeep it up u really done a great job ............. hats off to u

Anonymous said...

Simran Jeet Singh

hello bro we all knows where human will live this will always happen,we can't stop it,because this is the earning of some bodies,but we can take steps to make better there lives.

dining tables said...

I totally understand your post. It is an amazing post. I love all photos that you post. The family looks so happy and they have a good relationship to each other.

Subhash said...

Subhash Vijayran: Read the story. had a really unusual insight of the lives of the the ladies out there. if not financially at least i may be able spare some time, whenever i can to guide the children of the workers in their studies. i will be glad to offer help if asked for. email: "subhashvijayran@yahoo.in"

Anonymous said...

While Mayank's work is appreciated, frankly speaking, he has not told something new or unknown to us.Whether it is G B Road in Delhi, Kamathipura in Mumbai, Sonagachi in Kolkata, Budhwar peth in Pune or red light area in any other part of the country, is the story different? The fact is that the location, georaghically, may be different but conditions of these prostitutes are same everywhere!!!
Prostitution is the world's oldest profession. No country, whether Capitalist, Communist or Socialist and no Government in the world, has, even after boasting the history of 700 hundred years of Democracy, been able to eliminate prostituion from the society!!
In India,before the advent of British, prostitution was a respectable profession and Kings and Sardars and even common folk had encouraged and supported them with bakshish and jagirs and had no inhibitions whatsoever in visiting kothas whenever they felt to be entertained. The Kamasutra poses in our most revered temples were meant to educate people on sexual matters without any shame or guilty feelings and are proof that sex had a place in human life like food had place in his/her livelihood. With British came the laws of puritanism. Sex was to be discussed and done in the dark only.Sex was somthing to be hated. So the hypocracy came. Left to themselves every able bodied person will like to have sex with as many females as he can lay his hands on but he will not admit this biological need openly! So do everything secretly!!. Prostitutes lost the support of Kings, Sardars and Common folk openly but since they wanted them satisfy their urge, they stared visiting them.

Hence their present condition is due to loss of respect for their profession. New Zealand is the only Country which has stunned the world by legalising Prostituion. If their condition is to be improved, Society should compel the Governments to Leagalise Prostituion, Remove Middlemen/women so that the money received from this business goes directly to the concerned sex worker. Should make permanent arrangemnets to check regularly and provide medical assistance to them so that dreaded diseases like AIDS,STDs do not spread in the society. After the women advance in age, they hardly get any customer and any income making their life further miserable. Society should create some old age pension fund, etc. to support these hapless women.

Are we going to do it?

-bkg

Gaurav said...

hi this is Gaurav as diff ppl have diff opinions and perceptions and a diff way to express their ideas or beliefs i would rather like to go with the lad posting the last comment " bkg " anonymous
hey brother u r very true
v need to come out of shackels with this approach and we'll see that ours,theirs,others and infact everybodys life will b easy.

garry maan said...

good dear
good job
by doing so you can show the people of India about the sentimentations of female of GB road

Anonymous said...

GOOD Wrk Boss KeEp it up...
Try to bring some more Stories abt there LIFE Style..
u really .."IMPRESSED"

Anonymous said...

Totally brilliant and fantastic article..

Anonymous said...

Hi, just read that and what a sweetheart she is. Just taking the situation she faced and dealing with it.

There was no protest, no desire - apart from sparing her customers criminalisation. I can't think of a more private or personel transaction, what has it possibly got to do with anyone else?

The people who make these laws are rich - rich with complaint.

Tony UK

Anonymous said...

Hi, just read that and what a sweetheart she is. Just taking the situation she faced and dealing with it.

There was no protest, no desire - apart from sparing her customers criminalisation. I can't think of a more private or personel transaction, what has it possibly got to do with anyone else?

The people who make these laws are rich - rich with complaint.

Tony UK

IITian said...

Nice way to bring the inner facts to the society doors. We sympathize with the prostis and hope govt. do the same and legalise their job...

PROSTITUTION MUST BE LEGALISED

Rishabhkjha92 said...

god bless these people ..........
i want to say these people are as equal as the child labours,as the old parents who have been thrown away by their children,as those begars who wants to eat something for which they beg people in front of the people
. We shold help these people , i don't know whether there is any charity organization ornot for this but if there is not then there must be.

Arpan Kumar Kulshrestha said...

Well dojne mayank...nice biography....

Anonymous said...

Hi,
Thanks for your courageous effort and bringing forth a unmuzzled real picture.
However, I am new to the city of Delhi and happened to watch the movie "Taken" very recently, though I understand fiction can be overtly exaggerating however there must be a more muddling picture to than this "accepted" phase of the people trapped here. maybe thats what needs to be unearthed and stopped. Well as of Now Delhi will continue to be a nightmare for me.

arju said...

really mayank u have did a great job which i tried 2 years back and failed at gundalpett,mysore
my best wishes 4 ur future
ARJUN

Anonymous said...

it breks my heart down when i think that i was also the one who was thinking of a joyous nite with such people.

RAJZ ARENA said...

Hi there Mayank!!! A very touching post dear. I went there in may, 2010 at the number 64, and i was beaten by a cop, was bleeding from my lower legs and thighs. It was then i came to understand the pain of these women. Keep it up!!!!

Balwant Singh said...

Great Job and keep it up and make them aware and bring it to the Govt. notice so that something can be done........

Balwant Singh said...

Great Job plz keep it up and let it come it the notice of every people so that something can be done for them...

Aman said...

its a bad thing that our country doesn't do anything for this kind of thing and don't worry if yet life is not easy then how we call this the life cycle .... there is sometimes happy and sometimes sad ... and sometimes so much struggle and sometimes so much enjoy so you are doing a really a good work.

Anonymous said...

Incredible job dear, hat's off to you for this

maahi said...

there is nothing to say.....i wanna give my time to such type of social work from my busy life..... realy appriciating work mr.mayank

Anirban Choudhury said...

I have visited red light area in delhi and in kolkata.... had conversations with them... i read ur post and can only say whatever u felt after the experience ... i can surely bet they are not the rotten part of our society... I really respect ur post.....!! Good Job...

saleem said...

nice..bt very touching.wee shud legalised the prostituition.

saleem said...

nice..bt very touching.wee shud legalised the prostituition.