It was a chilly January morning and I was breathing. It was the only involuntary function I was performing voluntarily. Sitting idly on the corner bench of ‘Smriti Upvan’ my brain went into oblivion. A longing to live already died on Sunday when the whimsical life gave me a blow in its own cruel and dishonest way. I lost my hero, my father to a cruel disease.
These incidents not only crumble one’s life but also crush many layer of blissfulness of the heart. Days, months and years passed but the layers of blissfulness were never coated again on the walls of my heart. The abrasion of never believing, trusting or loving anyone with all my heart still sustained. Mother was the last lifeline on which I played the “game of life”.
Wandering on the streets of Sonagachi, Asia’s biggest red light area I got a glimpse of different shades of life. There I was on a project of filming a documentary on the lives of the children of sex workers; whose innocence worn out at a rate even greater than a nuclear explosion. They didn’t even have the opportunity to taste the honey of childhood and were soon offered the chillies of adultery. I with my companion – a camera; were glimpsing and storing moments of delightfulness, innocence and twinkling eyes of souls in tattered clothes, in my memory card. Deboshree, a seven year old never saw her father’s face and it was then that it struck to me- at least I was blessed with 14 years of my childhood with my father. At that moment a part of me loathed myself for taking this life as a burden and not living it to the fullest.
After 30 minutes of walk which I reached ‘Neela Makan’. Whole Sonagachi is divided into different tukris (parts). Neela makan was the 125th tukri- a very intriguing place. It glowed with all the dullness. Neela makan was as dark and gloomy as a cemetery with just voracious and screaming noises of children, infants and the inner voices of the sex workers ‘whispering the scream of help’.
I interviewed Bijoya, a 34 year old sex worker. She had come to Neela Makan when she was 14. “amae amar mama Neela Makan’e bikri kore diechilo. Ami ekhane goto kuri bochchor dhore kaj korchi. Amar do baccha acche. Ek ta chele ek meye” (“I was sold to Neela Makan by my mama. I have been working here for the past 20 years. I have 2 children a boy and a girl.”) She answered in a perky Bengali accent adjusting her makeup. A tingling grin flashed on her face and the excitement was on peak when she saw herself in front of the camera. Seeing my team with cameras and lights they all came decked up neatly and wore lots of makeup and adorned a fake smile which drenched a lot pain and misery. Interview sessions were going on in different rooms of Neela Makan, I reached the last room of the ground floor. “Chhata ghara” (sixth room) the door plate bore in Bengali.
The room reeked of shit and alcohol. It contained all the negativity in its stark darkness. A light was penetrating the darkness from a whispering window. Amidst all the atrocities that Chhata Ghara suffered there was a voice which seemed directly coming from heaven.
“ the k…ing maa..rr.eee.d…uh.uh.uh married…. the q..u..ee..n queen. And they lived
happy uh.uh.uh… happily ever after..!!” and a clap for herself.
“Prerona nijer porar khomoto to aro jhaliye nicche“(“Prerona is improving her reading”), she giggled. Prerona was a 5 year old girl with all the innocence of the world. Her eyes themselves narrated stories. Her hair was all ruffled up in a bun. In her tattered and patched clothes, sitting on the floor with an English story book in front of her, she read aloud the story of king and the queen. I drowned into my childhood holding her hand into the ocean of innocence never wanting to be rescued again. She told me stories. Read aloud with me. And then she shared her dreams; dreams of flying away from this hell and making the world a better place to live.
I didn’t even realize that my eyes shed a drop of longing when I was about to leave. I gifted her pencil box with a chocolate and left with a promise to visit her again. In return she in her mesmerising voice gifted me a thank you and the most beautiful smile I ever came across. A smile that healed my deep internal bruises nurtured me and glittered up my lifeless life. The search for mirage was over; I had discovered the nectar delta. I was searching for happiness in the whole world and then in that stinking Chhata Ghara of Neela Makan, a smile kissed me with a missing tooth.