Kali temple, Kolkata

I experienced something really wild in Kolkata, maybe it was the wildest experience of my life. There is a Kali temple in Kolkata which is one the 52Shaktipeeths and is one of the most important temples for Hindus. According to Hindu mythology when Parvati died, Lord Shiva became so angry that he put her body over his shoulder and started doing Tandav. He also opened his third eye which started destroying the whole universe. All the gods were so concerned about it that they went to Vishnu to help stop Shiva’s Tandav.

Vishnu used his weapon to cut the body of Parvati into 52 different parts. The places where these body parts fell are called Shaktipeeths now. So the Kali temple of Kolkata is also one of those Shaktipeeths. I had heard a lot about this temple and was really excited to go there. I had a very busy schedule in Kolkata but I still took some time to go to this temple. I also asked Seranna to come with me and she also said that she wanted to visit some Hindu temple. Both of us were so excited for visit to this temple.

There is one very famous thing about this temple- the priests. I had heard that they are really thieves and looters. They usually target outsiders of Kolkata and I was a little bit concerned about it. I had already dealt with some other Hindu temples where priests were thieves so I thought that I would be able to deal with these also. I had already warned Seranna to not entertain anyone at the temple. At the time when we reached there, a bunch of people jumped at our taxi and were looking at us through the window.

I knew what they were waiting for. We got off the taxi and found ourselves surrounded by 5-10 people who were dressed like priests and wanted to take us to the temple. I told them that I did not want to go with them, but they did not want to hear anything. They just wanted to take us at any cost. They were telling that it was some very important day of the temple therefore there was too much of a rush in the temple. They were asking for Rs. 50 for each of us to take us inside the temple without facing the rush. I was pretending that I was not hearing.

I was looking for some policeman to ask him the way to the temple. And suddenly one of the priests came in front of me and showed me an alley and said that the temple was inside that alley. I could easily see other people going straight, not towards the alley he was mentioning but he kept telling me that the temple was in that alley. After I did not entertain him, his voice turned loud and it seemed like he was getting angry now and he started yelling at me. He just wanted me to go with him but I had already decided that I would not go with him.

I usually look for police at these kinds of places and it always works. He held my hand and wanted to take me forcibly to that temple. Now it was enough, and enough was enough, I also turned loud and I turned kind of rude with him. By this time I could see a few policemen. I went to them and asked the way to the temple and they told me that I was on the right way to the temple. Those priests wanted to take me to some wrong place for whatever reasons. I wonder what would have happened if I would have gone with them.

Somehow I reached the temple after dealing with all those crazy priests. Now again I was surrounded by some priests who were asking for Rs. 20. I had decided that I would go to the temple on my own but after watching thousands of people lined up, I gave up and decided to hire one of those priests. I had chosen a fifteen-year old guy because I thought he was a new player in the business and must not be as big of a looter as the others. He was nice at first, took me through some secret gates and finally I was in front of the statue within three minutes.

And here wild things started. The priests standing near the statue were real looters. The whole atmosphere was wild there. There were too many people pushing each other, and shouting. It was very noisy out there, the priests were shouting, kicking people out who did not want to pay and take in new people who seemed rich to them. Seranna had fell down from a wall 5 feet high while coming to the statue place. She was also in pain. The whole atmosphere was wild. The priests were shouting at me. They wanted me to give them whatever I had.

I gave them Rs. 20 but they wanted more. I just wanted to get out of there but they were not letting me go out. More and more people were trying to come in but a few other priests were pushing them out, shouting… oh my God. I had never experienced such a thing before. I lost my mind, I did not know what was going on. One of the priests was trying to take my walletout of my pocket, one of them was holding my hand, he was shouting at other people at the same time… it was crazy. I gave him Rs. 50 but still he was not happy. He wanted more and more.

Finally I had to borrow some money from Seranna. I don’t remember how much money I gave him but when I came out and checked my walletI found that I had nothing left in my pocket and Seranna had also lost something like Rs. 200-300. Right after I got out of the statue building, I was still inside the temple premises, and I saw people lined-up and all of them had goats. I was shocked and then the priest helping us explained that these people were waiting for their turn to sacrifice an animal. I knew that Kali temple of Kolkata is one of the very few temples of India where animals are sacrificed but I did not know that that much of people do it. A lot peoplebelieve that Goddess Kali becomes happy if you sacrifice a goat in her temple.

There was a priest who was slaughtering the animal. I saw many people washing their goats, putting flowers on them, offering them food, showing incense, repeating mantras for them and finally bringing their animals to the priest who slaughters animals. After the animal is slaughtered, they would bring the body to the other priest who was supposed to cut the meat into small pieces and then finally this meat is distributed as a blessing to other people. I saw many people who were going to the temple with a goat and they were playing drums also.

I talked about this animal sacrificing to some priests in Benares and they said that according to Hindu mythology there was a demon named Rakhtbeej ( Rakht means blood and beej means seed) which means his blood would work as a seed. He had a boon that if his blood ever touched the ground, it would grow a new body of that demon. He started taking benefit of this boon by killing people, doing anti-religious activities and doing all sorts of bad work. Finally Goddess Durga had to come to the earth in the form of Kali to kill this demon. But the problem was that as Durga would cut off his neck, a new fresh body of this demon would appear because his blood would fall on the ground and create a new body.

So he would get new body every time Goddess Durga tried to kill him.Finally Goddess Kali (incarnation of Durga) cut off his neck and collected all his blood in a pot and drank it. She did not even let a drop of blood reach the ground and this is how she was able to kill this demon. Priests told me that since most of the Kali photos show Kali killing this demon and drinking his blood, and she has body parts wrapped around her body, a lot of people think that she likes the blood which is not true according the priests I talked to. Priests said that these body parts are of the demons, not of some innocent people or some innocent animal. They said that she had to drink the blood only because she wanted to kill this demon, not because she likes the blood.

They said that it is the most important reason behind this belief of the people that Kali likes the blood and it makes them sacrifice an animal sometimes when they pray to Kali. I don’t know to what extent this reason could be true but it made sense to me. I talked to my friends also about the animal sacrifice in the Kali temples just to get the idea of how strong this belief is and they said that if you have any wish and if you sacrifice an animal in the Kali temple, then your wish would come true for sure. There would be no onein this whole world who could stop your wish from coming true.

They gave me the example of the ex-captain of Indian cricket team who was kicked out of the team because of internal politics in the team. He tried everything for almost two years to get back in the team. He performed very well in the domestic cricket but he was still not selected. Finally he went to the Kali temple and sacrificed an animal and within the next fifteen days he was selected back in the team and this time his performance was also better than the previous times. This shows that idea of sacrificing a animal is very strong in people who have belief in it.

According to the Hindu mythology offering a coconut and breaking it in the temple is also a sacrifice which what I usually do. Once I was reading a Tantra book that said that in ancient times mixture of a certain kind of lentils and curd was called mans which literally means “meat” in present Hindi. And this book says that in ancient times it was a very good thing to offer meat to the God and Goddess but now people think that thismans means meat and they sacrifice animals in the temples or use animal meat for the rituals. Whatever the reason maybe behind sacrificing animals for rituals or making the wish come true, a lot of people do not believe in it and personally for me, I would like to sacrifice a coconut better than a animal.

After watching animal sacrificing, and facing all the looter priests I was completely out of sense now. I was not able to even talk. I had helped Seranna coming inside the temple but now I was not able to even move. Seranna held my hand and took me out of that temple. I went outside, sat somewhere for twenty-thirty minutes and when I got my sense back, I just wanted to run out of there. I knew that there was a Mother Teresa home somewhere nearby. I asked a police about it and found that mother Teresa home was just the next building to the temple. I immediately moved to that home and sat there for a while.

It was something very nice. Mother T’s organization does awesome work all over the world. I love their work. I was just sitting there, watching the real social work and was trying to forget what I had seen earlier. After spending some time there, I was the able to move and talk properly. I just left that place and did not even look again at the temple. People say that priests of this temple have done only one good thing in their whole lives that they donated some land to the Mother T’s organization. In fact the land to open thier branch in Kolkata was donated to Mother Teresa by the priests of Kali temple.

I still have high respect for the Hindu philosophy and feelings of the people but I did not like the way I was treated by the priests. The thing that disturbed me most were the looter priests. They were crazy and jungly people. I again got an opportunity to visit that temple after few days with the camera crew and I went to the temple but I did not find myself brave enough to go inside the temple again. I stayed out of the temple premises and did not go inside. I have been to several temples where priests try to loot visitors but I had never been to such a temple like this one. I was so shamed to bring Seranna with me. She said that religion is the same everywhere- the religion loots people-which is not true, but I had no answer because of the incident which happened with both of us.

Sex worker children rights rally

Children of sex workers at Durbar's officeChildren of sex workers at Durbar’s office

I participated in a rally organized by Durbar for sex workers children rights. This rally started from Durbar’s office at Sonagachi, the red light area. Seranna and I with the other crew members arrived at Durbar’s office at 6.30 evening time. This rally was supposed to start at 7.00. We were so excited. I saw hundreds of policemen wandering around the office. First of all I thought something bad had happened but in fact they were there to protect us. There were about 3000 people already present there, with most of them being children of sex workers. All of them were lined up and carrying some banners.�

Children carrying banners

Children carrying banners

There were a lot of hijras and transgenders also. There was a group of children of sex workers who were going to lead the rally with music and dance. I really liked this idea of having some music and dance also. The rally started around 7 o’clock and I think there were about 5000 people present by then. It was a huge rally. The rally started from Durbar’s office and passed through narrow alleys of Sonagachi, which is the biggest red light area of India. Seranna and I were in front cheering up with the children of sex workers.

sex workers hiding their face from camera

sex workers hiding their face from camera

Right after two-three minutes we arrived in the middle of the red light area.�I saw that there were sex workers everywhere- on the road, on the roof of the brothels, looking out of their windows… all of them were dressed very well but I could easily see that they were not happy and healthy. None of the sex workers wanted people to take their pics. They would turn their face away right after seeing the camera. I did not like it. It clearly means that they are too intimidated publicise their identities and it is only and only because of the way they are separated from the society. It was not something I was expecting.�

Sex workers children rights

I tried to look inside some of the brothels as well. I just could not believe what I saw there. The brothels were too dirty, just too much. There was not even any proper ventilation system for the houses. There were bottles of alcohol thrown everywhere. It was not something only about brothels, the whole neighborhood was terribly dirty. I saw many many people who looked like drug users and were physically and mentally sick. It was third world for me. I knew that Indian sex workers have a very bad life but I did not know that it was this bad. I had already seen some brothels in Varanasi and a few nearby districts but I never realized that our sex workers live in this terrible condition.

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Sex workers children rights

They are kept in the terrible conditions in the brothels, and have no ventilation, no proper food, no health care, can’t go out of the brothels and after all of this they can’t make good money. Sex work is extremely cheap in India. Some of the sex workers whom I had interviewed for the documentary had said that sometimes they charge Rs. 50 only per customer and they have to give half of it to the brothel owner. It was a terrible situation there. We distributed a lot of pamphlets to the sex workers which were about their and their children’s rights. I could not understand anything written on these pamphlets because everything was written in Bengali.

Sex workers rights

One thing that was very interesting to me was that a lot of children of sex workers were effeminate.� This whole group of the sex workers children who were doing cultural program and were leading the parade were either hijras or effeminate. Sometimes they would sing hijra songs as well. I have heard and few a sex workers and locals of Kolkata had told me that a lot of times the children of sex workers are also abused by the clients of their mother and I was wondering if this was the reason why they were so effeminate? I am not sure but it was not something I see often in my society- this huge number of hijras or effeminate people from one neighborhood.

Children of sex workers

Children of sex workers

A lot of locals of Kolkata told me that sometimes people go to brothels and contact the brothel owner and ask for a young kid and these cruel brothel owners bring the children of the sex workers who are sometimes only 6-7 years old. Usually it is not done in knowledge the mother of the child and even if they come to know about it, they just can’t do anything. Their children are forcibly made to have sex and this happens again and again- whenever there is a client asking for a young boy or girl. It was very sad to hear the way sex workers and their children are treated.�

Children of sex workers dancing

Children of sex workers dancing

A few people told me that since the kids of sex workers spend most of their time with their mother and do not get involved with any male and are abused often, it changes their lives and makes them effeminate. I do not know if this is true or not but it could be true also to some extent. Well, they were very nice with the dancing and music. Some of them were playing the drums also. After we had completed half of the way, a very famous hijra named Luxmi Narayan Tripathi joined us. She is very famous and represents hijras and transgenders of Asia.�

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Sex workers children

She was also full of energy and excited for the rally. She was jumping, clapping, dancing, shouting…it was so fun to see them. I loved being with them. I also danced with them, tried to repeat their Bengali songs which in fact I was not able to pronounce perfectly but I tried my best. I enjoyed most when they would sing Hindi song- hum honge kamyab (we will be successful). I also sang this song with them. It was really an amazing experience being with these little kids who were fighting for their rights. Finally we reached a big park where the parade was ended. Now different people were putting thoughts and addressing to the community people.�

Laxmi addressing to the community people

Laxmi addressing to the community people

A few sex workers, social activists and Laxmi addressed to the people present there. They promised to each other they will �keep fighting for their rights so long as they have even a drop of blood in their body. Now the rally was done and we had created a big traffic jam. I loved this rally, the kids of the sex workers and everything that happened in this rally. I am sure that I will go next year also to support them in their rally.

Sex workers bank and sanitary pad factory

Bank for sex workers

Bank for sex workers

Indian sex workers can’t open a bank account because they do not have any residential proof and there is no one who can be a guarantor for their bank account. It is a strange rule that I do not understand that Indian banks askall of their customersfor a guarantor and this guarantor could be anyone who already has a bank account with the same bank. In case if someone doesn’t know anyone who has already a account with the same bank, they can’t open a new bank account. Indian sex workers lack both things- a guarantor and residential proof.

Sanitary napkin factory

Sanitary napkin factory

So it used to be really hard for them to open a bank account. They were never ever able to save the money. Their savings were often looted, sometimes by the brothel owner and sometimes by their clients. Durbar wanted them to start saving and to do this they asked the Indian government and a few banks to let the sex workers open their bank accounts without bringing any guarantor or any proper residential proof but neither the government nor the banks agreed with it. Finally Durbar asked government to give them a license to start a co-operative society especially for sex workers and finally after a long struggle they got the consent.

A sex worker working with the napkin

A sex worker working with the napkin

Now Durbar has started a co-operative society only for sex workers and there are twelve-thousand sex workers saving their money with this society. This society works exactly as a bank- it provides loans and everything. A lot of sex workers are not allowed by brothel owners to go outside the brothels but they also wanted to have a saving account so for them Durbar’s workers go from one brothel to the next one to collect the money. I went to their bank also and saw a lot of sex workers coming to the bank in person and doing banking. Now the sex workers can save their money with this bank which is obviously a big help for them. And it’s only about saving, they can even take loans also whenever they need.

Bunch of napkins ready to be packed

Bunch of napkins ready to be packed

In the same bank building they have a small shop for sex workers where they sell all daily use stuffs for cheaper than the market rate. This shop is only for the sex workers. They have a section for out of the community people (not sex workers) also where they sell small stuffs like toys and clothes made by either sex workers, their children or someone from their family. We also did shopped there. I really loved this idea of a bank and shop for sex workers. Durbar has done awesome work. In the same way they have started a factory where they make sanitary pads and they have only and only sex workers as employees. This was also an amazing work.

The final product

The final product

They were very well organized. Durbar had hired an MBA professional to help them launch their product in the market. I went there with Seranna andthe camera crew and did some shooting also. This factory was just at the entrance of Sonagachi, the red light area. There were about ten women working there. They said that after a certain age they can’t make much money so they definitely needed a stable source of income and getting a job like this will help them a lot. Most of the workers there, maybe all of them, seemed like over 55 in age and I am sure they these aged people have hard time getting work in the sex industry. I really liked this project a lot.

Condom usage demonstration & training to the sex workers

I, Seranna and translator

Seranna and I did something that India had never seen before. On the last day of the conference we did a condom usage demonstration in front of at least 6000-7000 people. We gave training to sex workers about how to keep themselves safe from sexually transmitted diseases and how to make money. After interviewing sex workers we realized that they did not know much about any STDs other than HIV. So I asked Seranna to talk about STDs in her presentation. We knew that she would be performing on the last day of the conference so we thought that it would be good opportunity for us to spread the message to a huge number of people at the same time.

I (look at the mask) and Seranna

I (look at the mask) and Seranna

Seranna was sad to see how poor Indian sex workers are. She said that western sex workers make a lot of money. She charges $300 per hour which is like two-three months salary of an Indian sex worker. She wanted to talk about how sex workers can make more money from their clients. I know that it will long time for Indian sex workers to reach on that standard but I think it was a good thing to at least tell them about it. On the last day of conference there were about 6000-7000 people, most of them were sex workers.

I and Seranna

Seranna and I

Since we made the decision to talk about different things in the Seranna’s presentation on the morning of the presentation day, we could not organize well. We had only a few hours to decide what we would be talking about. We decided to do a play to make the conversation more interesting. I had asked Seranna to bring some sex toys and she had brought three dildos and Seranna wanted to use them for the presentation. I was concerned about using sex toys in front of that huge number of people because sex toys are illegal in India.

I and Seranna on the stage

I asked Seranna to ask the organizer of the conference about using sex toys and the organizer said- go for it. But I was still concerned about showing them to people. So I also went to the organizer and talked to him about it and again his answer was same. Seranna and I talked to each other about what we will talk about and decided that this presentation should not be a boring conversation kind of thing. We decided to put some comedy in it, as Seranna always does. Now it was our turn to do the presentation but the problem was that audience was Bengali so we needed someone to translate our words from English to Bengali.

Seranna and I

Seranna and I

We asked the organizer about it and they provided us a Bengali-English translator. I played the role of a doggy customer who did not want to pay upfront and did not want to use condoms and Seranna played the role of a very smart sex worker. I was wearing a mask which was symbol of a doggy customer. This mask was in shape of a penis and balls. We started the presentation with Seranna asking for money up front but I did not want to pay the money first. I asked her to provide the services first but she always wanted money first. So we argued over this matter. I always say that I would pay money after services and Seranna would always say that she was selling her skills so she wanted money upfrontand finally Seranna refused to provide services.

Seranna giving message

Seranna giving message

Then I agree on giving the money first. By this we wanted to tell other sex workers to always ask for money upfront because in some cases the clients do not pay money after taking the services. After this Seranna shows the dildo and it brought dead silence into the audience.I felt really awkward doing it, but I hoped that it was useful for everyone at the conference.I wore that dildo and Seranna sat on her knee to milked it. She wanted to tell other sex workers to do the same with every client before providing services so that they can be sure if the penis is disease free.

Asking me if I felt good

Asking me if I felt good

After this she tells me to use the condoms but again I played the role of a doggy customer and I did not want to use one. I told her that I was married and she also looked safe and that is why I did not want to use condoms. But Seranna says that diseases are not written on the face. Then we talk about HIV/AIDS and other STDs and finally I agree to use the condoms. Then Seranna tells me to lay down on my belly on the bench and gave message and did a boob slide. By this we wanted to educate sex workers about how they can pass more time with their clients and how they can make them happy so that they make more money, and get even a tip.

Picking the condoms up

Picking the condoms up

After this Seranna puts the condom over the dildo by her mouth. Actually this dildo was so big that she had to try twice to put the condom over it. Here Seranna mixed some comedy by saying that this boy is big.Before this sentence the whole audience was silent but after hearing this everybody started laughing and clapping. I am sure they were also enjoying it. After putting the condom over dildo she gives a blow job. We had few toys of the STDs viruses. Seranna would act like giving blow job and then show the different toys and tell about how they spread and what they can do. I liked the way she explained about all different diseases very much.

STDs virus toys

STDs virus toys

And then she acted like we were having sex and she would ask me if I was enjoying it. This was also one very important part of this training to tell sex workers to keep talking to their clients about how they feel while having sex. This way the men become more erected and cum early (I believe in the idea of working smart, not hard). So good for sex workers. By this time our time and bench’s life was finished. It broke and we fell down on the ground and this dead silence amongst the audience turned into loud noise of laughing and clapping. I loved it.

Going to put condoms over the didlo

Going to put condoms over the dildo

At last I give her a tip for her awesome services. I believe that this kind of sex services can change the lives of Indian sex workers. I am sure that Indian men would love to have that kind of services but I don’t understand why our sex workers do not do such things. I hope this presentation helps them to make more money and change their lives. Right after this presentation we were covered by the media, social workers , sex workers and other general people. All these people wanted to talk to us. They wanted to interview us. It was so fun doing it. Maybe we will also do the same thing in the US in the coming June.

Interview with sex workers

We interviewed a few sex workers in Kolkata for the documentary and fortunately my job was to do interpretation between sex workers and Seranna so I talked to them personally. I noticed one thing was that most of the sex workers we talked to came in this profession after some kind of bad thing happened with them at some point of their lives. I talked to this one sex worker who was basically from Faizabad but now lives in Kolkata, who said that she had done a love marriage with a Muslim guy, who was not accepted by her family, so she had to leave her home and come to Kolkata.

After spending a few months in Kolkata she discovered that her husband was a drug user. She told him several times to quit drugs and get a job but he never wanted to do it. Finally she had a child but she did not have any money because her husband did not have a job and she could not ask her family to help her because she had already gone against her family by marrying a Muslim guy. Then she decided to leave the home and went to a brothel and became a sex worker.

She is happy now because she has a better life than her husband gave her. She says that now she is not dependent on anyone and is free to do whatever she wants and now she has developed good relations with her family as well. There was some problem in the beginning when her family came to know she had became a sex worker but now everything is Okay. Actually this sex worker was a program co-ordinator of Durbar (the sex worker’s organization) so she would often be on the news and when her neighbors back at her hometown saw her on TV talking about sex work, they started asking her parents about it.

Her parents also asked her to leave this profession but she had decided that she would never ever leave her job. She is very happy to be a sex worker and she dreams to be a sex worker again in her next life. When we asked about what would she like her child to do then she said that she want her child to go to school and get some job. But there is a big problem for sex workers getting their children admitted in the schools. Actually they do not have any residential proof because most of the sex workers in India are brought from either Nepal or Bangladesh.

Since they come from some other country, or even if they are from India, they do not have any residential proof because they usually change their residence quiet often or they work under some brothel owner who acts as a dictator. Usually they are not allowed to go out of the brothel area. Sometimes they go out to work at hotels but not everyone can go. Brothel owners send only those sex workers to hotels or somewhere else of the brothel who have spent few years at the brothels. Because if they have spent some time in this profession then they do not want to run away, or sometimes brothel owners send someone else with the sex workers to hotels.

One other big problem of the sex workers is the money that they make from their profession. Sex work in India is very cheap and sex workers do not have any social idnentity or security. Usually they charge Rs. 50-100 per client because sex work in India is very quick. Clients come, have sex for 5-10 minutes and then they leave. Sometimes they do not even see the face of the person they are having sex with. Sex workers want to hide their identity and clients also want to do the same thing. So this work is very hidden.

Sometimes sex workers work for an hour with one client and this is only time when they make something like Rs. 500 or so. But this doesnt happen often. Usually they have some regular client who is very friendly to them and want to spend more time, sometimes they do overnight booking as well but only with some speical clients. After work they are supposed to give half of their income to the brothel owner so they make something like Rs. 50 per clients. Since this money is nothing, they are seeing more than ten clients per day which is horrible. It makes them sick.

Because of this residential proof problem they can not open a bank account or go to the places where they ask for the identity proof. In India residential proof documents are often checked after the Mumbai bomb blast so these sex workers have really hard time nowadays. And if they are caught then the police send them to jail. Each and every sex worker talked about the Police. They said that the police raid the brothels sometimes and beat them, put them in jail, abuse them but the same police come the next day to have sex with them.

They said that the brothel owner gives some money to the local police station every month so that they do not raid the brothels but police still do it whenever there is some political pressure on them or when they want to make some money. A few sex workers said that once the police took them to the jail and had sex with them inside the jail. It was shocking to hear that how these law protectors break the laws. They said that sometimes the police call the children of the sex workers and have sex with them. It was disaster. I could not believe that anyone could do this.

We asked sex workers if they give blow job or doing message or some other services to their clients and most of them said straight away that they do not give blow job or do message. There was only woman who said that she gives blow job sometimes but only to some special clients. Blow job is something that nobody wants to talk abuot in India. I have also heard that Indian sex workers do not give blow job which sounds strange. I think they can make more money by doing this. I dont know for whatever reason people do not even talk about it. They say that it is English style of sex but I think it is very very old Indian style. Maybe we taught to British and they spread it all over the world.

One of the sex workers told me this story about when Durbar had just started working and wanted to give them basic writing and reading knowledge. Durbar wanted to have a space to start their classes so they asked people living around the brothels to rent them a room. They waited for two months, talked to almost everyone in that neighborhood to rent them a room but nobody did it. A lot of them came to Durbar asking why they wanted to educate sex workers. They said that if the sex workers are educated then they will not respect other people and they will start making their own decisions. Finally Durbar had to start these classes at their own office which was like one kilometers away from the brothels.

One other very interesting thing was that most of the sex workers have a regular customer who is something special for them. This customer is not only a customer for them, they are like their life partners. They support the kids of the sex workers. It is very hard for sex workers to get their children admitted in the school because they are supposed to write the name of the father of the child and bring them to school but it is impossible for them. So in this case sometimes this special customer helps and give his name as the father of the child.

We asked them questions regarding sexually transmitted diseases as well and to be honest nobody knew about anything except HIV. They did know what lube was. They said that even though they use condoms but sometimes they break off. When we asked them reason behind it all of them said that it was only because of low quality condoms but I think lube also helps a lot. I had also never ever seen lube before Lane showed me. I don’t know why it is not available in our market. They really need training and education but unfortunately government is not doing anything for them.

All of the sex workers said that sex work should be decriminalized which I also believe in. I think that sex work is the second oldest profession of the world, or maybe the first. I think either agriculture or sex work is the oldest profession and it should be legalized and decriminalized. They are also part of our society and they should also be respected in the society like other people. I think it will take a really long time for sex work to be legal in India because our politics is at its worse level now. If one part would do something for them then other parties would start pulling leg of the first party. But this organization is doing nice work and I hope to see change.

Comparing Countries Compassion

Laxmi and Seranna

Laxmi (a transgender) and Seranna

Seranna started her documentary calledComparingCountries CompassioninKolkata which is about sex work and sex workers in India. It is Seranna’s project which she will be doing in different countries but she wanted to start it from India. She has chosen me to help her organizing interviews and she wants to interview me also regarding my work with Sanjeevani Booti. She has hired camera crew from Delhi who don’t seem professional, especially the cameraman. He is crazy. He always fights with other crew members. Actually they all fight with each other in front of interviewee. Sometimes they start asking questions to the interviewee. Seranna was also upset sometimes but we did nothave any hope. This production company is big and is run by a award winning person for his direction but unfortunately he was not with us.

This documentary is about comparing laws in different countries regarding sex workers. I really liked this project and she has given me a very challenging job of giving ideas of direction and doing translation. I translated few interviews of sex workers. We interviewed a few sex workers, social activists, professors of university of Kolkata, transgender people, children of sex workers… it was awesome. We did a condom usage demonstration also and trained sex workers about how to keep themselves safe and how to make more money from their clients. This documentary will be a huge success for sure. I feel fortunate to be part of it.