Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ladies of the night

Prostitution, the oldest profession in the world. I wonder sometimes what makes a woman decide to sell her body. To get into a stranger's car or a hotel room for money. I've never spoken to one but somehow each time I've seen one I looked at them with wide eyes wondering what their life must be like. I didn't feel disgust instead a sense of curiosity and sadness. I still remember when I was in college and my friend and I wanted to make a film about an area known for prostitutes in Ahmedabad. Of course the idea was rejected as being too dangerous and we were both disappointed but got over it soon enough as young people get over things. The first time I met a prostitute was in Bombay. Actually it was a male prostitute, a gigolo. I was doing my internship at a production house in Bombay and I was 21 years old. The same friend was also interning at a production house and she was asked to round up some European looking people for a shoot. So off she went to Mondegar and got a few people. She got friendly with this hunky guy and we decided to go for a drink. So there we were at a nightclub dancing and drinking. The man who's name was Carlos I think, definitely an Italian paid for our drinks and we parted late at night. The next day my friend told me with much glee,"You know he's a gigolo!" I'm sure my mouth hung open. Apparently he came to India for a few months and pleased ladies with big purses, made his money and then went back to Italy to spend time at leisure. Apparently he had a set of regular clients in Bombay and business was good!

The second time was a very different experience. I was married by then. My husband, brother in law Mukul and I went to this famous biryani place. The biryani was taking some time to be packed and Mukul happened to mention that Kamathipura was the lane right in front of us. I still remember I was dressed in a pristine white churidaar and kurta. I begged Mukul to take me for a walk in the lane. So he relented and we walked together. There were women dressed in tight revealing clothes lining up the lane on both sides. Some of them looked at me with a sardonic smile. I stood out like a sore thumb in my white garb. I will never forget the experience of walking through that lane, most of all I will never forget the smell. It was like molasses in the air. It was not a stench but it was an overwhelming smell of what could only be sex. I remember children's voices and slow murmurings of women. I couldn't stay for very long and begged to return as that air seemed to stifle me. I felt sad. There was nothing I could do for them. But did they even want my help even if I wanted to give it. I don't know. I never could gather the courage to speak to any of them. I simply fled.

I moved to Dubai and was once at a new year party at a hotel. The music was loud and I escaped often to the lobby for some silence. One such time I got into the lift to go down to the lobby and two statuesque women got in. They were absolutely beautiful, smelled like expensive perfume and their perfect figures were dressed in sexy black dresses. I was mesmerised by their sheer beauty as they towered over me being at least six feet tall. The lift doors opened and they got out in the lobby. I sat opposite them at a distance and pretended to fiddle with my phone. Two men walked in to the lobby and the four of them whispered to each other. The men moved away and talked and then returned to the women. Negotiations ensued and finally all four of them left together. Again I was left with a feeling of sadness that so much beauty existed only to be sold for an agreed price.

Another time Anshuman and I were walking in bur Dubai going for dinner when we passed a hotel well known for prostitutes. I saw them lined up. All of them wore something shiny, blingy to distinguish them as ladies of the night. A few men were around haggling with them. I was again mesmerised by the scene and my husband walked ahead and for a while I was walking alone. Suddenly I noticed a man walking towards me looking at me glaringly. I covered my head  and face with a dupatta and ran to Anshuman and held his hand tightly till we crossed that road. Anshuman was a bit surprised to see me swaddled that way but put an arm around me and we walked away.

I once wrote an article about a shelter for abused women in Dubai and a lot of these woman are victims of  sex trafficking. I was very busy and didn't actually go to the shelter. I should go and be useful. May be I can make a difference. Now I'm wondering what was it that made me think of these women to day and now I think it was this song that was playing in the car by Bruce Springsteen called Secret Garden which my husband believes is clearly talking about a prostitute. "There's a secret garden she hides" may be he means to say that a woman will give you her body, her heart for a price but you cannot buy her humanity. You cannot buy her soul. I feel differently about the song. I don't think it's about a prostitute. I think it's about a woman who gives a man everything he wants, each and every part of herself and yet he can never own her completely. There will always be a part of her that he cannot touch.

Secret Garden by Bruce Springsteen

She'll let you in her house
If you come knockin' late at night
She'll let you in her mouth
If the words you say are right
If you pay the price
She'll let you deep inside
But there's a secret garden she hides
She'll let you in her car
To go drivin' 'round
She'll let you into the parts of herself
That'll bring you down
She'll let you in her heart
If you got a hammer and a vise
But into her secret garden, don't think twice

You've gone a million miles
How far'd you get
To that place where you can't remember
And you can't forget

She'll lead you down a path
There'll be tenderness in the air
She'll let you come just far enough
So you know she's really there
Then she'll look at you and smile
And her eyes will say
She's got a secret garden
Where everything you want
Where everything you need
Will always stay
A million miles away

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