Kolkatta and Red Street; behind the scenes

Prasad Amore  (Psychologist, Lakshmi Hospital Aroor)

Kolkata itself has its own unique style; the old yellow Ambassador taxicabs, tramways, the peeling paint on crumbling colonial architecture, hand –pulled rickshaw drivers everywhere. There are a tremendous amount of stray dogs, loud horns and homeless people on the streets reminded you of a feeling of lost past. The poverty on show has been particularly noticeable, with many either destitute or living in unbelievable squalor. Even after the communist party ruled the state about 34 year’s period, it seemed like the poorest and dirtiest city in India.

I saw,with each person, picking through the trash outside glitzy shopping malls, a little more of your heart started to break. The chai served on the streets of Kolkata are supposed to be the best in India. Seen very busy street vendors everywhere sell their things with craving and in the dusk many of these homeless people get solace at Sonagachi , red street in Kolkata.

The first thing I noticed about Sonagachi was its immensity. Sex workers in drag were huddling up, laughing and conversing. Brothels extended in every direction block after block. The area was a vast expanse of lanes, houses, shops and of course, sex workers. You would see a sex worker walking around, soliciting from ground floor doorways, looking down from upper level balconies or windows, or standing in groups along the street. If you happened to peer through one of the open doorways on the ground floor of a brothel, you could see a woman standing at the end of a dark corridor, looking out at the street from within the shadows. There were women from different regions in and around India-of all ages, shapes, sizes. In some cases, they seemed to be grouped together in to such categories as well.

I had to be careful because it is common for pimps and sex workers to seduce outsiders and for the latter to try and grab and pull in to their rooms.

I was a little confused because I did not see any buildings resembling brothels, or any of the twelve thousand sex workers that were supposedly doing business here. I got out and walked about twenty yards and turned left onto a narrow lane that intersects the main road. Just in front of us were women sitting in arrow near the end of the lane wearing bright lipstick and t-shirts with skirts. Women there seemed to be standing around in groups or sitting like the others. Then I walked into a small square from which other lanes, gullies, and allies going off in different directions. I had entered through but one of countless entrances into the red street area.

Sex trade in songachi is at dampened due to the virtual sex market is teeming with alternatives. An online search throws up web links to many escort services With the option to meet the woman of one’s choice at a hotel or flat. Now specialist websites and apps are allowing information to flow between buyer and seller, making it easier to strike mutually satisfactory deals. The sex trade is becoming easier to enter to work in India, even though India where prostitution and its facilitation are illegal everywhere. The internet is making it easier to work flexible hours and to forgo a middleman.

I met Anjali(the name has been changed) at the red light area nearby Kalighat temple.She was married off as a young teenager ,her husband allowed his Bengali babu to molest her for money. Anjali then became rich Bengali’s sex slave, the abuse worsened and beatings were added.Anjali fled to Kolkata,later she had to come to Kalighat temple red light area. She guided me to New Light NGO office there at Kalighat red light area. This is a place of low crumbling building and crammed lanes, hung with drying sheets and saris. Broader streets ring loud with hawkers, blaring music, and honking horns.

I walk down the damp passage, past women sitting on curbs tones, alongside windowless rooms the width of one narrow bed, around mangy dogs nothing garbage, avoiding the splash from a man bucket–bathing against the wall. I step over a used condom lying next to a pale stalk of potatoes. I saw a fat woman pushes one enormous breast back under her threadbare sari. In a narrow courtyard, chickens scratch under the rope bed where a body lies curled in a red blanket, nothing visible but a head of tousled grey hair. A few people cluster together, talking loudly. This was the scene of the red light area , nearby Kalighat Temple.

I saw somewhere there Nepali victims of human trafficking. Most of the girls there have been trafficked, sold for a one thousand Indian currency or kidnapped off a village street like Pasupathy nagar in Nepal.

Before leaving from there , Anjali asked:
“Can I give you a cup of chai. I am HIV positive”.
After we have shared chai and talked ourselves into silence.

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