Looking back at how composed, elegant and honest she was, I’m still in complete awe of how easily we conversed. We met in unfamiliar surroundings, something which had bothered me at first; I was quite uncomfortable, to say the least.
However, with the help of a friend who works in an NGO that’s dedicated to relocating human-trafficking victims, I finally got an opportunity to question her about the things that have always nagged me.
What do you feel when you hear about the way this country looks at your profession?
A smile, which I mirror, slowly draws across her lips. “A profession is a job someone has to do. We do not want to do it nor do we care about what the world thinks. Unless you get into a bed with a strange man/woman whom you do not want, you won’t understand what we go through. Everything else is just noise, and there’s always so much noise everywhere. Me and my sisters… we don’t hear it anymore.”
I’m unhindered by the bluntness, I was told to expect this. Clearing my throat, I order two cups of chai and cross my arms. I don’t exactly know how to approach this now.
“So you obviously want to know how it works?” she asks, saving me the trouble of formulating the question. I simply nod.
“It’s very professional, which is why my Madame wanted me to talk with you; to tell everyone how systematic the entire operation is. The men who visit us have to first talk with our Madame. If she finds them suitable, or more precisely, not dangerous, then they are allowed to choose (a girl).
It doesn’t work the same way in every brothel, but these days most of them operate in this manner. So after (and if) he chooses a girl to his liking, he pays in advance. He is told the rules and safety precautions very sternly; there have been cases where the girls were manhandled.”
“When did you start?” I ask her while sipping the chai as it pours heavily.
“I was 19. I’m an orphan and I do not have any major school education. I know basic mathematics, though. A friend from the orphanage introduced me to this profession, and it did not sound so bad back then. I was young and I needed money. I don’t know for what, though; I just knew I wanted to be rich and have my own family”
“What’s your worst experience?” I am ready to move on from the collateral information reaching my ears. Best to keep moving ahead, I figure.
“It was rough at the beginning because I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve had drunk men urinate in the bed, a lot of men cry. I once was with a crazy client who threatened to kill me if I stepped out of the brothel. He wanted to marry me and when he was obviously rejected, he almost attacked my Madame. They took him away and no one has ever seen him again at this brothel.”
The chai cup in my hand suddenly feels cold. I’m trying hard to gulp, feeling like an asphyxiating fish.
“Look, everyone knows that this is a dangerous profession. We are just our bodies, we’ve been trained to leave our brains outside the door. Right at the start, we’re told not be afraid of men, to intimidate them, for our own safety. That’s why the world sees us as angry and volatile women. It’s our defence.”
“What would you like me to tell everyone who reads this?” I think I’ve heard enough, more probing would get her in trouble. She advised me not to ask too many personal questions about her profession, it was dangerous for everyone involved.
“What my sisters would say- “You pay us, we give you service. But we’re still humans, just like you office-going folk. If you don’t feel shame in coming to us, why do you want us to feel shame for what we do? Learn to treat your wives better instead of trying to change our world; we’re doing just fine. We have protection and some good samaritans (referring to the NGO) who look after us.
Make my profession legal, it’ll be better for everyone. Also, the next time you see a prostitute, think about what’s happening in her life. It’s not like a Salman Khan movie, it’s very real. Treat us with respect, and then leave us alone. This is our choice of life.”