The year was 2006 and I and my friends decided to celebrate Christmas at Kolkata. We all were students and hence, no money to put up in a hotel. So, we all hooked ourselves to our relatives for a place to stay. I could somehow find myself a distant friend and reached with my baggage. Though, it was not a great welcome but it didn’t matter as far as I was getting a place to stay for free!
Vacations are always best planned if you don’t have so much to spend. So, we all made our itinerary for every day so that we don’t waste time and decided on a common place to meet. It was the first day and the meeting place was Kalighat. Though we are not so religious but the entire gang was starting a new phase in life and taking rounds of GD and PIs after our management entrance exams and hence, they wanted to take the blessing of Maa kali.
I reached early because of staying in the vicinity of the place but none of my friends were there. Reaching on time would always be for an interview. I started rallying across the street putting my earphones on to pass on the time as waiting is the most irritating activity and a complete waste of time. Suddenly, I saw a lady who was fair and beautiful standing in the sun. Her curly hair was flowing in the air like a soft breeze and drops of sweat were all over her face. But, that looked like as she has come out of a shower. She had draped a sparkling blue sari and done loads of make-up; still it made her look very graceful. She was beautiful enough to grab everyone’s attention on the street. I saw her stopping every passerby but no body responded to her. I did not concentrate much as it was none of my business and dig myself into my earphones that were playing my favorite songs. After sometime again my eyes rolled over to check if she was there. To my surprise, she was still there and doing the same thing. I got annoyed by the thought that a woman is asking for help or maybe she asking for some address she is looking for and nobody is willing to help her. That was strange. So, finally I decided to help her myself.
I walked towards her and asked if she wanted any help. She replied hesitatingly in Bangla” Tumi aidegi theke chole jao” which means you go away from here. I got annoyed. I was trying to help her and she was throwing her tantrums. Then I asked her what was wrong with her. I was just trying to help her. Understanding the rage in my voice, she told you don’t know anything and I should leave. Then, one of my friends called for me. I saw him coming and he pulled me away to another corner. I got furious and asked him the reason to do so. Then he outrageously asked me why was I talking to her? I said what was wrong in talking to a woman. To which he replied “there’s nothing wrong unless she is a prostitute”
I was taken aback for a moment though it was not the first time I have ever spoken to one. I remember my days when I was a child and they were called for the weddings in my village to perform and entertain people. They were called “Bai ji” and for me they were merely dancers until I grew big enough to understand the other meaning of entertainment in people’s life.
But, after knowing this I truly wanted to help her. I went up to her and asked how much did she need? It was a difficult day for her as she was unable to find a customer for herself. Disheartened by her condition and the scorching heat she replied Rs. 50. I asked her if that was enough for her to lead her life. She said that it was enough for her lead a day. More than herself, she was bothered about her baby who had to be fed. With that money, she could buy milk and enough food for herself to feed the baby. She said every day was a new day for her; some days are good and some are bad but she gets people who help her somehow. By that time, my entire gang was there. They heard us and moved by her zeal to fight the situation and live her life. We all took out Rs. 50 and gave it to her. Agreed, we did not have so much but we had as much to help her; even if it was for a day. I was there to see a form of woman, a Goddess while I met another form and this experience has made me respect every form of a woman in my life.
Once, I had the luxury of staying near my workplace in Mumbai, which is usually most desirable and non-achievable thing in Mumbai. Every day while taking a local for workplace, I use to come across a young eunuch who would be in his early teenage; dressed shabbily and touching everyone’s head (a form of blessing from them) to ask for money. I use to feel bad for her. Every day I would give her something and always pass a smile while doing so. Gradually we started sharing words too.
Due to flexi timings, I never used to be in the same train. After some days when I took 11:00 am local, I saw her again but this time there was a change in her. She was well-dressed and accessorized with straight hair and make-up. She looked presentable. Out of curiosity, I asked her the reason for this beautiful change. She replied, the gang which she was a part of has appointed a fashion consultant to make them look presentable. She said that this will help in getting good business to them. I could not get it but didn’t intrigue her.
Then, my events got me busy again. After they got over, I took the same afternoon train. This time when I met her, she was very much stressed and hurt on her face but very well-dressed. I somehow didn’t like it and asked her “What was wrong with her” and why was she hurt?? I think, that was the moment for her and she could not stop it. She was forced to work as a sex worker by her gang and if she denied, her man would beat her miserably. I asked her man?? She replied that for each member of the gang, a man was the owner who would decide their fate. He would give them food and shelter and in turn they had to do whatever he asked for. Last night she denied going with him and the result was a hard punch on her face. This was a frequent incident with her. I was shocked and advised her to return to her hometown. I asked her if she was kidnapped or something and brought in here??
Then, she informed me that her name is “Salim”. And He was born into a conservative Muslim family residing in a small village near Kanpur. The mother hid the fact for some time but later, his father could know the truth and did not accept him as a part of the family. He ordered his mother to leave him out of this village in the night when everyone is asleep. Poor mother did so with a heavy heart but took a promise that Salim will come to meet her at least once every year. I asked him if he did so. He said, he does so every year. Whatever is his share from his earnings he gives it to his mother whenever he meets her. He has also given her a phone and always informs her of his arrival. She comes to meet him crossing the river and brings him home cooked food and loads of love. He said that he doesn’t mind all this pain as far as he is able to support his family financially and get his sisters married. He left me speechless and with lots of respect for him. It has been years now and I have never seen him after this incident but would always pray for his happiness. Some people simply change the way we think in life!!
I moved to Mumbai in pursuit of my higher education. A dear friend came to meet me and after a brief chat, I dropped him to Kharghar station. It was late in the evening nearly 9:00 p.m and the roads were dark and lonely. Getting an auto was a big problem then, way back in 2007. The permissible time to enter in the hostel was before 10:00 p.m and our hostel was pretty far from the station. When I could not succeed in getting an auto after waiting for sometime, I started walking. With every passing minute, I get worried that I won’t be able to make it in time and they will inform my parents about this. I didn’t want them to be troubled. But reaching there in time seemed to be an impossible task. My heart was sinking and then in middle of the street, I saw someone checking the tires of the car. After taking a few steps ahead, I saw a tall, beautiful girl dressed in corporate formals smoking frantically and kicked the tires. Then, she looked at me and asked “Hey, you what are you doing here in the lonely street?
I was scared but I replied back that, I was going to my college hostel. Then, she asked me where was it? I told her the location and asked if she can give me a lift. Though my heart was sinking; she being a female gave the confidence to ask this question. Immediately, she nodded her head negatively saying that she wasn’t going that side. I got disappointed. Looking at me, she offered me to drop somewhere in the middle from where I could get an auto to my hostel. I agreed as that was the only option if I had to make it in time. I hopped on the co-passenger seat. She signaled me to wear the seat belt. After that we didn’t speak. She dropped me to the nearest auto stand to my hostel. I got down and from the window, I looked at her and said “Thank You”. The reply she gave is the advice of my life. She told” You are nice girl, never ever ask for a lift from a stranger even if she is a female. This time it was me, buy you don’t know who is it going to be the next time. Take care” and then she drove away in speed with tires making strange noise. I kept on thinking about her the entire night and still have never asked for a lift after that night.