I was driving to a place few kilometers away from the center of the city. As I was nearing my destination, the view outside started to change. It was a part of the main city yet so different in its ambiance. Slowly but surely my surroundings turned untidy and unorganized, it was ugly actually.
All of a sudden zillions of questions popped inside my head. I never really mulled over these questions before coming to this home. My parents also had no objections neither they showed any hesitation. On the surface, I was confident and objective.
I finally reached inside the building. It was narrow, dingy, and grey. I parked my bike and moved towards the stairway. That’s when I noticed that I was subjected to a lot of desecrated stares. I was entering inside the building for children of Commercial Sex Workers (HOME).
“What if I get into trouble?” I said to myself, “What will I do if those strange men follow me? Do they think that I am one of them?” I shook my head, mustered courage and walked inside the building. Those men were strange in appearance but since when did appearance start defining our characters, I couldn’t recall. I decided not to judge anyone and that helped me to regain my calm.
A woman with a gleeful countenance appeared and she offered to help me. I told her that I was looking for a certain ‘Jayamma’ who was supposed to give me details for my work. I walked up another floor to meet Jayamma. She looked like a typical woman next door. A bunch of keys in her hand and a convincing tone in her voice was more than enough to comprehend who the boss there was.
Our conversation started with the story of HOME, which led them to the founding of the ‘Chaitanya Mahila Mandal (CMM)’. And what followed next was the story of thousands of women and children, which sadly exists in the same India which claims a staggering growth rate of 9%, yet fails to provide them a life of respect and dignity.
They had categorized sex workers into four different types. “There are some who get into it thinking its hereditary, some who get into to as their husbands play middle men, a lot of them also get into it because of their vulnerability, financial situation etc. And such poor women are often misunderstood for the ones who get in for sexual satisfaction and money. Their children need a healthy environment like everyone else and that defines the need and importance of such homes.”
Hatred, physical pain, and mental torture are an integral part of their lives. From a law abiding citizen to a law enforcing policeman, everybody looks down upon them. “One of my staff members had gone to lodge a complaint in the Police Station about a man who misbehaved with her. She was raped then and there by the top boss” said Jayamma in an angry and disgusted tone.
An old lady walked in and gave me their organization’s booklet.
Jayamma narrated old lady’s story to me. She was picked up by a middle-man when she was 14 and stayed in a brothel for 35 years and started working with them later, in 1999.
I was in an absolute state of shock when I thought about her. Life is cruel sometimes. Prostitution is bad; everyone knows that yet it has remained a perpetual part of our society.
It is the spirit to live that makes all humans equal. Jayamma carried it in abundance. She was forced into prostitution by her drug addict husband for money. She was physically tortured and abused. She escaped and decided that other women should not go through the same troubles as she did. She started CMM, the first Community Based Organization for Sex workers and inspired a lot of women. For her extraordinary work, she was awarded the ‘Naveena Mahila Award ‘by TV 9. She volunteers for the National Women and Child Welfare department.
With optimism, courage and true spirit, she achieved what a lot of women don’t.
“What CSWs need is not sympathy, looking at them from a different perspective and open mind is what is required. We see the world as a bright place where we are not allowed. This shouldn’t be the case”, says Jayamma.
True that, when sitting in an unlit room, you can see the bright world in the open, but you are still in dark. When you look inside an unlit room from the bright world, it looks dark.
An hour later, when I walked out of the ‘dark room’, I could look back and see light in it and in my own mind.
I couldn’t judge them on what they do for their daily bread, not anymore.
Writer is a student at SIMC