Tawayaf culture

I am hosting a FulBright scholar, Megan, who is doing her research from University of Pittsburgh. Her research topic is tawayaf culture. She has rented a whole flat and will stay till June 2010. We discussed a few things about tawayaf culture in Varanasi. I already knew that Lucknow was the most famous place of tawayafs.Varanasi has also been a famous center for tawayafs but according to Megan, it doesn’t exist anymore. I also talked with a few of my friends and relatives and they were telling that there are few places where tawayafs still perform.

Most of the people think that tawayaf is one other name for prostitutes but it is not true. They were highly educated women and and trained in their skills such and dancing, singing, literature and were very well respected in society. My friend Ravi told me that kids of royal families were sent to tawayafs to get training which included behavioural training, gazal writing and few other skills. The place were tawayafs used to live was called kotha and now kotha is also referred as a brothel which is also not true. Kothas were a place for tawayafs to live and perform.

Usually kothas had more than one tawayaf where one, the most senior, was the head. The head of the tawayfs was responsible for training other tawayfas. Usually kothas had a dance performance every evening where anyone was allowed to enter. They had male musicians who played different musical instruments and tawayafs were the one who performed dance. Alcohol was also served to special clients or sometimes to everyone. Sex work was also involved there but it was not like today’s brothels where someone pays Rs. 50 and sleep with the sex workers till he cums.

Tawayafs were expensive and I have heard that they had right to choose whom did they want to sleep with, so it was not like anyone could pay and sleep with them. Usually they had one special client who was very close to the tawayaf and this relationship was also not like a relationship of a sex worker and her client; it was something special. Tawayfs had children also and this special person would act as their father. Tawayafs were called at the palaces also perform and entertain the royal families. Whatever I heard about tawayfs made me feel like tawayafs were accepted and respected in our society but kothas were still a disrespected place.

There is not much information available about tawayafs but I have heard that there are a few places in Varanasi and Lucknow where they still have few kothas which run illegally. Megan’s subject is awesome but she is more interested in prostitutes now because she said that it would not be possible for her to write her thesis on tawayfas because there is not much information available about them. I want to know more about tawayfs and looking at Megan’s thesis if she writes something about them.

Pittsburgh girl studies Hindi

One girl name Abbie from Pittsburgh contacted me through couchsurfing asking about Hindi classes in Varanasi. I suggested her to go to Mr. Virendra Singh. She had written to Bhasha Bharti, but Bhasha Bharti did not reply her. I asked Mr. Singh if he had time for another student, and fortunately he had one hour free. Abbie was still in Bhopal when she wrote me. I told her to contact me after she arrive in Varanasi. I thought it will be good for her if she met Udo, the other Hindi student staying at my place.

She called me on the 21st. I brought her to my home to introduce her to Udo but he was not home then. I took her to Mr. Singh’s place. After talking to Mr. Singh, Abbie said that she would like to study with him for rest of her time in India. She had already studied Hindi for three months in Indore, but she did not learn anything. Her Hindi teacher was not a real Hindi teacher. He was a mathematics teacher. I am sure a mathematics teacher can not teach Hindi.

Abbie went to Khajuraho after having one lesson with Mr. Singh but she will be back by next Monday. She still has three months left in India, which is good enough to learn basic Hindi. I hope that she learns something with Virendra Singh. She also wanted to stay my place but I could not host herbecause all of my rooms were already booked. She is staying at Ganga Yogi Lodge some where near Sonarpura, and their charges fit her budget as well.

Tawayaf culture in Varanasi

An anthropology student from University of Pittsburgh, USA wrote me. My friend Adam Sergent, a anthropology student from University of Chicago had given my contact to Megan. Adam stayed at my guest house 1 month ago while he was learning Hindi in Benares.

Megan was interested in Tawayaf culture, prostitutes and HIV. Adam had told her about my NGO so she was looking to hear my experience working for it. It was Megan’s 4th year of research and she was looking to have as many contacts as she can for the next and last year of her research. I was surprised to listen her talking about Tawayafs. It really made curious about Tawayaf culture. I already knew a little bit about them but never thought that I must know more about them. Now I will research about it.

She said that she was already working with a NGO in Benares that works with prostitutes in Benares but she wanted to contact NGOs in other cities also. I knew few NGOs in Azamgarh and Mau and I gave their contacts to Megan. She wanted me to give her a written document saying that Megan is working with prostitutes, Tawayafs and HIV in Benares because it would help her getting grant from Univeristy. I will contact my leagl advisor first and if possible I would help Megan. We discussed a lot about our experiences and have decided that we would work together in future.