Sunday, March 15, 2009

Prostitutes and People

Remember Peela house in Slumdog Millionaire where Ringa song is picturised. As part of our field trip, we were taken to chor bazaar, elephanta cave and peela house (its actually a street with 2-3 floor dingy houses without any doors- only curtains). It is one of the many lanes in mumbai which is called "red-light area" or the place where you can pick up prostitutes.
We reached there at around 7:30 pm - the business begins at around that time. We were not allowed to click pics on the street. Initially when we entered the street, it just looked like normal street with various shop. What stood out were chain of theatres, each of different color and each showing really old movies like tridev. There was a suspicious looking video game parlour too. But then when we moved in we saw girls - ostentatiously dressed, with the brightest of lipsticks - standing as if they were waiting.
As we moved inward into the street, their numbers increased - and so did their variety. There were extremely young ones in their teens to middle aged women. Some smiling, some terse in their expressions. Some wore indian dresses like salwar suits. Some wore western. Some wore two piece (Indian or western) showing off their bellies. And some dressed in a proper saree, in 40s looking somber, without any makeup - one of those ladies you might find buying vegetables in a market - and unless you saw them standing in a waiting pose, you wouldn't have recognized that they were one of them.
One of my classmates was literally grabbed by one of them and the poor boy was so scared that in rest of the walk he was grabbing one of us for protection. One of us was not of Indian nation and he was attracting special glares from everyone (maybe he seemed loaded). The market in this lane was catering to lower middle class and hence the prices were really low - around 800 rupees (16$).
Most of the class guys were making fun of them, when they came back. Some said well maybe the circumstances that got them into this might be different but now they are doing it with their own choice so why be sympathetic.
One of my classmates asked how I felt when I looked at them. When I was walking past them, I was seeing them at the distance, totally avoiding looking at them - just whatever I could capture from the corner of my eyes. I was feeling ashamed that in that street I was going for no reason but was being like a "tourist". I didn't know what they would be thinking looking at me? Do they compare notes with women like me who were circumstantially not forced to resort to something that would put them on a street every night - displaying their best - hoping to get a customer - enough money to go on till the next night. Regardless of whether they enjoyed or hated their profession, what was transpiring in their head at that time?

I remember getting real scared before my MSFT interview, or before screening of my foundation film in front of my faculty. I found it extremely difficult to be judged. I always hate it. I hate my "working with actors" acting classes because the aim of the class is to make directors realize how difficult it is to act- or difficult it is to be judged for your personality. I remember giving presentations of my work and not being able to eat because I was so scared before it. But once I had to give it everyday, I had some confidence. I knew my strong points, my weak points. But just before a presentation, a few minutes before, with a room full of people, me watching them - about to begin, were the thoughts in my head same as theirs.

In a steady state, how different is their job from mine except that the society has trained us to moralistically disagree with them? Maybe because people enter the Peela house only when the discipline of the society ceases to work for them.


arati kadav said...

Prostitution is the oldest profession in the world. A measure of civilzed scoiety is the amount of respect a prostitute gets. India had it a long time ago, sadly we are losing it now- Saurabh

Samarth said...

Circumstances got them there thats the reason we need to be sympathetic. Its very difficult for someone to start a fresh life after being a prostitute. Most of these women are uneducated and sometime very young when initiated to prostitution. There is no way for them to come out of this. They staying there means that they dont have a choice and that they have accepted their fate (sigh .)... Wish there was a Ctrl+Alt+Del key for life ...

Megha said...

How different is a prostitutes profession from a woman in skimpy clothes selling a motorcycle, shaving gel or a packet of tic-tacs? Same people who look down upon women in the red light area will gloss through magazines with high profile lingerie models. Its a dubious society. Objectification of women has reached such limits that unknowingly we are partly responsible for allowing this ghastly distinction. A prostitute is cringe worthy but a designer bikini model is high fashion. Both have their place. Like all of us, they do what they need to do to lead a good life. They need no sympathy but open minded acceptance.

Estranged ! said...

I know I am too late to read this post. But has anyone seen the documentary "Born Into Brothels" ?

If not, please do watch it, at least once.

IMDB link for your reference (