A day at the Brothel


One night there was a special mail from my dear friend, Pratyush, that read

Would like to invite you to an afternoon of art and fun with kids on Feb 2 (Sat). Pls read on for more details.

Time: 2-5 pm

Location: GB road, Delhi (will meet at New Delhi metro station, 0.5 kms from there)


Our dear sister Gitanjali (she came to the 1st Awakin also) has been engaging with the didis (sex workers) and their kids in Delhi’s red light area on GB road. In terms of project activities in the past 1 year, she has focused on developing tailoring skills among the didis (the ones interested and allowed to come) and also providing an environment for their kids that is conducive to fun and learning. They do quite a bit with the approx. 20 kids now that some more volunteers have joined in (dance, art, school subjects, etc) Its been quite a journey for her and the group, one that we cannot imagine!!! At some point later, hope to hear her story J

Among the various ripples that the group’s fearlessness and determination has generated, one has been that a brothel owner has given them a space for the kids, on the top floor. This ‘play school’ area is at present barren, and can be made more child-friendly! So, we thought of inviting our dear ones over to come and unleash the artist in them! And, of course, spend time with the kids J

At that moment, I did not stop to think about the ‘red light area’ part or the ‘sex workers’ part as I was too consumed in my excitement to get crafty and  to creatively do up a certain space. Never having seen a brothel before, I was quite oblivious to what was in store for me. Saturday morning was all about brainstorming about the possible crafts, making a list, hopping to the closest market and getting down to some pre-preparations. By 1pm, I was all set to go with my box full of craft goodies.

As our car entered GB road, we were taken aback by the sight of the sex workers waving from window grills from above the line of shops on the ground floor. A chill ran down my spine. Just then, Pratyush came in, helped us park and showed us the way to the staircase leading to one of the brothels. The climb to the topmost floor where the children were waiting seemed to take a lifetime. The dark green walls, the women sitting around, the man leaving hurriedly, the claustrophobia had me shivering from top to toe. I was clenching Amber’s hand as tight as a tick!

By the time, I met the kids, I was dumbstruck. So I went about decorating the place and making it look more creative and colourful, all with shivering hands and stammer in my speech. But as time passed, I realised how these children were no different from any other children I’ve ever met. The boys were naughty, smart and proactive while the girls were shy, patient and artistic just like in most homes and neighbourhoods.

Some of the Didis too came upstairs and one of them sat with us to make a beautiful piece of art. They were all pleasant and kind and quite oblidged to see so many of us contributing. But you know what I think? It is us who should be immensely grateful to them for facing the dark side of brutes, the shame of the society and freeing us to enjoy the good life.

I found myself regretting all the times I would have in my mind abused another woman to be a ‘whore’. You see, it isn’t an abuse at all! Whores are women with a profession that earns them a livelihood. They take in their stride, various forms of frustration and desperation, which otherwise maybe you or me would have had to face. Can we not give them a little respect, if nothing else?

If I had stopped to think about the consequences of visiting a brothel, maybe I would have turned down Pratyush’s invitation. But my ignorance dragged me there and I am glad I was able to help make a very small yet significant difference in their lives. Hats off to Gitanjali and her team for being so dedicated in their cause.

Turning a blind eye to such a glaring reality of our society is anything but praiseworthy. Wouldn’t it be a beautiful world if we saw all the diverse aspects of our society, free of judgement, and learnt to give each human being his/her due respect and acceptance.

Yes, it would be!


Valentine’s Day – not so cheesy after all


The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.
-Mother Teresa

I have always had my prejudices about Valentine’s Day. The red roses, the red hearts, the love poems, the teddy bears, the chocolates have all seemed quite cheesy always. This time around too, I was feeling quite wary of all the pre- Valentine’s hype all over Facebook.

What followed was SOS from Google, where I started reading about the origin and the significance of this day. To my rescue came the simplest answer! Valentine comes from the Latin word ‘valor’ which means worthy. Yes, it is a day to show your love to those who are worthy.

This made beautiful sense and I thought why not make the best of this new found meaning and make the day special for someone worthy, who we otherwise do not acknowledge in our busy day to day lives.

Amber liked the idea too and this is who we wanted to share Valentine’s Day with.

Meet Ma’am Sinha – Amber’s English teacher back in school. She was every child’s favourite. She renounced tuition culture and she never let any child’s morale go low. She was such an inspiring and likable person that students loved attending her classes, unlike most other classes which they would not mind bunking.

Ma’am Sinha, a spinster, used to stay with her sister very close to the St. Aloysius School, in Kanpur. Her blissful life soon took a dip, with family problems and the loss of her dear sister. All the emotional turmoil gave Ma’am Sinha a severe paralytic attack. The right side of her body became close to non-functional. And since that terrible attack in 2001, it is her students from all across the world who have been taking care of her right from finding her a nice home, to her food, regular visits to her, spending time with her and several other countless beautiful ways.

When I visited her for the first time, I was amazed by the grace she still carries, the beauty that is so evident in her manner and her words and the genuine love for all her students that seems to have become her life force now.  Soaking in her timeless love and beauty, time just flew by in conversations and soon we had to take our leave.

We returned to Delhi. Weeks passed by and I kept thinking about her from time to time but never got down to writing to her. So on Valentine’s Day, we bought a beautiful diary, penned in our letters to Ma’am Sinha and shipped the gift to one of the students living in Kanpur who could deliver our package.

On Valentine’s Day, we heard from him saying Ma’am Sinha was touched and very happy to see our little gift and she sends us lots of love, which ofcourse made our day very very special.

So Yes! Valentine’s Day is surely all about love and this time around, I felt the love in the air too!