‘Nargis, it’s five! The customers will start flocking to the brother. Why aren’t you dolled up yet?’ yelled Jyoti, the Madam. ‘I’m tired of putting up with you.’
It was evening, a time when her regular customers visited the brothel. As always, Jyoti wanted all the girls to be at their attractive best. She ran a brothel in Kamathipura, the biggest red-light area in Mumbai.
Nargis was a 20-year-old girl who had been working as a prostitute at the brothel for the last five years. She was young, gorgeous and winsome. The Madam used her as a bait for clients. Nargis was of medium build, often poker faced and phlegmatic. Her hair parted in the middle, partially obscuring her face. She hailed from Bangladesh and was first trafficked to Sonagachi, the biggest red-light area in Kolkata. From Sonagachi, she had been trafficked to Mumbai, where she had been leading an accursed existence as a sex worker for the last five years. The Madam had enslaved all the girls, who had no way of escaping their fate, thanks to the agents and local pimps who kept a stern eye on them.
Nargis came from a very poor family in a village in Bangladesh and had many siblings. Her father was an alcoholic. Her family led a hand-to-mouth existence. Nargis’ father would often beat her mother up in a drunken stupor. They couldn’t even afford two square meals a day, let alone send their kids to school. Her father eventually sold her off to a pimp, who would then traffic her to India. One day, while she was asleep at night, her father drugged her with a sedative. In the morning, she woke up to find herself gagged. Her hands were tied, too. She was being trafficked across the border, to Kolkata.
Forced into prostitution, she began living with fellow sex workers in confinement. When the local pimps and the Madam in Sonagachi realized how her attractive looks could lure more customers to the brothel, they sent her to Kamathipura.
Raju was a 25-year-old mendicant. He would lay in a corner of the street begging for alms. He had an old rug, on which he would sit and laze the day away.
Raju was frail and emaciated and had dreadlocks. He was a cripple who was afflicted with polio since childhood. He would usually beg in the by-lanes and backstreets of Kamathipura and was familiar with several pimps and prostitutes operating in the area. Raju was also friends with Nargis. He supplemented his earnings with the commission he got from Jyoti. He even made some money passing tidbits of information to customers while helping many a prostitute solicit. While himself a victim of circumstances, Raju was fairly kind and gentle.
On the other hand, Ajith was a 22-year-old guy from Pune. He worked as a software engineer in a Mumbai-based IT company. Despite hailing from a technical background, Ajith was a rather multi-faceted person. He had worked with many NGOs in Pune and was associated with several social causes. On weekends, he served at an NGO in Pune and Mumbai. This NGO worked toward the rehabilitation of young girls forced into prostitution, besides the empowerment of the women working in dance bars. He aspired to start his own NGO one day to work full-time for this noble cause.
It was Friday evening in Ajith’s office. As the weekend beckoned, several employees tended to party after a grueling 5-day week. Ajith’s colleagues egged him on to accompany them to a dance bar located in the Kamathipura neighborhood. It was at one such dance bar that Nargis occasionally worked as a bar dancer to solicit customers and bring them over to the brothel, where she was forced to fulfill the wishes of her unfeeling Madam.
As she was going about her daily routine, dancing, swishing and gyrating to peppy Bollywood numbers and collecting wads of notes thrown by customers on the floor, Ajith glanced at her. He felt instantly sympathetic toward her. Her face was a mask of agony and pain, which concealed the trauma of the bygone years. She walked over to all the people drinking and enjoying the dance, casting a mischievous glance over her shoulders at each one of them. She then approached Ajith and his friends. Addressing Ajith, she inquired, ‘Won’t you drink or throw any notes? What have you come here for?’
Ajith was moved. He could sense her demurral, her irrepressible desire to escape that hell. After the dance was over and Nargis went backstage, Ajith approached her in an attempt to strike a conversation with her. Discreet at first, Nargis discerned that Ajith was a genuine, kind-hearted soul who wanted to help her. He told her about the NGO he worked for and that he was determined to put an end to her misery.
Ajith began making surreptitious visits to Kamathipura. For her part, Nargis would sneak out of the brothel and meet him on the pretext of soliciting a client. She also introduced Ajith to Raju. The trio hatched a plan to help her escape from the brothel and get the criminals arrested. Ajith, along with his coworkers at the NGO, brought this issue to the attention of the police, who decided to assist the NGO and Ajith to crack this case. On the day of the operation, Ajith and the cops, who were all dressed in plain clothes like regular customers, arrived in Kamathipura.
Raju helped dispel the suspicions the pimps and agents had by saying that these were Nargis’ regular clientele, keeping those middlemen at bay. He reassured Jyoti by saying that these customers would further boost the brothel’s business. Once Ajith and the police finally confronted Nargis, they immediately seized the opportunity and alerted all the other cops patrolling the area. They then gathered around the brothel and apprehended everyone in charge of the business, including the Madam. All the other prostitutes were rescued and sent to a rehabilitation shelter. The brothel was completely sealed.
Nargis’ ordeal had finally come to an end. For her, it was truly the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. The police recorded her statement and filed a charge sheet against Jyoti and her associates. They would later learn that the Madam and her allies were just a pawn in this vicious ring, which was controlled by many powerful politicians and businessmen who put up a Jekyll-and-Hide face.
Ajith became the toast of the town. He was felicitated by the police, political parties and social activists. His photo even graced the first page of the local daily! He was a messiah who had emancipated scores of young girls from the venomous fangs of prostitution.
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As fond of writing a good story as he is of reading one, Pravin is one of the most promising writers at Ameya. He can be contacted at email@example.com.