City which never sleeps…
Bombay (Mumbai) apart from being the commercial hub of India has always been famous all over the world, for its glittering and shimmering night life; a city (of razzmatazz) which never sleeps! It has borne the brunt of many political upheavals including the media onslaught for being run by a parallel Government and even controversies like having connections with Middle East (Dubai). It has earned a reputation of being a place for rejuvenation for the business community and the corporate heads from India and the neighboring countries as well. This commercial capital of India could boast of thousands of dance bars, spread all over the city, providing a source of income for more than 75,000 girls from India, Bangladesh and Nepal until year 2006, when the existing Government launched a state wide campaign against these bars, on the grounds of ‘morality’; they viewed this business as an assault on the age old culture and tradition of India, which they believed, was perceived and spoken of as the land of sages, values, religion and spirituality.

The backdrop!
It was a well known fact that these dance bars were officially not the centers for prostitution and any bar dancer who was involved in such activities, did so at her own risk and responsibility; needless to say that the circumstances had to be compelling in order to succumb to prostitution. These places were typically, rendezvous for evening or after work relaxation, coupled with unlimited liquor, blaring music, young girls dancing, and the onlookers (mostly men) relaxing in their reclining chairs watching the girls dance. Did I miss something? How could I forget the filthy rich, trying to mingle with the dancing damsels and showering loads of money on them? What pleasure did they get in wasting money like that? That’s beside the point. The point is, who these girls were and where did they come from? Majority of them sneaked in from poorer countries like Nepal and Bangladesh and the rest hailed from Calcutta (better known as ‘slum state’ of India) and other remote villages in India. These were the girls who had been supporting their families, living far away from them. Most of them, on being interviewed, revealed that they had chosen to live a life of anonymity and ‘disgrace’ (as per social norms) only for ensuring better education for their siblings, providing food to their hapless and helpless parents or for giving a better life to their children (those who had kids). Unfortunately, we have exorbitantly large number of people all over the world, who have very few options for survival in view of their illiteracy, poor economic conditions, lack of resources and (sometimes) geographical location. These people live in such deplorable conditions that they, more often than not, have been reported to sell their children, for a value which equals to a few cents in US currency. The horrifying emptiness of their stagnant lives which seems to be writ large on their morose faces, shouts to everyone that poverty is a curse!

The aftermath.
In view of human trafficking and the ever increasing rate of flesh trade, these dance bar girls were still living under a protective clout, in as much as no one could touch them without their permission. With these bars being shut down, pursuant to the court order, I wonder if the Government really has a clue of what happened to each one of them or to their dependent families. Even though, those poor girls (about 75,000 in number) participated in almost a year long agitation against the court order, they still had to accept the consequences, which they were subjected to, with one stroke of the Judge’s hammer. Whether the purpose behind such a verdict was served, still remains to be assessed. If it was a morality issue, whose morality was involved here? The Government and the law enforcement agencies probably thought that these girls were instrumental in instigating men to lose their ‘morality’ but little did these agencies care about the aftermath, of their unilaterally enforced decision on this weaker segment of the society. I vividly remember watching one of these girls confessing before a media journalist that her mother had been persistently calling her asking for her younger brother’s school fees and she didn’t know what she could possibly tell her as she was herself borrowing money for food. How long she would have survived dreading her mother’s phone calls or how long did it finally take her to succumb to the mounting pressures, no one knows.

Back to Hell!
I am not sure what might have been in the minds of a few political workers when they marched out in streets, shouting slogans against the dance bar owners but one thing came out crystal clear; they succeeded in their vendetta and rendered those poor girls jobless and penniless too. The shocking result (as per reports) was that these girls were eventually left with no other alternative but to resort to prostitution. Ironically, the girls might have had to sleep with those men whom they might have turned down in the past. It might have been like opting for Hell…Hell which they had been saving themselves from. Again, whose ‘morality’ was affected finally? Does it no longer prejudice the ‘rich culture’ of the country? Speaking of men who enjoyed visiting such dance bars, would they have stopped, going to ‘Nautch’ girls or for that matter, indulging in paid sex, after the closing down of these bars?

Anjali Chugh on Hub Pages.

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