“Was that a silence or the loudest cry from her?
Are those eyes or windows to uncanny dimensions?
What is she trying to say? Or am I trying to read too much?
Will there be a smile from the soul one day in her life?
Is she alive within still? Why this place out of all places to work?”
Questions and more questions as I saw that woman in a God-forbidden place. Which place is that? Why was I myself there? And most importantly, who was this woman?
I was standing right in the middle of a flesh trade hub, conscious about every move I made, I was standing there with my team researching for a prestigious global project, funded by Bill Gates foundation. The woman, the 'semi-protagonist' mentioned above is a flesh-trade worker, a prostitute.
What matters at this point when I am typing these lines is only my imaginative- right part of my brain, reflecting. Something that was almost submissive to the point of nonexistence, all the while the research was on, so that I let the logical- left part of the mind stay focused, or maybe, detached!
Women think too much. We have to, after all we are still in human form, quite often subject to lots of judgement by every other man we come across and other women like me, specifically in such extreme cases.
Let us give her a name, she is Dhrithi, the very person I had initially so many reservations and questions about. Undeniably, her version of the society and livelihood made me stand rooted to the ground. As much as I am wondering now in closed rooms about her ‘customers’ who visited her, some of them were very loyal, in her words. We are one of those countries which strives on the very strength of its rich heritage, culture and values . Did I hear someone laugh loud in your minds? Or was it me? Or maybe, it is us, or some of us.
With such a strong and a deep-rooted culture, dated many centuries back, today we have made progress in science and many other fields. What statistics reveal also goes without saying, population. Sometimes I wonder if as Indian citizens few ideologies or areas surely unite us – Bollywood, cricket and baby-making. In fact, ‘pro-creation’ has emerged out to be an indisputable single metric that can prove a man’s virility and a woman’s ‘stipulated- virginity’, being a mother as the true proof of one’s womanhood, no in case of woman, motherhood, the only reason for her existence ! Excellent.
What if the quality of life suffers after the subsequent add-ons in the family? Be it for the pro-creators or for the child? As in the case of our Dhrithi, what if one of the parents is not ready to solemnize this relationship, more so the father? What if birth is not a happy incident for the couple but and an unfortunate accident for which the price paid is one entire life of the child, lived or existed or abruptly ended?
Enough! Enough! I said to myself racking my brain. But will it really be enough when the society already has so many parallel dramas happening around in it?
More baffling were the figures I came across as a researcher. Education being minimal, the villages in India are subject to all kinds of exploitation from all corners. By the way, when did lewdness need education? not required. We have cattle, we have live stock, we have humans, so simple. So much so standing in the village-customer shoes.
Standing in the urban customer’s shoes for sometime , sex is one of the basic needs like hunger and thirst. Yes, when I am hungry I go to a hotel, when I am thirsty, I fetch a water bottle or some beverage to quench my thirst. When my hormones are hungry, I need some other body. Just that simple. As a GEN Y ( those born between early 80s – early 90s) if all my reasoning will see a dead end after it hits the unwanted streets of a male/female flesh trade worker, I wonder, where the mind of Gen X ( those born between early 90s to about 2010) start from? ( specifically in this context) and imagine the next generation after Gen X, why imagine, let us wait and watch. Let us look at the reality, stand on the ground realities just to freeze to some more alarming statistics of how an entire country got besieged with a wave of unsolicited sexual diseases and its contemporary variants through time.
I see a transformation in attitudes of youngsters, they have a mind of their own and would want others to mind their own business instead of perturbing them and their rightful lives, totally understandable. I sometimes admire the progress about their forthrightness in calling a spade a spade, and calling hypocrite a hypocrite. Why not ? For instance, take the case of a kid who grows up seeing his uncle or in the worst case, his father speak high of his own personal ethics and values one side while the other side, he sees him creep onto the bed of another strange woman (just to answer his hormonal call!). This could happen with a woman in the house also, even more torturing.
To such a kid, his/ her world starts where our world ends , at the desolated streets of these deplorable women/men trading their skin and flesh. The very place where I stood one day. I tried to think in the shoes of the ‘customers’ but could not for not too long, personal limitation.Maybe, even some of you may not empathize with them for too long. But look at the exponential progress we made in borrowing S.T.Ds (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) like AIDS and as mentioned, the other similar contemporary variants.
No wonder, I am a part of this research, confused between this reality and the fiction and fables that were imbibed from family and society. What hit me more is not the truth that in a place like Pune, about 24% of the visitors are students. Or other percentages of vicarious perversions, or transgenders who are in high in demand by some renowned high-standing statesmen in the society, right there in Hyderabad, in central places.
Something that heckled me and wrenched my deeper reasoning is the gap, yes, the gap between what is practiced and preached in our country. Truly disturbing! This is the same gap I wish someone could address, specially to lot of the next generations who are equally caught in the quagmire, maybe from their perspective, the gap will be wider and worse. Not happening. Will we leave it here until someone close to us, like our younger brother or sister or child is showing up himself or herself in these streets as a desperado?
After the above real drama, I am coming to theater and drama as in ‘Life as a Drama and Drama as a Life-protection’ If there is any place where education and drama could meet, it could be through applied drama. And admittedly some researchers do consider drama to be a very strong medium to educate the villagers. This was very successfully implemented in another project that aimed to increase the hand-wash practices in some of the remotest villages of India. I will always be proud that I was a part of one of the pioneering core research projects. This project conceived of drama as an integral part of its communication strategies, it had a dedicated drama team go from village to village to spread the word against hand wash practices to stay hygienic. . It is true that millions of children in Indian villages die before they reach 5 years of their age, as seen in the Gundappa’s ad by HUL (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF7oU_YSbBQ).
Recently, one of my good friends mentioned a website that can be quoted as another example of how social causes can be addressed through drama in villages https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UFb0r9_64I,
this wonderful video showcases how villagers can be educated against superstitions, this is from the prestigious BBC Learning.
To drive home the point, there is literally a drama behind the success of effective communication of important social messages in the villages. How can we ignore the population of villages if progress is a word pertaining to a country like India where two-thirds of its population reside in villages. And why not strive in the lines of ‘drama as a way to emancipation, drama as a way to empowerment’. So, personally, for me it was a question of why not make some efforts to know more about this field? As a small step, I entered into a workshop and yes, I am still at the door step, still gauging some pros and cons from different angles.
If there could be a specific goal in any research project where I can involve as a researcher and more so as a person or a character who can speak to the audience about a good message, the ‘officially-animated’ way (through drama), by all means, I will. Drama, for a social cause! Maybe, it is here that the researcher and the artist in me will converge perfectly to satiate my larger appetite to reach and serve the society.
Even if one Dhrithi will change her mind to quit flesh trade after seeing her future risks through my drama, it is an achievement in itself. And I sincerely hope to make it one day, a way to streamline my life drama for a stage drama, all with a good purpose :) !!