I was out shopping last Saturday.
I’m off to Bangalore this weekend with the twins for a two-week vacation to meet the parents and siblings. Aapa and her kids are coming along too. Needless to say, I’m frantically shopping at the last minute to grab goodies for the people back home. This time, I thought of gifting stuff other than clothes (which, given the high tastes of Bags and Bhabi, were bound to be rejected ). So I bought a deck-chair swing for Baby SA and handbags for Bags and Bhabhi. For Mom,Aapa and her kids, I stuck to clothes. Aapa likes everything I get for her. She’s such a darling . I haven’t had the chance to shop at leisure as I wanted to, given the work in office and at home, but I had a few hours to spare on Saturday and so made the best use of them
Anyhow, there I was, in the peak of summer, driving under the blazing heat, getting lost in the heart of the city. It was the heat I guess, that made me take a wrong turn (I was relying on intuition to lead me out from the labyrinth lanes of Old Pune) and drive right into the city’s Red light Area.
It took me a few seconds to realize why this particular area was so crowded. It took some more seconds to realize that I was being hooted at. Some even called out rude names to me. A quick look around confirmed my suspicion. I was in the wrong territory. For a second, I was almost tempted to send out my apologies, but the very next , I raced as fast as I could from that place.
I’ve never been in such an area before, and now that I have, I’ll confess that I’ve never ever felt the sense of foreboding, of fear, of stifling restlessness as I felt there in those few seconds. Once I was back on the main road, I was shocked to realize that I was actually gasping for breath. That, when I was driving!!! Hadn’t realized that for those few seconds back there, I’d been holding my breath, my heart thudding loudly somewhere in the vicinity of my throat.
Why did I react like that??
Its not as if some mean pimp would throw a rug over a plump thirty plus lady and drag her into the flesh trade! Then what did I fear?
Frankly, I have no idea.
I’ve seen social workers on television, who frequent such places to educate the girls, letting them know the importance of sending their young ones to schools. I never gave much thought to those social workers. At least, not until now. Now, I know the amount of effort it would take to walk through those bylanes, passing by women with gaudy make-up and sleepy eyes . Women as old as the aunt next-door or sometimes, as young as the maid’s daughter who drops by for work when her mother falls ill.
I saw a couple of girls in jeans and T-shirts walking by. They looked so normal, so regular, that it would be easy to mistake them for college students. Its only when they called out to the men passing by that I found out that they were masters of another study!! When did these girls get into this trade? Why did they?
I’m sure they are victims of circumstances. There are regular news reports of girls being brought to the city and sold to the brothels here. There are plenty of North-East Indian girls here, probably kidnapped and sold, long lost from their families and loved ones. I wonder who cares for them now.
I also wonder at the kind of job which makes young women brave the summer heat to stand out on the roads, calling out to prospective clients (is that the right word here?) , dressed awfully (usually in their night-gowns) but loaded with make-up. All of them standing together in a row like dominoes. I wonder what goes through the mind of a client when he sees this assembly line of sun-toughened booty . I wonder what these women do in their free time (IF they have some free time). I wonder if they ever think of leaving this trade behind. I wonder if they know of a life beyond those lanes. I wonder how it feels to conceive a child and not know who the father is. I wonder at the kind of life’s lessons that kid gets to learn. How do they cope?
Clearly, I’ve been think way too much about those women these days. And all because I ventured into their territory by mistake.
And as usual, I’m stumped at the extent to which I’m clueless about life and people. There is SO much to learn. Our sheltered and cocooned life gives us very little opportunity to see the lives of others from their point of view. I’m truly humbled. Allah has been highly benevolent on me and my kin. For that alone, I can bow my head a thousand times and offer prayers of gratitude. Ameen.