When I met Radha didi
I met Radha didi on one of my field visits. She must have been in her late sixties and she was very beautiful. She was in one of those brothels where you find young girls only and when we first entered that brothel we were not welcomed so I tried to initiate talks from my side but nothing was working, I tried all my conversational tricks but the didis were running away from us like we were the ones who would bring the wrath of God on them if they talked to us, but we did not go away, I held my bag close to my chest, folded my legs and sat there, observing them, trying to make eye contact with them and smiling whenever I was successful in doing so. After sitting for around fifteen to twenty minuets I decided to go in the other room of that brothel which was a little inside. So I gathered all my courage and went in, that’s when I met Radha didi, a cheerful lady with an infectious smile. She scolded me, “why have you come?”, “we don’t want to talk to you.”, “You NGO people cheat us.” But even in her scolding I did not feel any hatred so I went back and sat down again and after sometime she came to me with a bottle of cold water and offered me by saying “bahut daant dia na” (I scolded you a lot). To which I said “apka daant bhi pyaar lagta hai” (your scolding feels like love) and you should have seen her laugh at that. I teased her further and when she understood that we won’t go away that easily, she brought a chair and sat down with us saying “you can ask me anything but no personal questions, not even my name.” to which we agreed happily.
My team mates asked if she has seen any change in the society’s view towards G B Road, to which she said that nothing has changed, people did not accept them then and people don’t accept them now. But when we said we are also from the same society and we want to know you better, be your friends; she replied, “when you come again, I’ll make biryani for you and we’ll sit and talk”. Our conversation went on and on after that, at times she would tease us and sometimes we would tease her. I just sat there and watched her smile, it was one of the most beautiful smile that I had seen. One thing led to another and at one point she asked me “will you get married?” To which I said “only if you find a suitable boy for me”. Se replied, “there is no need to get married, stay single, you’ll be happier”. Then she asked one of the male member of my team if he had any girl friend? When he said no, she said “whenever you find that girl, just love her with all your heart” and her eyes got wet. When one of my team member tried to make her smile by saying “kya didi! abi toh humare kehle kudne ke din hai”(What didi! we are too young right now) she smiled at her and said “Mai bhi tumhari jesi thi”(I was just like you) and started crying. I could feel her pain even without knowing the reason behind it. She said that women on G B Road need love more than any one and in that moment I wanted to hug her and tell her that "didi, I know people have hurt you, took advantage and been ruthless with you and I want to share your pain and give you all the love that’s in my capacity."
Then one of the didis came from inside and asked us to leave the brothel and scolded Radha didi for entertaining us for so long. When we stood up to leave, Radha didi folded her hand in apology for the other didi’s behaviour. I held her hand and hugged hand and she hugged me back with the same love and slowly whispered her name to us
(All images lovingly captured by Magical Lens)