As the evening enters in, these ’kothewalis’ doll up in attractive sarees, salwar suits or western dresses. After being bedecked, they come out on roads or wait in the balcony to attract their clients. They prefer to wait in such places where traffic is not too thick. The clients, they say, come on their own and pick them up. After that either they are brought to a hotel, farm house or to a small ’kothas’ (rooms) in Garstin Bastion Road, commonly known as ’GB Road’, the largest red light area in Delhi. Some of the ’kothewalis’ do not have to go outside as they have thier own ’dalals’ (pimps). These pimps bring clients after proper bargaining. Even, the payments are dealt by these men.
There were five red-light areas in Delhi during the Mughal era. But the British closed all except the one at GB Road, named after a British collector. In 1965, the name was officially changed to Swami Shradhanand Marg. But people prefer to call this area as GB Road. This place has 20 buildings. Besides prostitution, this area is famous for renowned hardware materials. It is a place where prostitutes are available for all classes of customers. Surprisingly, people from all strata of society come to this place for their carnal pleasures.
Moly, a 22-year-old girl, can’t remember from when she has been here. When asked, she said, “ I was brought here by one uncle. He promised me a job. But now, I am a brand prostitute.” How does she carry on her life now? “I generally prefer to be picked up by my clients. Actually, I share a single room with Pushpa. As she gets busy during night, I have to vacate her room,” Moly laughed with a wink.
While asked whether she enjoys every night outside, she replied, “It depends upon the client, as to where he takes me. Generally, the Paharganj hotels are available for one or two nights. There are few good and nice clients with whom I have stayed for even two consecutive nights.” Perhaps, Moly enjoys better in air-conditioned hotels rather than staying in GB Road ’kothas’. When asked whether she gets a client every night, she answered, “It matters upon seasons. Generally, I get clients for 18 days at least in a month. If I do not get anyone by 9 pm , I come back to my kotha." Where does she stay then? “For those nights, I share rooms with my friends, who also do not get clients on that day. Sometimes, Pushpa also goes vacant. I stay with her then,” Moly giggled again.
Pushpa seems to be more professional than Moly. She has been in this business for the last 10 years. Born and brought up in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar, Pushpa chose this profession to earn her livelihood. Once she reached GB Road, she never visited her house again. Pushpa’s parents are still alive, whom she sends money every month. But, her parents neither call her nor visit her GB Road apartment, she said with a sad glint in her eyes.
Pushpa has her pimp, named Pappu. “Pappu is very believable, he never cheats me”, said Pushpa, “He gets his share regularly. But he brings good clients.” What is the definition of good clients to them? Those, who do not bargain too much, pay properly before and after the service, remain gentle throughout the service-hours are referred to them as ’good clients’.
Who are the worst clients? “Army”, was the collective answer. Almost all of them complained that the armed forces personnels come in groups, get service and leave them unpaid. “We are also workers, our brand is that of a ’sex-worker’, but they do not pay us,” complained Moly. Even, the dalals also don’t dare to take on the these people as they are ’powerful’. We keep these pimps to control our clients,” said Rabeya, another friend of Pushpa. She is also in the same profession. According to Rabeya, there are some clients who are very rude and ruthless. They take the service, but do not pay after that. Instead of getting paid, Rabeya was once beaten up brutally.She lost became unconscious after that. She did not dare to file a complaint with the police, as the client was socially powerful and threatened to kill her, all this for a paltry sum.
Rabeya has a two-year-old baby, named Raju. “Who’ll feed him if I am not alive?” Rabeya’s voice broke as her eyes were moist with tears. When asked about Raju’s father, Rabeya laughed innocently. “Perhaps he is somewhere in ’Hindustan’, I don’t know the location.
The touts act as local guardians of 4500 sex-workers in the GB Road. These dalals maintain good relations with the local political leaders, send ’hafta’ (regular bribes) to police stations and take care of their ’sisters’ when need arises. “They are our tarzans,” said Rabeya., while expressing gratitude to her guardian.
How much do they earn, on an average, from their client, asked this scribe. “It varies”, replied Rabeya, “sometimes when dhanda is not well, we have to sell ourselves for as low as Rs 200 . But during festivals, the ’bazaar’ (market) is good. We easily earn at least Rs 1000 per night.” This is because not a single client wants to return with empty hand during the festive eves.
Who comes here? “Almost everyone, you’ll find here people from different strata of society. From auto-rickshaw pullers to white-collared professionals - they enjoy us”, Rabeya replied without batting an eyelid "We have some permanent clients”, said Moly. Do the Delhities visit GB Road only? “People from different cities come here. Even the foreign nationals visit this place",said Sabina.
What are their plans for Diwali? “Nothing special, obviously, there will be heavy rush of clients during Diwali. Some of us have already been booked in advance. Some others are still waiting for good offers”, said Rabeya. Do they decorate their house with candles during Diwali? Do their children enjoy crackers? Do they wear new dresses? “Yes, we do, we light up candles, buy crackers for our children and we also wear new garments. We also distribute sweets. But after everything, we take a strong peg of whiskey and plunge into our routine life – to please men,” said Rabeya.
Rabeya, Moly, Sabina, Pushpa and many others like them are actually trapped between a ’yesterday’ that would never come again and a ’tomorrow’ that they may never see!