Saturday, May 4, 2013

Dawn in Kamathipura

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 39; the thirty-ninth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is "Break"


Won third place in the blogaton contest

Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark
Rabindranath Tagore 

Malati was surprised at how fast her eyelids drooped. As she lay on the hardish mattress that hardly seemed like a mattress at all, she welcomed the deep darkness of the cocooning night. Earlier, she had opened the tiny little barred window and allowed the fresh breeze to waltz in and replace some of the stale, musty air that crammed the little room. The man lying on his chest next to her was still – like a log – probably in a happy little world of his own. He had just had a very exciting couple of hours. He had promised oodles of cash for premium services and Malati had ensured that he went to bed a satisfied customer – she had guaranteed that he would return for more.

Beena Didi had been very specific about this client.

“He is very rich Malati. Look at the rings on his fingers and the solid gold chain around his neck.”

Malati had noticed the drool pool forming at the corners of Beena didi’s mouth. Whenever Beena didi saw, thought or spoke of money, the drool pool would involuntarily appear like magic. And Beena didi almost ALWAYS talked about the clients and their money. As such, her mouth housed a near permant puddle of drool hanging precariously from the corners of her lips.

“Make sure he is happy.”

Malati had to admit though, that this man did look rich – one of the richest infact, to ever step foot in her ‘humble abode’. By humble abode, I mean a miniscule room in a sprawling, messy, smelly and overall disgusting chawl system – one of many in Kamathipura, Mumbai’s largest red light area.

From the usual Rs 300-500 that Malati would procure for every night of service, 50% would go to Beena didi, who was ‘responsible for the girls’ as she put it. By that, she meant providing the girls with two square meals a day. When it came to basic purchases like a new sari or chappal to replace the torn ones, visits to the doctors in the dilapidated government hospital nearby or protection from unnecessary pregnancies, venereal diseases or AIDS, Malati and her friends had to fend for themselves.

Malati glanced at the man inert human on the bed. A sentient being, just like her. Where does he live, she wondered. What does he do to make him so rich? Does he have a wife and children safely stashed away somewhere, along with his pile of gold and bank notes? He looked old and grey in the damp darkness. She gauged that he must be in his mid-fifties – and the thought disgusted her a little bit.

It almost always astonished Malati how fast the men would fall asleep after such animated activity. Under normal circumstances, after her body had been ritually  violated, she would lie awake for a long time, trying to unsuccessfully pluck the insomnia out of her eyes. The uncouth, loud snoring of the  various men that frequented her little room, or the stench of their alchohol-induced vomit didn’t help with the sleep difficulties.

But tonight, sleep came easily. The rich man slept quietly – almost as if the contentment had lulled him into his slumber. His bulging wallet peeked out of the pockets of his black jeans, which in turn lay on a crumpled heap on the bed, near his feet.

It was around 3.30 AM in Kamathipura. Even as she drifted off,  Malati knew that she would be awake in a couple of hours. Like every other day, she would wake in anticipation, eager to greet Surya – the Sun God – and welcome him into her world. She was a great devotee of Surya. The thought of the sun rising each day and bringing light, love and hope in to the world – filled her with a joy she could never fathom. Her day began with oblations to the deity and ended with a silent prayer to him – to release her from this prison.

You see, unlike her friends who had made peace with their miserable lives, Malati’s insides burnt to a cinder, each time a stranger touched her. Brought to Kamathipura as a sex slave at the age of 12, Malati had slowly and surely learnt to detach herself from her body each night. She would float around inside her head and once the snoring began, she would conveniently descend. It was easy enough to do and it worked well for everybody.

But the spark that Rosy had lit up inside her, had grown into a raging fire that had been burning steadily within her for a while now.

Rosy was a social worker with Nari Sangrakshan – an NGO that worked tirelessly to improve the conditions of sex workers in Kamathipura. Malati and Rosy had gotten close to each other and Rosy couldn’t help but notice that Malati stood apart from the crowd. Unlike the others, Malati wanted a better life. She craved respect, she desired independence and she harboured hope. One day, when Beena didi was out of earshot, Rosy had pulled Malati into a corner and said in hushed confidentiality, “Mala, listen to me carefully! All you need is Rs 10,000. If you can save up that much, I can help you get out of this place for good. There are people out there, who are waiting to help you. But you have to take that first step out the door.”

Imbued with fresh hope for a new life, Malati had begun saving up, bit by bit. But she had managed a mere Rs 2,000 – a far cry from what she actually needed. But although she had a lot of frustration and despair to deal with, she also had her faith. Someday…someday Suryadev would bring her a new morning filled with freedom from this captive existene - this life of oppresive bonded labour and pure gut-wrenching wretchedness.

When Malati awoke, it was 6:00 AM. The early-morning twilight had just begun tinging the sky, but actual sunrise was just a few minutes away. Malati sprung out of bed and rushed to fill her copper kalash with water. The mogra plant outside was in full bloom, so she gingerly plucked a few flowers off the unyielding stems and took up her position at her east-facing window. Within minutes, the sky broke into light. It smiled down at the world, almost as if someone had just told a joke that it really found funnny. Orange-banded clouds appeared as if by magic. Birds chirped noisily above the squalid, dirt-ridden streets of the community that made a living out of desolation and trampled self-respect each day. And then, the sun himself rose proud and high in the morning sky. Malati picked up the kalash, cupping it reverently with both her hands and slowly poured the water down into the street below.

Om Jabakusum sankasyang Kashayapeyang mahadutyim Dhantaring sarbapapeghnya,pranatahashmi Dibakaram, Om”

She repeated the Surya namaskar mantra three times, with absolute devotion, conviction and faith. Her face shone – not only with the sun’s new light, but also with the purity of the love she felt within. She placed the mogra flowers carefully around the kalash on the widowsill, even as the sunrays broke through the bars and spilled into the room, like some golden godly elixir.

Satisfied, Malati sighed and turned around. It was time to wake the man. He lay in the same position that she had seen him in last – on his chest and completely still. The longest sunrays illuminated his pants on the bed – and the wallet in the pocket.

Malati strode over to him. “Saheb! Saheb, uthiye.”

He lay motionless. She turned him over expecting a heaving chest, but there was no sign of breath whatsoever. The last vestiges of life must have left him during the night, when his heart decided that it could not take all the excitement any more. Doctors would later state in the post-mortem report that the man had suffered a severe myocardial infarction, or in simple terms, an acute heart attack brought on by intercourse.

Malati stood rooted to the ground. The emotional part of her wanted to scream out loud, but the logical, fiery part ensured that her hands stayed on her mouth, while she came to terms with the situation.
Her eyes slowly followed the sunlight as it swept across the microscopic room in no time – his pants, the bed, the nightstand, her tiny wardrobe and….

It suddenly came to her. His pants. The wallet. She unfroze slowly and her heart beat wildly like someone was playing the bongos on it. Chanting “Om Suryay Namah”, she reached into the listless pants and removed the wallet.

Inside, were Rs 10,000 exactly – in cash. She took what she needed and lodged the wallet back into the pant pocket. She looked back just once – to glance at her precious kalash, the mogra flowers and her sunlight. And then she walked away.

At the break of dawn, Malati - the prostitute, the devotee of the Sun God, the woman - was finally free.

-----------------Shreyasi M



The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. Introduced By: Khushboo Singh, Participation Count: 02

37 comments:

  1. A unique story. It must be a difficult life, one we can't even imagine. Nice. All the best for batom.

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  2. Hey - this is a nice one. The break of dawn, and a break from a past life. Nicely interwoven. :) Good luck girl! :)

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  3. such a beautiful heart touching story!! u wrote this so well!!

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  4. very well conceived and narrated. In line with Tagore's thoughts on faith and hope!

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  5. Very mature topic, descriptions are very detailed, I was almost inside the room with the man and Malti, and the pool of drool. Very well detailed and written.

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  6. Shreyasi you have woven the story with such delicate care inspite of choosing a bold topic. A poignant read but when Malati got her much deserved freedom I had a sigh of relief!

    An interesting story :)

    The quote by Rabindranath Tagore is so apt and goes with the story perfectly!

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  7. Thank you for your thoughts Kislaya ... much appreciated!

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  8. Loved the descriptive parts at every stage!! You have taken great care to break it delicately!! I would say well narrated and interesting!!

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  9. Very realistic ! You painted a vivid picture of a short but moving episode!
    The intricate details are commendable . Twinks... you have seriously graduated in this field ! Congrats!

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  10. That was a really well narrated story, Shreyasi! She broke free! I love such endings!

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  11. Very bold topic, beautifully narrated. I know all stories have to end, but I wanted to keep reading more about Malati's life after she broke free!

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    1. Thanks for reading terra...! Maybe someday ill get back to it and take the story further :-)

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  12. A warm story of hope.... Twinks, you have truly touched my heart with your writing... !!

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  13. Beautiful....Fascinating and deeply riveting.You gave her a fresh lease of life :-)
    The very first para touched the chord....and this went till the last. Lovely...ATB for BAT, Shreyashi.

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  14. Thank you so much...btw, I loved your post as well!

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  15. A heart touching story and glad that you ended it on a positive note. But there are many women who work in the red light area every night who find it difficult to break away and leave the life that chose them.

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    1. Yes I know...unfortunately...but I wanted to give at least one woman a chance at a new life. Thanks for liking the story :-)

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  16. This is just outstanding...
    A topic touched by movie makers...
    and rarely by bloggers...

    Beautiful narrative...
    Says that all r human with dreams and desires!

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  17. :-) Thank you Satya, glad you liked it :-)

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  18. nice story,Malati's condition very well depicted,well done

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  19. बेहद मार्मिक और सुन्दर रचना बधाई स्वीकारे

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  20. Dhanyavaad Sainiji....glad you liked it...

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  21. Congratulations Shreyasi for winning the Blog a ton

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  22. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  23. hey.. great one... keep it up!
    -Shalini

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  24. Hi, nice description.Thanks for your help..

    -Aparna
    Theosoft

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