The Red Light :: Bombay

Today was spent with Aruna. The day started off slow – we caught a train from Andheri to Grant Rd, where we were met by Michael and taken to the drop-in center. The Aruna drop in center is a teeny building located between and below brothels, and serves as a place for prostitutes to literally “drop in” if they have any questions – health, emotional, spiritual, etc. Around 3:45 we left to go and visit some of these brothels. The first one we went to, we met with the madam and one of the prostitutes. The madam was only 25 years old and was married to a pimp. She talked about how it only took her 4 years to become a madam – a goal which most prostitutes have, and something that usually takes years, if not decades. The other girl, one of the prostitutes, spoke of how she was “stuck” in prostitution – how we had very different lives than her because we were able to get jobs, but her… what else could she do?

I find out later that it was difficult for the girl to talk openly because the madam was there, so she said she would come by the drop in center later. The rooms connected to the waiting room we were sitting in were about 8’x5′, with a bed and barely enough room to walk beside it. We also found out later that these were just a couple of the 24 rooms on each floor of the 5 story building… with 3 girls per room (in rotation).

Our next stop was another brothel down the street where we first visited one of the many waiting rooms, and again met the madam. It was here that we saw, and learned, that it is the madam and the pimp that wear black cords around their necks. The pimp will often choose his main girl, who then becomes the madam, and their relationship becomes a sort of “marriage”. Walking down the hall soon after, I passed a young girl in pajamas in the narrow hallway and as we paused, I gently laid my hand on her knee. She responded by gliding her hand up and down my arm, then holding my hand. I felt a sort of desperation in her touch, and looked at her with love and concern. She responded by squeezing my hand and waving me on, telling me it was ok to continue down the hallway after my friends. It was a precious moment, and one that I’m not sure I fully understand the importance or significance of.

Continuing down the narrow hall (it was only about 2.5′ wide), we worked our way over piles of rock, garbage and chairs as we passed room upon room of girls getting ready while the men watched. We came to another large waiting room where we sat down and got to meet the daughter of one of Aruna’s beneficiaries, who was about 2. Beautiful little girl, it was so hard to leave her there, knowing that she would grow up in the brothel. Our final destination was at the very top level of this building where another supposed Madam resided. She wanted to know about Sara and I, and invited us back to visit whenever we wanted – they even asked how much plane tickets to Cali cost! We saw a young boy, about 12, come up and hand her money. He had such an attitude, with dark sunglasses and a confident strut. We asked about these boys and learned that they come from the villages and are used as “runners” for outside needs since the girls are not allowed to leave without the permission of the madam.

Overall, it was a surreal experience. There was a sort of oppressed joy that loomed in the air… the realization that because these girls understand darkness so well, light becomes that much more beautiful. I can’t help but realize that every smile, every gentle touch, must be a sort of sigh of relief for them… and I realized that as much as humanity can be broken, our spirits cracked… the truth is that in these girls today I saw a longing for joy, for a reason to smile… for a hug, a gentle touch. For someone to see them, instead of use them. I wonder why they are there, if it is by choice, or if they were forced. I wonder about the underage girls that are kept locked away in the top levels of the brothel, in an area that few are allowed into and the girls definitely not let out of. I wonder about the girls whose spirits are still young, gentle, and wanting love. I wonder about the children born into these brothels – what will come of them? I wonder about the men who keep places like this open… why are they so hungry for sex? How can we make them understand the soul, the sweet spirit, that resides in the woman that tonight he will pay to rape? I wonder about the young boys who are runners… where are their families? Lord… may your kingdom come. May these girls escape to your heavenly realm, your magestic love. May they find peace and joy in a dark, dark world, and spread that love.