Theatre

On life away from Kamathipura

The actors of ‘Red Light Express’ talk about their life away from Kamathipura

Rani is a storehouse of energy. Her laughter is infectious. Staying still at one place is not in her nature. Seated in the crowd along with Rani are her friends from ‘Kranti’, the home for girls born to the sex workers from Kamathipura, the infamous red light area of Mumbai. Rani is one of the home’s inmates who were in the city to perform the internationally acclaimed and travelled play Red Light Express. At Kranti, there are also girls rescued from trafficking and other NGOs who no longer want to support them.

As the gathering progresses, the girls cannot contain their excitement as the story of Kranti is being narrated to the audience. The play Red Light Express, performed by 14 performers, aged 13 – 23 yearsis a gripping and hard-hitting theatre performance. After a successful staging in Dublin and Edinburgh, the play was staged in India for first time in Hyderabad. This play has not only been performed to over 10 lakh audience across UK and USA but has also been performed at the world’s largest performing art festival —Fringe Festival at Edinburgh.

On life away from Kamathipura

Sheetal Jain and her friend Asmita Katti are seen anxiously texting their friends about the proceedings of the evening. “This girl is so happy. It is nice to be together. She is always excited about every play,” says Sheetal. She is dressed in a semi distressed denim, a cold shoulder top and her hair loose. Her phone is chock-a-block with apps and games. The girls might seem boisterous but their humility and good manners are their ultimate make-up. “Most of the inmates from Kranti are now leading a dignified life, like any other normal children. My mother was a bar dancer and I am fortunate to see the good side of the world. After my studies I got a job at an NGO in Bengaluru and I am happy. I am a part of the play and have travelled to many places which wouldn’t have been possible without being part of Kranti,” says Sheetal.

Seated in the row ahead of Sheetal and Asmita is Bandana, Asmita’s mother. She was a domestic help and looks to be in her late 20s. Asmita is in her late teens, “I have two other siblings and my mother too is a part of Kranti now,” says Asmita.

On life away from Kamathipura

Bani informs that Bandana grew in Kamathipura under the care of her mother’s fellow sex workers. Bandana later served as a Devdasi and gave birth to three girls. She chose to be with Kranti along with her daughters. Bani also informs that this journey of hers, along with theirs, wasn’t an easy one. When she thought of working with the children of sex workers things didn’t fall in place in the beginning. “No one was ready to give their children away to us just like that. There was an NGO called Apne Aap, so we collaborated with them. They mostly worked with minor children. We initially got two girls to work with Pinky and Sumaiya. After they started living with us, seeing their progress, their mothers spread the word and more and more girls started coming and living with us.”

Bani informs that though these talented girls lead a normal life away from the place they were born and brought up, the mental trauma they underwent is immense and only constant couseling can help keep them on track. The plays they perform also serve to give vent their emotions. “It helps them to let out their pent up feelings,” adds Rani.

Our mothers are happier to see us like this. They see our lives and work and feel blessed. They see our lives and work and feel blessed.

Certainly the girls are proud of what they are now, shares Sheetal. They feel confident, independent and empowered and want to have a normal life, like everyone else. “Our mothers are happier to see us like this. They see our lives and work and feel blessed. Most of us are able to comfort each other and support ourselves when we are down and out. Kranti is a family and our backgrounds don’t matter to us,” says Sheetal.

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Printable version | Jun 7, 2020 11:52:56 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/red-light-express-on-life-away-from-kamathipura/article22496855.ece

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