An unlikely refuge

Brothels: a place I despised and condemned in my heart. When I began to visit GB road, Delhi’s only red light area once a week it became more familiar and felt more comfortable. I was less cynical and more open to people around. As I drank too-sweet-tea served in plastic cups with the ladies who were now friends I keenly observed their world. Once I was helping a lady put henna on her hair (the ladies use cheap cosmetics and beauty products but they do try to maintain their looks.) it was her turn to go on business. Business is usually done in a small prison like dark room, and locked from outside by other ladies until it’s done. After she left I turned to another lady who was cooking  mix veg over a kerosene stove. This was one of my favorite thing to do – to watch them cook. Often, I would come home inspired to cook the same recipe and it would turn out really good. Minutes later, the lady with henna comes out of the business room, throws the safety thingy in a dustbin, and washes off her hands with soap and joins us in the conversation. She had only sat down with us, a thin under-nourished boy comes asking for his cut. The lady fishes out a hundred rupee note from under her bra and hands it to him with a gaali (abuse) and scolds him for catching a stingy customer.

During summer, I would often sit with them under the fan drinking soda and talking about random stuff. Their favorite topic was – when I would get married. A girl should find a husband or else her future is bleak, they told me. It’s not easy for a girl you know, they said. The summer heat also kept all their customers away so the business was low and they looked bored having nothing much to do. At the sound of foot steps climbing up the stair case, an active conversation would come to a sudden halt only to realize that it wasn’t a customer coming but a vendor selling fruits. An old fruit seller, I had seen him around many times. He must have looked like Hugh Jackman in his glorious days. His strong jaws, tall stature and thin skin wrinkled in countless folds over his face, it was obvious he was a good looking jaat even at his sixties. He wrapped a white pagdi (scarf) around his head, and upon it rested a round basket of fruits covered with a transparent white fabric. I was curious how he would treat the ladies and how he would be treated in return. Surprisingly, there was mutual respect and no one crossed their limit, except for few younger ladies who tried to tease the old man and he never responded to their tease and minded his own business. The ladies would quickly choose their choice of fruits, and the old man would take out his sharp knife, peal and cut the fruit on a piece of newspaper, sprinkle chat masala over it and serve. One day, I heard a lady ask the old man if he knew any remedy to get rid of the fetus. The old man replied in low voice with a very helpful, fatherly tone that eating raw papaya can cause natural miscarriage. And the lady asked him to get some raw papaya when he came next. He agreed, picked his basket, balanced it over his head and went on selling fruits to other rooms.

Two ladies who shared a more private room on the top most floor were the funniest. One evening they demanded for pakoras and they ordered for tea. A small boy in shorts, holding 4 glasses of tea safely tucked in a wire holder came in. As he finished giving everyone a glass of chai the ladies poked fun at him. Will you marry one of us, they asked. The boy stood shy twisting his body, mostly looking down. I felt curious to know more about the boy. He worked for a tea stall owner. His father sent him from Bihar to work and earn some money. He must be about 10 or 12 years old. He lives with his boss and is often beaten up and forced to overwork. On another day I had seen him crying and complaining about someone who had hit him and a lady was consoling him and telling him to stay away from troublemakers. It was a picture of one hurting person  consoling another hurting person.

As I began to know everyone here closely, like a 70 year old man who had made a small bed near the staircase and ran errands for the ladies who in return paid him in small amounts so that he can buy his meal, I couldn’t despise the place with the same intensity as I did before coming to this place. Hundreds of poor, handicapped and old people live on the generous giving of the ladies here. The poor and starving come here for refuge. And the women here provide them a living with the same money that they earn from selling their bodies.

Next, I will write about how I had heard about this one place where younger and more beautiful girls were kept. Only younger and richer customers were allowed there.

You can read more on GB road in my other posts as well.


GB Road – Intro

IMG_2934Much is written and talked about the forbidden and infamous red light area of Delhi, GB road. But nothing like coming up-close personally. The first time I had glimpses of this road was while going through the stock footage at work. The footage was obviously shot by a scared crew as they never got down from the car. All you could see was passing shots from a car and a fully zoomed in shots of windows where you could only see hazy figures. It definitely failed to capture the oversized figures wrapped in colorful costumes, faces with loud make up, abusive voices hurled into none in particular and endless laughter, the kind that can raise the hair of your skin. But the footage did well capture the street life. Lanky, thin, hunched, dirty haired young men chewing paan-masala walking by. Shopkeepers, vendors selling fruits, riksha drivers, laborers, chai boys and an old man dumped in one corner with no sign of life. I had read a lot about the narrow staircases, about 20 of them that lead up to the brothels.Did they really exist?

Months later I had a chance to visit GB Road through a friend and her NGO. Instantly, I knew I wasn’t dressed appropriately. Not that I wasn’t dressed modestly but I felt the need to cover myself more. At once, dozens of eyes were ogling at me. And those narrow staircases do really exist. Never seen steeper steps than those. We climbed up one and were greeted by many sets of smiling lips but sad eyes. Some of the ladies prefer to sit at the door steps and look down as if one was sitting in the balcony and looking at a great view outside. Their view was only a steep tunnel and men walking by the street. When men look up, the ladies take their chance to invite them in.

I met few of them personally and got to know them better over a time. I ate lunches, drank teas and sodas with them on many occasions. I shared a great deal about my personal life and listened to their stories as well. Initially I knew they weren’t telling me the whole truth. Everyone had the same story, a standard and believable story they have sold to a horde of journalists and newspapers. But over months they did open up.

Perhaps, I can help them share their stories not the way we read them in journals written by professionals and designed to move the public with pity but the way the ladies told me, where they are the heroes of their story and have overcome difficulties with tremendous grace and strength. They deserve tremendous amount of respect from us.

To read more about GB road, look for GB road tag or type ‘GB road’ in the search located at the right hand side of the homepage.

Let God speak to you

DSC04071This morning I was reading from Galatians. In chapter 1:11-12, Paul is defending the gospel of Jesus Christ, ” For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ”. Just before these verses he talks about how he would never please men or else he wouldn’t be bondservant of Christ.

We would walk in a lot more wider spaces with joy if we bothered more about pleasing God then the immediate godlike figures around us. I spent almost my entire christian life depending on the revelations passed down to me by other faithful and zealous believers (Bless them Lord). Because it gives me leniency to blame somebody if something didn’t work out at the end.  Believe me, there is nothing more windy and uprooting experience than this. Soon, I realized there is something personal, foundational and powerful in receiving direction, insights, hope, word of encouragement etc directly from our private time with God. It means that we desire to know God without somebody giving us motivational talks,  reading the Bible as a letter from God, and always coming to God in prayer. It requires us to slog a bit more harder but it’s worth the effort.

Paul was not the only special man in history to move in anointing of God. We too can move in amazing zeal, wisdom, anointing, healing and insight. I know it’s hard to believe, but it is true and we must believe this.

In an effort to please men I would behave exactly the way I am expected to behave, at least when I am around them. Sing the same song that’s popular and affirmed. Now I feel it’s like building our home on sand. It’s like floating above the water and never knowing the deep. If we don’t have solid moments with God where we experience His confrontation, love and acceptance we can easily be uprooted. God does use people to connect us with Himself, I am not denying that I am saying there is beauty and power in connecting to God privately. It really helps us to be rooted in our relationship with God.

May I encourage you to start an intimate conversation with God everyday and ask Him to speak to you. Let him speak into your life, your work,  family, and circumstances. There is nothing else that will keep you solid in God than these moments and experiences with God.

Now, please don’t chuck out those nice books, dvds or people you listen to… they are additional resources to fuel your faith in God. 🙂