Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Golden Tree … ‘Sonagachi’

“Oye chalta kya’… “Ek baar dekh toh lo sir…Dekhne ka koi paisa nahi hai”… “Idhar Dekh Idhar’…

This is how Sex Workers of Sonagachi welcomes you…as you walk though those narrow alleys, thousands of females standing facing each-other, leaving little walking space for customer…trying there best to lure customer, behind them you will see small ‘apartments’ and corner stores form a confusing maze...these buildings lean into the street, the roads are crowded with customers of all strata from rickshaw puller to office goers to first timers who are barely in their teens. You will find touts with there belly about to fall from their body all around the place making sure that customers are not leaving there Kotha unattended.

Moment you enter Sonagachi you will see more than 10,000 women’s standing on the road side calling you from the roof top…waving you from the window and as you walk deeper in to the place you will see countless women close by you, barely dressed, with bold make up, Red lipstick, short skirt, long heels sandal, some are smoking some are smiling at you…some of them might pull your cheek, hold your collar, might even hug you…the sight is unbelievable. No man would want to see this side of women.

Sex in Sonagachi can be had for as little as 10 Rupees and as expensive as 10,000, you can choose to have it in a small dingy, unhygienic room or you can even have it with all the luxuries from Air-Condition to expensive liquor and soft bed.

Scars on the faces of most of the women’s are clearly visible and if you see properly you can also find lines on the arms, old cuts and I even saw faces of many women’s were battered. These scars and cuts narrate the horrifying tale of torture that each woman has gone through in Sonagachi while they were trafficked from Nepal, Bangladesh, Jharkhand and Bihar…

My thirst to expose the network of Trafficking of Underage girls brought to this sin city…I was chasing my advance team who were moving inside Sonagachi along with one male and female pimp, these Delhi based pimps promised my team to show some underage virgin girls who we will capture in our handy cam to show our fictitious NRI boss sitting in Delhi and if he likes any one of these minor virgins…then selected girl will be trafficked from Kolkata to Delhi by these pimps…

But after witnessing such unbelievable sight, i was shattered and was full of regrets that why did I come to this place?

Countless thoughts were going in my mind while I was chasing my team, I was physically present in those narrow lanes but mentally I was trying to answer countless questions that were coming to mind after seeing such a painful sight and suddenly I realized that I had lost track of my team and found myself standing right in the middle road but It was too late as I had no idea which room my team entered and without giving second thought I rushed back to main road where my cameraman was waiting for me…

Suddenly somebody pulled my hand and trying to pull me inside those dingy apartment, I was scared and had no idea how to stop her…she was smiling and was talking in Bengali, suddenly something stuck to my mind and I told her that I just had it…! and I am not in a mood to go for second one…she instantly loosened her grip with smile on her face and asked for a cigarette, which I gave…I had to travel quite a distance before i reach my cab, but now I knew what to tell if caught.

Moment i reached my car, i narrated whole story to my cameraman…

I told my cameraman that we have to go again to the same location in hunt of our team members and this time i told him that he has to accompany me…he smiled and accepted my offer. He got down from the car, combed his hair, tucked his shirt properly, I could see bait is getting ready to get slaughtered in the butcher market, and I was right moment we reached that spot, girls started pulling his cheek, trying to kiss him, he was surrounded by the touts in blue Lungi…some how we managed to escape but could not find our team members.

Few hours later my advance team came back with smile of success on their face…after all job of Journalist is chase story not emotion. They came sat in the car and for couple of hours there was pin drop silence in the car…every one was in a state of shock, and with lots of question in their mind.

One of my team member told me that Melinda Gates, the wife of the world’s richest man, has been to Sonagachi and she left 200 Million $US in India to fight AIDS…I smiled and said Melinda Gates thinks that India’s pop stars and cricket players will change the nation’s perception on HIV but i guess she is wrong.

I know the fight for the women of Sonagachi will continue and so does the trade of new girls to the area. No one has yet suggested going after the clients, the pimps or the police.
Few days after this trip story went On-Air, and people liked it, but most of us have no idea of the pain which these girls hide underneath their smiles…

Can we really do something?


devika said...

I respect the professional in you for keeping the story unbiased while coving it.
I paused after reading what you wrote, I dont know how to compliment a stiuation like this...the act of you surviving it or knowing none there would.
I was listening to a Dylan song when you had asked me to read your blog, here is what describes that you do over and over everytime you are in the field.
So swiftly the sun sets in the sky,
You rise up and say goodbye to no one.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,
Both of their futures, so full of dread, you don't show one.
Shedding off one more layer of skin,
Keeping one step ahead of the persecutor within.

I wish you luck and I wish you remain human afte years of experience.

polsie said...

we talk so much about women"s liberation...how many NGO and women organisation has stood for these causes?is anyone listening?has it had impact....anyways thumbs up to you....wish we could change the world..........

Swati Seth said...

You deserve a standing ovation.
God bless you, my friend :)

adi said...

I really dnt have any words left.... I was supposed to write an report on the condition of women in Sonagachi for my class assignment when i came across your article, now i know exactly what to write.
thanx for helping me out. by the way even Iam an aspiring Journlist.
i wish you good luck

sachin said...

hey this is what i really think i am from bombay and presently work in kolkata i had been to this place with lot of exitement as i had lot of fantasies but looking at the condition of these women who work for living i was petrified i saw a few children of these prostitutes it was really insane i just backed out from that place with a hope to do something for them pls let me know can we really do something for them

Sruti Rai said...

itz so uncommon that we are finding women teenage girls doing such shameful acts...there are more professions too why dnt they opt for dat? silly girls..huh!!

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