While on one hand, our orthodox society has denied dignity to sex workers calling their colony ‘nishiddho pallis’ (reads as ‘forbidden territories’ in English) on the other hand, the clay from these brothels are used while making the Maa Durga idols. Ironic, isn’t it? Well, who knows, maybe the ritual was done to think of them as a part of the society, but the gesture and behavior towards them by most of us depict otherwise.
Sonagachi, Asia’s largest red light area, consists of 12,000 sex workers who are exposed to difficult situations and threats often. With puja theme “Utsarito Alo” (Streaming Light), the committee of Arihitola Jubak Brindo has come up with this superlative idea to sensitize people during the pujo by showing a glimpse of their dreadful life through art.
For the first time, the kolkattans saw 300-feet long spectacular street art been dedicated to sex workers, which was unveiled on the auspicious day of Mahalaya. Not just that, there were models, beautiful architectures, decorated buildings, and other installations to showcase respect that sex workers deserve, also urging people to support their demand for working rights.
Once you enter the pandal, it seems you are in a different world altogether- a kotha (brothel). The architect and the models look lively, almost like stepping in a brothel and getting a glimpse of their daily life. With beautiful yet gloomy colors, this place has a charm of its own.
Just opposite to the idol of Maa Durga, the artists have created a window through which you see two models in a room of a brothel. What is striking that, even though they are not real, you can almost feel the shadow of pain and despair on their face.
The installations are beautiful and yet sad to look at. While one installation showcases a distorted Kumkum line on the forehead of a sex worker in front depicting her tragic fate, the back side has faces of women who are going through a living hell every day of their life.
Members of Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), an organization which works for the welfare of 65,000 sex workers have added spark to the event by participating in it.
While speaking to LBN, the secretary of DMSC, Kajol Bose said, “We have a very different approach towards these women. We communicate with them on a daily basis, understand their problems and needs and act accordingly. It is great that this year, a theme is dedicated to the sex workers of Sonagachi.”
Agreeing on these lines, another member of the organization, Bishakha Lashkar said, “We cannot disclose the exact figures but the rate of HIV infected sex workers have inclined in West Bengal and we are quite happy about it.”
Further, Rama Debnath (ex-president of DMSC) mentioned how every time they have to stay prepared to face difficult circumstances but helping these women in every possible way is what she looks forward to. She also informs us about the invitation cards distributed by the organization to their guests and people in their neighborhood and it reads-
“Janam bhite phirle maago, rathe moder maan
Amio naari tumio naari, gaayi jiboner gaan”
No person deserves hatred for their work unless it is harming someone or something in any way. Accepting these sex workers as humans is our social responsibility.
Mother Teresa once said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
This puja, let us create a new social order where there is no discrimination but affection for everyone.