“Sahib, not today, its my day off” i said to the customer. He smelled of cheap liquor and i knew he would not budge easily.
“I will give more money, see i got my salary today” he showed me handful of money must be accounting to 6 thousand. i grew greedy, he was intoxicated might give the whole amount. But i was scared his wife might come the next day and start a brawl.
“Go, sahib not today” i slammed the door on his face. I heard a faint and muffled noise from the adjacent chawl. I smiled, rani was open to business and that man is going to loose his salary today. She was new to the trade and eager to earn money. Her father left her here near a pimp when she was 12 and one day she escaped from the pimp when he tried to kill her, from then she lives with us. Poor soul breaks my heart to see her waste her life but who was i complaining my own life was already done.
I am 23 now and entered into this when i was 17 years old. My mother couldn’t afford us 3 girls and my father was a drunkard. Every night he used come home drunk and his pleas for pleasure and the after effect was clearly heard through the thin walls of our chawl. One day my father left us for another women and my mother never stopped waiting for him. I simply left my past life and started this life.
Finding a pimp and getting into the trade was harder when you came willingly, people had doubts and would take a long time trusting you. The pimp would eat most of the commission and would be difficult to put aside money for a rainy day. I finally left him and started on my own. Business was good as i maintained the place neat and hygienic .
There was a knock on the door and i knew who its was.
“Come didi” i called her inside. No one knew her name everybody called her didi. She was the oldest among us.
She smiled. “So, how are you feeling now?” she asked holding my hand.
“I am ok didi only morning sickness till now” i replied. There was sadness in her eyes and i knew what she would say
“Meena, it is a huge responsibility and even if you are ready the path is not easy”
“I know didi, but i have decided i cannot even think of the alternative”
She gave me some money even though i said no. For the medicines is all she said and left.
The life i choose for myself was not easy and getting some one else into this kind of society was a difficult task. The doubts i had were taunting me day and night. I knew the child would not be welcome in the society and i would have to fight for its every single right constantly but i knew i was ready.
Few weeks later i shut down my business temporarily as the customers commented that i put on weight. i would sit and knit the whole day listening to music and reading wise books that would keep the baby healthy.
Suddenly one day didi died due to multiple wounds. A customer came drunk and trashed her badly. She was sick for many days but her poor condition of living caused infections and she died a week later. Her kid was taken to a orphanage as nobody was ready to take the responsibility.
She did leave some amount of money for the kid but the chawl ladies distributed it among themselves. That day i couldn’t sleep properly, i knew that even our own kind wont help if something happens to us. I knew what i had to do. The path i choose shouldn’t be imposed on my child. Dying would be a better option than living the life i choose. But for me it was my life, my identity, my being.
A week later, after recovery i opened the door to the first customer.
Meena was back into business.