TED NewsDesk, Mumbai: Jayshree Patil accredits the Laal Batti Express for her escalation from a sex-worker to a learner with high hopes. She lived in Kamathipura, Asia’s largest red-light area, situated in Mumbai. As a child, Patil was not quite hopeful about her future as her mother was a sex-worker. Good things do take time, as she is now ready to move to America. She is looking forward to pursuing leadership and development based course at an American University. The University has offered a scholarship which will encapsulate the entire amount of her education.
Kranti, a non-profit organization, came as a liberator to her. She found art as the best medium to rant about her sufferings and her fight against the constraints after escaping from Kamathipura. As a result, she directed Laal Batti, a stage play, with the help of her colleagues from Kranti.
The brothel areas encompass several young and old girls who are not only compelled to accept prostitution as their fate but also forced to give up on their right to dream or to education and impart their entire life to this work. Their struggle to live a dignified life comprehends their hope to get rescued from these places. Patil is a perfect example of the same.
Robin Chaurasiya, Trina Dutta and Bani Das are the co-founders of Kranti, established in 2010. It aimed at female empowerment, especially the ones from the Mumbai based red-light areas, and to develop them into “agents of social change”. Currently, the organization has a shelter home constituting a school and theatre body for its residents.
“I was ten years old when I moved into the shelter home of Kranti. Since then, my life has taken a beautiful turn,” said Patil.
The childhood experiences of Patil led to her frustration and despair. Throughout her childhood, she stayed around brothels. She was subjected to domestic violence by her stepdad. Besides, she had an uneven relationship with her mother, a sex worker.
. “I looked down upon my mother for being a sex-worker, I could not understand why she did it,” Patil recapitulated.
The Traumatic childhood
“Young girls are most vulnerable to such testing circumstances. A lot of them end up bunking schools, some fall in the trap of wrong internet use or get into toxic relationships at a young age,” outlined Mr Das.
In prostitution, even the slightest act of innocence can lead to mishappenings. Disclosing the fear of police sirens and surrounding as a child, Asmita Katti recalled, “I became the laughingstock of my class because of my locality.”
“Once, I had invited friends over for my birthday party, and suddenly there was a police raid in the area. People started running in panic, and we had no idea what to do,” Katti recounted.
In one such incident, the police misinterpreted her as a victim of human trafficking. The policemen were all set to take her away along with her other friends. However, when the neighbours explained and requested the police, it freed Katti and her group. “I became very fearful and timid after that incident,” added Katti.
When it comes to Kranti, the stereotypical notions about sex-workers affect the working of the institution. Generally, their neighbours boycott them. At times, they have to pay comparatively higher rents. In one such instance, a landlord refused to return security money to compensate for the rent.
“A lot of these young girls want to come and live with us, but due to the shortage of food and shelter, we are unable to help them. We live in rented accommodations and have been asked to leave seven times in the last ten years,” Das elaborated.
Kranti provided salvation to not only Patil and Katti but to many other girls who are now its member. These girls are battling with their traumatic pasts through therapeutic and personality enhancement sessions at the organization. The therapy has enabled them to understand profession, helplessness and sacrifices of their mothers.
“I realized that whatever my mother did was for us, for our survival. I was less empathetic then. I did not see her as another human being. Kranti made me love my life and my mother again,” expressed Patil.
Where they hoped for freedom beneath the forced brothel-life, coping up with education, however, was a challenging moment for them.
Katti said, “I was not fond of studying at all. I went to a municipality school where rote learning was the norm. I was able to finish the year-long curriculum in a month or two and still score decent marks.” Kranti provided options to her after she escaped from the brothel-life, by offering an active academic structure and exposure to art and music along with trips. She is now employed as a volunteer in another non-profit firm helping terminally ill kids living in Mumbai.
“I have evolved immensely because of the opportunities that I was provided,” Katti claimed with pride.
“These girls were unaware of their likes and dislikes. So, we provided special classes where they could explore their options and decide what their preferences are,” explained Das. “There are two girls who discovered their skills in arts after coming to Kranti.”
Kranti focuses on empowering girls through innovative techniques. Four of its members are pursuing postgraduate courses abroad. Three of them are in the US while one is in Italy. After receiving her higher secondary education from an open school, Patil is now ready to move to the US. Her goal is to establish a school, similar to Kranti, for belittled female sections of the society. She wishes to bridge the gap between opportunities and possibilities for her community.
There is still a long way to go to establish a safe and acceptable platform for these communities in India. People need to stop looking down upon sex-workers or someone belonging to such backgrounds and start understanding their journeys.