For Sabitri Ghosh, life changed after she stepped out of Rambagan. A year ago, she was a sex worker.
Married at the age of 11, Sabitri was dragged into the profession after her husband deserted her and their child. Now, she looks after a self-help group called Kagaz Tori (Paper Boat) that trains sex workers in handicrafts.
Set up in 2001 with funds from West Bengal AIDS Prevention Control Society, Kagaz Tori now has nine active members. They make items like writing pads, files, lampshades of hand-made paper and paper calendars that are sold in the market, and also train new members in the art.
The group earns a monthly profit of Rs 5,000. The price of a paper lampshade ranges from Rs 55 to Rs 60 and that of a writing pad from Rs 15 to 30.
The demand increases during the Pujas and other festive occasions.
'There is also a high demand for our products outside Calcutta.' added Ghosh.
'Life has changed for the better in the two years I have been with the group. My eight-year-old son is studying in a Jadavpur school and the days of financial problems are over,' said a confident Sabitri.
The initial years of the group were a little difficult, as it was not receiving too many orders.
But the situation has improved in the past two years. At present, it supplies its products to Jadavpur University, various government projects and shops on College Street.
'All our members are now economically independent. Some have even left their profession. We are looking for more such women who need this kind of revival programme to return to the mainstream,' said Reshmi Ganguly, project coordinator of Calcutta Samaritan, the NGO that is running the self-help group.
The group members also organise training camps for women like them, who are willing to be self-dependent.
'We have plans to set up a training campus,' said Sabir Ahmed, programme coordinator of Calcutta Samaritan.