Stories around Sonapur Red Light Streets
Posted on February 24 2018
Type ‘Sonapur, Mumbai’ in a search engine, and very little will appear about the area. It is a neighborhood that is so shameful and hidden that even Google barely knows about it’s existence. The women and children that call this place home are like an invisible, hopeless shadow within this sprawling city. Walking around Sonapur Red Light District, I have (with the translation of the amazing Hindi speaking Beena) been told many stories. The stories of real women who are real people who could once have had dreams and hopes just like mine.
One lady who looks a little older than me is a mute. She has never been able to speak a word in her life. Looking at her, I wonder how she deals with her experiences here without being able to express herself to anyone. She brought me into her brothel room which was so oppressively hot that I couldn’t bare to be in there for more than a few minutes. Four women milled around, each with their own disgusting bed and curtain that is the center of their universe. ‘Chai?’ asked one fat Nepalese lady as she beckoned me to come and sit on her bed with her. So hospitable, totally indifferent to any opinions or judgements I would have about their lives.
One lady was sitting outside today with a toothless, stinking (and clearly drunk) man. She looked so much like one of the children that I had played with in the Purnata center that I assumed she must be her mother. This child in particular was so thin and filthy. I had presumed that she was around four or five years old but I later found out that she was eight. She is sooo malnourished! I was told that the father of the child was the toothless man and that he is an alcoholic who is making his wife work to pay for his addiction.
Another woman I met came from a village in rural India. When building their house, they ran out of money for a roof. Her husband tricked her into coming to Mumbai to work as a prostitute until they had enough money to pay for it. After building the house they returned to use her body to make enough money to furnish the inside. This woman justified her life by saying that she is probably the only prostitute here whose ‘husband’ is actually her real husband and not just her pimp. I wonder how she copes with her husband doing this to her. Is there a point where a person just gives in and doesn’t even feel anymore?