City Life – A Room in the Red Light, GB Road
The world of a sex worker.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The room is smaller than the kitchen of an average DDA (Delhi Development Authority) flat. The walls are painted pale purple. A small ceiling fan hangs down from the roof. A red plastic table cloth lies over a wooden stool, which has a bottle of coconut oil and a box filled with condoms.
The Delhi Walla is in a room in the red light district of GB Road. There are five more rooms like this one in the establishment.
GB Road, officially known as Shardhanand Marg, has about 20 buildings. Dark corridors with steep stone stairs lead to places like this one on the first and second floors. The shops downstairs on the corridor are mostly stocked with bathroom and toilet fittings. The area has no parks, no playgrounds, not even a beauty saloon. Vendors of cosmetics such as nail paints and lipsticks keep coming inside the establishments to sell their ware to women.
Not all rooms in the area are as austere. In some, every inch of the walls are covered with posters of film stars. Some even have air-conditioners. This room feels bare in comparison.
The bedsheet has a floral print. A little pillow underneath has a silvery shine. The plastic basket is empty. The hooks to hang clothes are fitted beside the green door.
This room is a woman’s workplace, not her living quarters, however. Women in this particular establishment don’t really have a private place of their own. One of the woman lives on the roof, for instance. Another sleeps on a landing beside the staircase. Most women sleep on the kotha’s veranda at night, that is if they are not working at night. Then they stand in the corridor outside waiting for customers.
The room is quiet except for the faint traffic sounds. But that is another world.
A room not of their own