The writer recounts how she felt when she met sex workers in Vrindavan and Delhi, while carrying out research for a book
After developing a friendship with a devadasi in Vrindavan, I later met several prostitutes on Delhi’s infamous GB Road. And I also remember how the Sikh autorickshaw driver Santokh Singh — who was fascinated with me — helped during my visit to GB Road.
This was after I had joined Delhi University.
One day, I requested him to take me to GB Road so that I could collect some material for my writing. I knew that no one else could take me there.
Whenever I expressed a wish to visit the red light area, Kaikaus (my companion) told me to go there with the police. But it was not possible for me to make such arrangements.
When I mentioned my destination, Santokh Singh stared at me for a while and exclaimed: “The whores’ colony'”
“If I don’t go there and meet those women, my book on Delhi will remain incomplete.”
Santokh Singh stood up in a huff. He acted as if he had much more important things to do than listen to my reasons for going to GB Road. He stormed out of my house, just the way he had come in.
Friday, July 13, 1984. Guru Purnima day. Tales of GB Road’s sex workers filled up my notebook. I went there with Santokh Singh in his three-wheeler. Before entering a particular area, he had to show his papers at the police checkpost. He adroitly half drove and half pushed his vehicle into GB Road. He parked it in front of house number 42 and as I got down said, “I’ll wait for you here.”
I protested, “Of course not. I can manage. Please go back.”
Frankly, even though I had often passed through GB Road, I felt uneasy about entering a prostitute’s house. Next to the steps leading up to the rooms, there were rows and rows of tiny shops. Some pushcart drivers were squatting on the ground. They were staring at something.
I looked around and next to the Bharat Marble house, I saw a few girls with nylon ribbons in their hair and bright lipstick. Just below, a group of adolescents stood ogling them. In fact, there were little groups at the foot of each flight of steps, staring at the women.
I noticed that Santokh Singh was following every move of mine from a distance. He was to come to my help soon.
To be continued