Kat-Katha Stories | Quarterly Newsletter| Jul-Sep 2018

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Highlights of the Quarter

Kat-Kalrav: ‘Bachpan ka Pitara’ & ‘Azad Parindey’

15th August 2018

Kat-Kalrav is the yearly festival that Kat-Katha celebrates on Independence Day with the larger Kat family on GB Road to spread love and happiness. This year, Kat Katha celebrated the fifth edition of Kalrav Carnival. GB Road, Delhi’s largest red light area was decorated with colourful flags, and positioning kiosks of “chuski” and “bhutta” stalls, people playing Gully-cricket and Badminton organised by “Born to play”, speakers blazing with music, and everything that reminded people of their childhood. The children of the school displayed true essence of their childhood by managing the programme; be it praying, painting, playing games, and dancing with the support of Delhi Police and URS Productions.

 

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Kat Katha team performed the most joyful Flash mob, for our Didis on the road, choreographed by Kapil, our dance teacher. By the time the ‘Aazad Parindey’ walk for freedom began, we had more Didis and kids coming out of the brothels and join us in the dance. Dastak, a play on gender-based violence was also performed by Asmita Theatre group while Manzil Choir, a band, performed famous Kabir songs that concluded the Kat-Kalrav – The Annual Fest.

Love Sonia Special Screening with PVR

27th September 2018

PVR Nest & PVR Cinemas hosted a special screening for Kat Katha of “Love Sonia” at PVR Plaza New Delhi to spread awareness about the issue of human trafficking. We hosted various foundations like Manzil, Childscapes, Rescue foundation, Saajha and Indus Action for the screening of the movie. Didis and children from GB Road had participated in strength. Ms Swati Maliwal, DCW Chairperson, also graced the occasion and shared her stories of struggle and unending efforts to stop sex -work. Kat-Katha’s team left the theatre with heavy emotions but with a renewed resolve to work harder to end forced sex-work and make every red light district a street of love.

 

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Kat-Katha’s Vision Cycle Highlights

Phase I – Field Research, Mobilization, and Relationship Building

Conversation on Intimate Hygiene with Sirona

5th September 2018

Sirona India, a company working on health empowerment of women by providing practical solutions, organised a talk session with female members of Kat-Katha regarding its products. The team was told about the use of PeeBuddy, with which women can stand and pee, and the use of menstrual cups, for making mensuration pad free. Kat-Katha along with Sirona India will now reach out to the women on GB Road and educate them on the use of simple self-help devices for better health and comfort.

Motivation, Passion, and Ambition with Drishti Foundation

19th August 2018

Smita Di and Jyoti Di from Drishti Foundation, who have been a constant source of support, came down to visit the Kat-Katha family from Mumbai. All the volunteers, children and Didis sat down for a sharing circle in a brothel. Smita Di sat down with the Kat cherubs to understand their motivations, passions and ambitions in life and the second session was with the Maitri Meal team where Smita Di urged our Didis to talk about their expectations and experiences of the Maitri Meals project. Kat cherubs proactively offered to dance, ending the visit on a beautiful note.

Phase II – Bridge School on GB Road (Bridging the gap to Freedom)

Celebrating the love of Teachers

5th September 2018

This Teachers’ Day, our kids surprised us with a day like no other; an emotional ride for some of us, nostalgic for others. The kids welcomed the staff and volunteers by washing their feet and taking blessings from their gurus, as per our Indian tradition. The staff and volunteers were overwhelmed and were glad to be on the receiving end of the celebrations and proud to see their kids managing the activities so beautifully. We were also joined by our former volunteers, Padmashree Deepa Ma’am, our anchor donor and supporter Smt. Madhu Dusad, and Sirona India team to add joy to the celebrations. The coup de grace, was the gifts made by the kids;  paper weights along with a challenge; ranging from treating domestic help kids with a party or to feed homeless kids.
Teachers Day

Learning with Creativity Adda

12th July and 14th September 2018

Creativity Adda, a project initiated by Shikshantar Andolan, is based on the pedagogy of self-designed learning and draws inspiration from Gandhi’s “Nai Taleem”, Tagore’s Shantiniketan, democratic school movement,  unschooling/home schooling  movement and Swaraj University in Udaipur, Rajasthan model of supporting young people to craft their own learning journeys. Ashish, head of Creativity Adda at the Mukherjee Nagar Centre, visited Kat Katha School to make the activity room more-friendly and appealing to the kids. He suggested various feedback mechanisms to our teaching staff and held activities with kids to know more about our work. This was followed by a visit to Creativity Adda by Stephany, our Education Lead to gain more insights for making education more fun and engaging at Kat-Katha.

Phase III – Empower Projects to enable women and children

Maitri Meals: Friendship through Food

16th September 2018

Maitri Meals, an initiative by Kat-Katha became operational. The initiative where Didis from GB Road are daily cooking 130 mid-day meals for children of four PVR Nest centres across Delhi, co-managed by Art of Play. PVR Nest is a pioneering endeavour in the Indian entertainment industry which rehabilitates the “Children at Risk” in the vicinity of PVR complexes. Art of Play works on providing experience of organized sports to these children with a purpose on developing their Social, Emotional and Physical skills.

We were also supported by, Socials Offline who provided us infra for the Kitchen and the planning of Menu. Inner Wheel, one of the largest women’s service voluntary organisations, helped us with setting up the home for Didis.  AVDS (Arun Verma Design Studio) gifted us office furniture and computer facilities. Family and friends of our founder Gitanjali, also pitched in with their support. Sirona India organised a training by professional cooks. Maitri Meals has benefited largely due to their support and are confident that the Didis will take this as their commitment to make the project successful for themselves.

 

 

Staff Training Programs

Non-Violent Communication: Learning Language of Love

23rd and 24th July 2018

“enCompassion”, a social enterprise which provides workshops and trainings on Non-Violent Communication, conducted one such workshop with Kat-Katha for two days. The workshop enabled the staff and children of Kat-Katha to experience the importance of positive speech, and ways to adapt it in their daily lives.

The emphasis was on how our needs and expectations determine the way we perceive the things around us, and how we interact with our loved ones. The representatives from enCompassion talked about the values of trust, pain, growth, healing, amongst others. The Kat family learnt about the ways one can practice self-care and growth. The stark difference between empathy and non-empathy and the ways to incorporate positive emotions in our lives was also discussed.

 

 

 

The Vaginal Dialogue: Destigmatising Sexual Health

Haiyya was founded in 2013 with the vision of bringing societal change by action of the collective. Their flagship project, #HealthOverStigma focuses on women’s health, sanitation and menstrual hygiene, sexuality, and others. Under this project, the representatives from Haiyya visited the school and had a workshop with the staff and volunteers. The workshop revolved around menstrual hygiene, safe and legal medical termination of pregnancy, good sanitary practices, etc.

Manuals on the practices were shared with the Team. The myths and taboos that surround our society and inhibits free flow of conversation around topics like safe sex, contraception, menstruation, and others was also discussed freely.

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Other Success Stories

Kaala: Story of a Sex-Worker, Beyond Sex-Work

21st July 2018

The “Kaala” play was about the life of a sex worker, who had become habituated to her life in the GB road; and how a chance encounter changed her life. The screenplay revolved around the way people’s lives are intertwined with each other and how our past experiences affect our destiny. Based on a true story, Kaala portrayed the journey of a young man who chooses to look at a woman beyond the fact that she is a sex worker, and as he indulges into self-introspection, ends up falling in love with her.

It was a fundraising event for Kat-Katha, and all the money that was raised through the sale of tickets was donated to Kat.

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Gong Festival: Kat-Katha Extends a Supporting Hand

18th August 2018

Kat-Katha’s partners Deepti and Aman, who frequently conduct sound therapy/ sound healing sessions for our volunteers, organised a ‘Gong Festival’ and invited Kat-Katha as a partner NGO. A troupe of 15 gong players mesmerized the audience during the concert. Kat-Katha volunteers supported in managing the audience of over 500 people including 100 cancer patients seamlessly.

Gong Festival

Youth Alliance Alumni Meet: Crooning to the Bhajans of Sant Kabir

19th August 2018

Team of volunteers from Kat Katha attended the Youth Alliance’s Alumni meet held in Delhi. For the volunteers, this alumni meet was a forum to connect with new people, share experiences and bond over Kabir bhajans by Shabnam Varmani.  Kat Katha also got an opportunity to build new relationships while nurturing old ones with sister organisations such as Moved by Love.

Sound Therapy: A Healing Session for Volunteers

Our volunteers who selflessly support Kat-Katha in its cause to end forced sex-labour at GB Road were in for a treat when we organised a ‘Sound Therapy’ session.

The aim of the session was to equip our volunteers with an effective way to beat the stress of our humdrum lives. The organiser, Deeptiji, who is a practitioner of various alternative healing and self-discovery tools likes Rebirthing- Breath-work, Past Life Regression, Inner Child Healing, Sound Therapy has been associated with Kat-Katha for over several months now and very graciously offered support to our volunteers once again through her therapy sessions.

Volunteer Testimonial

It’s been just three months but seems like a lifetime.

When I joined Kat-Katha three months back, scared, naïve and confused, I never expected to embark on a journey that would change me forever. But, I grew out to become a more positive, loving and calm teammate. After working with almost all Teams, I chose to work with the Education Team because my love for Kat-Katha’s children had outgrown everything else. I had attended many major events in these three months, but the event that is most special to me would be Kat Kalrav even though I wasn’t present there. It taught me how it’s not important to be perfect if it’s done with all the love and happiness and with the people you love. I can’t be more grateful to my Didis, my kids, fellow volunteers and the hardworking staff to believe in me and acknowledge my efforts to return something to the society.

Cheshta Miglani
IP College for Women, Delhi University



– Cheshta Miglani
IP College for Women, Delhi University

 

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The day I discovered my freedom…

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Whenever someone asked me what ‘being free’ meant to me, I used to give them a standard reply, “The day I start earning and be able to take my decisions on my own without any parental or societal obligations, I would feel free.” But 15th august 2014, has completely changed this definition.
When the whole nation celebrated 67 years of colonial independence, Kat parivaar celebrated Azaadi in the red light area of the capital. It had started out as someone else’s dream but being a part of the process of execution of that dream has its own set of advantages.
It was my very first project at Kat. And though I thought that my past experience of organizing such an event would prove to be a boon, I was totally wrong. Every place has its own characteristics and I had absolutely no clue about the intricacies of this place and the people who live here.

When I had first walked down the pavement of G.B. road, I was nervous. It was not only because that road had a stigma attached to it but because I rarely saw any women in that entire area and that, in turn magnified the intensity of that stigma. People keep staring at you as you walk by. That was the first time that I had lost a part of my confidence. I was afraid of walking alone on that road. I felt trapped in my own web of perceptions that had juggled up in my mind. It knows what is right, but still reacts to what has been fed to it since time unknown.

The second challenge that arrived quite soon was the difficulty in understanding the differences in expectations that people had from this carnival. Time constraints never allowed everyone to come together and lesser successful outcomes at times had only increased the skepticism about the whole event.

Nevertheless as the days passed by, things started taking shape. That’s what they told me about Kat-Katha, “There’s some magic here that sets everything right in the end.” I could see that magic taking a shape. It was less than a week for Kat-kalrav, and the team had started spreading its aura everywhere on G.B. road. We painted the G.B. walls together, invited every shop on the road to be a part of it. The most excited were the kids who made all the efforts to make it the best day for the didis and other kids who live here.

15th august was madness for me, as it was for every volunteer who was a part of this team. But still, I remember each and every moment of it. I remember the happiness that existed at each corner of the tent, I remember the smiles on the face of didis and kids as they danced freely on the stage, I remember the tears of joy that trickled down the faces of so many who made it happen.

And now, after almost a month, when I think about Kat-Kalrav, I feel it was a start of a revolution in true sense. It was a revolution that not only brought a positive change in the lives of didis and kids for some time, but also brought about a transformation in our hearts and minds. I found love and acceptance there and it answered all my fears and worries. It left me with a deep feeling of belonging to that place. And now when you ask me what freedom means to me, I’d say, “Freedom is being able to do whatever you want to do without the fear of being suppressed or the fear of failing or being judged. The day I overpower all my fears, I’ll be free.”

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– Divya Gupta

Dreams Do Come True ..

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My day at Kat-Katha began, at around 9 am, when I requested Nimish to show some of the photos he had clicked recently over the computer, as then I would have some rough idea to how exactly he has to get molded in order be a better photographer. The photos surely were appealing but all they needed was a little brushing up & so, we decided to head to Jama Masjid for a photowalk.

9.30 am, as we set off towards the monument, I snapped a moment to ask on our way about how does he feel while clicking & when picture turns out good? The glimpse of that smile that drew on his face, when he told how good he feels, was more than enough for me to get the vibes that he surely enjoys clicking.
He intently listened to all the little techniques I told him about photography. Within 15 mins. of walk, we were there & I asked him to click whatever that looks good according to him & so he did. Beginning with the main building of Jama Masjid itself, all I did was just told him which angle would be the best & he was his own master afterwards.

Once I told him how one can use something as a frame of a subject & how to look for patterns, he himself started seeking for them & showed me the frames & patterns which even my eyes gave miss. He has the strength, patience and the passion to reach for the stars. As dreaming ties all the mankind together, I could see the universe making his dream fall in place.

In an hour we decided to wind up, as the sun started scorching bad. At the end I couldn’t be happier enough to see that satisfied smile on his face, a smile of
an achievement, a smile that was sending a vibe that he was dreaming, dreaming of doing in life something that would make him always Happy !

Image!

‘All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them’ – Walt Disney

Love,
Hardik Gaurav

The Power of Prayer !

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It was a regular Saturday for me at Kat-Katha. Yes, I was late again. I walked through the narrow lanes of old Delhi, struggling amidst thelewals, rickshawalas, cows, dogs, cats and other hurried beings, and somehow managed to enter Shahtara Gali. There’s something in the air of that place which actually repaints you with new colors of life. The aura was perfumed with the delicate smell of tempered mustard seeds, turmeric, jeera, and other Indian spices. I suddenly felt hungry. Thrilled prattle of voices mixed with holy Islamic hymns offered a great sense of energy. I climbed up the steep stairs of our school slowly, catching some breath.
As soon as I opened the half-shut door, the kids came running and shouting. We all hugged each other in the very next second. It was more of a ritual now, especially at a place where Love is the only religion. Before I could have become conscious, I realized that I was being pulled from every direction. Babujaan wanted to climb up on my shoulders, Fiza asked (actually ordered) me to lift her up in the air, Pari commanded me to play a swing for her, and everyone else had some or the other claims ready with them to just fire upon anyone who comes their way. This was when the kids had already been worn-out of rolling and jumping in the morning before I came. They’re extremely energetic, believe me!

I straight away went inside the study room, trying to be in charge of everything around me as there was no other volunteer, but all goes in vain when our little girls just want to play and play again. I thought for a minute and decided to play “Fill in the blanks” with our children. I thought it’d be learning and having fun at the same time. They sat with their tables, boxes, etc and asked me about the game.
At first, I thought that they would kill me as soon as I tell them it’s “Fill in the blanks”. To my surprise, I’m still alive as they happily agreed to play the game. I crossed my fingers and told everyone to settle down. I recited the rules to them. I asked them to split into teams of four each. There were Nimish, Kunal, Babujaan, Pari, Komal, Fiza, and Aslam. I wanted them to muddle up to make the game a bit fairer but Pari, Komal, and little Fiza wanted “Boys versus Girls” without realizing the fact that it was more of a knowledge game, and Nimish, Kunal & Babujaan were in higher grades which makes them more clued-up in every sense. The girls were adamant on their decision and I had to agree in the end. For me, now the game was completely one-sided with our confident big boys- Nimish, Kunal, Babujaan, and Aslam in the same team while on the other hand we had mysterious, magical and happy-go-lucky team of Pari, Komal and Fiza. Yes, it was four big boys versus three pretty girls!

In no time, they segregated themselves and sat according to their teams. Our kids are so smart that they would arrange the board, marker, and duster before you could ask for it.

We started the game. I made two columns for writing the marks and left some space for writing incomplete words. Pari was the captain of girls’ team and Nimish was leading the boys. ‘Okay, I am writing the first word. It could be anything for example, a fruit, an animal, a bird or even someone’s name. 5 marks for each correct alphabet you guess, 0 for wrong, 20 if you guess the whole word in a go, -10 for wrong guess, if you want a hint you need to give me your 10 points, and you can only speak one alphabet at a time as the turn will keep on rotating if you’re incorrect,’ I hope I made myself clear. They nodded so confidently as if they’ve been playing this game from past several years. They were looking unbearably cute!

The room was full of charts of Vehicles, fruits, vegetables, and a picture of Mahatma Gandhi just above the white board. I looked around for a word and started writing the first one.

O _ A _ _ E

They are smart enough to follow my eyes and look for the word around them but I told them not to do so. Making another attempt to make the game unbiased, I gave the first chance of guessing to girls. They thought sincerely, sincere enough to blow me off. ‘One alphabet at a time,’ I announced again. They actually discussed amongst each other for that single alphabet which shows a trait of team work in them, I was delighted to see that.
After a minute of murmuring, Pari said ‘P’. I made a face and slashed the letter. It was incorrect. The boys laughed at them and the girls seemed unhappy with their first guess. The clock rolled by and kids were guessing the alphabets one by one. Komal said R and they won first 5 points then Nimish’s team said N and won their first 5. They kept on shouting alphabets. Nobody asked for a hint.

ORAN_E

At this, Babujaan guessed the whole word completely and won 20 more points for that. The girls were at 5 and disappointed. They even said that I am boy so I am playing in favour of boys. I had nothing to defend myself. I just smiled and wrote the next incomplete word. The game was going good. They boys played extremely well while the girls also managed to get some points for guessing a few right alphabets for the next few words. A lot happened in next few minutes. Kunal and babujaan giving high-five to each other for getting right alphabets while Pari, being the captain, scolding Fiza for guessing wrong alphabets randomly without any discussion and wasting crucial chances.

They were lost amidst words in that small room. The answer to every question was around them in those chart papers. There was a stage where Boys were at 65 and girls at 30.

This was the time for the last and final word. Boys were already winners according to the score card. The girls were unhappy. The feeling of being defeated by boys was insufferable for three of them. As I announced the score the girls were like ‘We’re going, all boys are cheaters!’ Pari even said that ‘Agar koi mam hoti toh hume hi jeetati.’

For a moment I felt responsible for their loss. I said ‘Okay, this is the last word. Though the boys are clear winners but if girls want to win then they need to guess the correct alphabets and even the whole word at some stage.’

I looked up and started writing the last and final word.

M_H_ _ M _ G_N_H_

Well, the kids were taken aback as for them it was a long word. But the boys seemed over confident while girls were clueless again. Pari started with ‘P’ again. For her every word must have a ‘P’ in it being her favorite alphabet.

It was wrong. I slashed it as she made a face again. The room echoed with boys’ laughter.

After a few wrong guesses Babujaan made his first correct guess ‘T’

M_H_TM_ G_N_H_

Everyone looked around for the word. The even stood up and went near the chart papers but found nothing. The girls now played for the sake of playing. They seemed no more interested in a lost game.

I told them that there’s only one letter that’d make them understand the word.

The boys did their first mistake by asking for a hint being over confident. They thought that they will guess the whole word but it turned it the other way.

‘Sir, we need hint,’ said Nimish. ‘Okay, I will deduct 10 points from your score,’ I said as they nodded. For girls it was another partiality from my side.

‘This is the name of a person, whom we admire, follow, and love. He preached peace and kindness all around the world and helped India to get independence.’ It was now 55 (Boys) and 30 (Girls) The boys thought for a minute. Girls were busy packing their stuff. They knew they had lost it but Fiza paid attention to what I said.

Babujaan seemed to know it but he didn’t want to take any risk.

Boys guessed a wrong letter and the turn was with the girls again. I told the girls to be careful, and made them believe that they could still win it.

I don’t know why, but Pari said to Komal and Fiza Oye Komal, Fiza, chalo Pray kartey hain.’

I was like what? Pray? Before I could have managed to understand this gesture, I saw the girls closing their eyes, folding hands and murmuring something within.

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The boys laughed again but the girls were so much into the prayer that they didn’t pay heed to what was happening around. They prayed with their eyes on God, not the difficulties. They surrendered every emotion and dwelled into faithfulness.

They say that you never pray alone. All the angels around pray with you, they look into the sanctity of your heart while you pray, and in this world nothing is pure than the heart of a child.

The very next moment they opened their eyes I smiled at them and told to guess an alphabet. Komal said ‘D’ winning 5 points making it to 35.
M_H_TM_ G_NDH_

Boys guessed another one wrong. The next turn was with girls, and Pari said ‘I’, she always guessed the alphabets from her own name. But unfortunately she didn’t say ‘A’.

The girls were now at 40 and boys at 55. It still wasn’t clear to the kids. They still were confused regarding that word. Nimish guessed another wrong one. The game seemed to shift on girls’ side. I don’t know how.

And guess what? They prayed again, they prayed whenever it came to them. This was the time when boys started making fun of them but they prayed.

I told them to make a guess carefully. I repeated the hint, the girls paid attention. I don’t how, when and why but Fiza suddenly looked above my head, she saw something that no one else saw, she realized something that nobody else even thought about.

‘Gandhi Jweeeeeeeee,’ Fiza said in her usual style, raising her hand high in the air. The boys looked at me. I looked at Fiza. Pari also looked at Fiza but in anger, she thought that Fiza had made a wrong guess and they have completely lost it now.

‘Wah! Sahi Jawaab.. It’s Mahatma Gandhi. Girls have won the game,’ I said as I was in a complete shock. I was absorbing the fact that girls have won. I spontaneously went to the girls and hugged them. They boys seemed traumatized. They fought amongst themselves. They were angry for they didn’t pray.

The scoreboard said – GIRLS (60) BOYS (55)

The girls stood up, danced crazily, and THANKED GOD. The boys were jealous now and blamed me for cheating. I was screwed from both the sides.

I don’t know if it was co-incidence or not, I don’t know if should even use the word miracle but this particular instance has made me believe in the Power of Prayer.

This might be a very small incident, small enough to be explained in a paragraph, but this happening has kept Pari’s faith intact and made it even stronger than before. For her, now, prayer has not only the power of saving someone’s life or winning a game but it makes her feel safe. Komal thinks that prayer has power to get hold of all the energy in this world. For Fiza, prayer is simple two-way conversation between her and God. The best thing was that Boys thought that they should’ve also prayed. So, it has not only made girls win but also created ripples of the power in prayer. For them it’s the best way to draw strength from heaven. They don’t just pray before eating or while closing the school, they pray in their deepest, darkest moments, what really got them through was a prayer. Sometimes the prayer is ‘Help me.’ Sometimes the prayer is ‘Thank you.’ What they’ve discovered through these small incidents is that intimate connection and communication with the Creator will always get them through because they know their support, their help, is just a prayer away.

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LOVE ALL ! SERVE ALL ! THANK YOU !!

– Anurag Garg


We do believe we’re all connected. We do believe in positive energy. We do believe in the power of prayer.”

Face-off with a “Taboo”

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Sitting within the confines of my comfort zone, when I recall the events of the day, I feel an urge to share it with every interested person who wishes to listen. The simple reason being, I went to a place which was no ordinary; GB Road. Situated right in the heart of the national capital of India, the area is ‘peculiar’ because it is the home to thousands of didis.

My day started off with a visit to one of the most famous ‘kothas’ of the road, number 64. As I climbed up the stairs of the building, I could feel my heart racing in anticipation of what was going to happen next. The repetition of one question in my mind was very prominent, how will our didis react to the presence of an ‘outsider’ like me? I had the humble company of Gitanjali and Pratima, which I believe, was enough. I noticed that the stairs were pretty crowded with men, and I thought that there might be some other work or business going on in the same building. I had no idea that all those men had only one ‘business’ there. As soon as we entered the place, the sight of a crowded hall welcomed us. Though, the scene wasn’t as scary as I had imagined, it wasn’t charming either. I could see various didis and men of all ages, in the crowd. Opposite to my expectations, it was a well lit hall with a proper marbel flooring. We were escorted to a room which looked more like a cashier’s room. While didis were conversing with Gitanjali, I could notice the happiness and warmth on their faces which otherwise was almost missing. It felt good to see them pull each other’s legs, laugh and talk in a jovial manner. For all those who fail to see beyond their bodies, there exists a heart which craves for love, understanding and compassion.

Didis were so friendly and welcoming that I almost forgot that I was meeting them for the first time. Many a times I glanced outside the room, only to see a variety of ‘customers’ standing in front of their allotted rooms. I was surprised to see that majority of men belonged to what we call ‘good families’. Most of our didis standing there were very young, mostly in their later teenage years or early 20s. Gitanjali mam clearly shared a bond with our didis that surpassed all the formalities and the sight of our didis laughing their hearts out to her jokes was mesmerizing. In the corner of the room, was a small ‘mandir’ dedicated to various Hindu gods. Despite of what they go through each day, their faith in God isn’t shattered after all.

Post spending a good deal of time at the place, we then headed to a different brothel which was adjacent to the previous one, but on the same floor. The scene was no different there. The place looked like an exact replica of the previous one and once again we were escorted to the cashier’s room. Gitanjali mam had a long talk with the didis around and this time I had a little to share too. I was becoming more comfortable and confident while talking to them, which was clearly a good sign fulfilling one of the purposes of my visit. It was now time for us to leave.

As soon as we came down the stairs, I could see many men staring at Gitanjali and Pratima in a way which was very derogatory. There were many instances when men stopped and asked for their ‘rates’. Agonizing is the fact, that people view every woman on that street as a sex worker regardless of how she dresses up or behaves. There was an instance when an almost a 60-65 year old man came and stood next to Pratima and kept staring at her.

Since I am not good with numbers, I do not remember the brothel number but what I clearly remember is the shady stairs of the building. Upon reaching the second floor, we greeted our didis sitting on the doorway waiting for ‘customers’. As we entered the place, there was a small passage allowing only one person to pass at a time. The structure of the building was very similar to the chaals of Mumbai but much smaller. Gitanjali entered a room to talk to one of the didis while I and Pratima chose to stand outside. Almost all the rooms had a false ceiling made of wood which served as an extra floor within the room itself. The rooms were very small and congested. The condition of the rooms was far from livable, let alone sustain a family of four or more. I found the aura of the place very dull and depressing. The best thing was that didis were atleast trying to be cheerful and welcoming when we arrived. A smile on their otherwise grim faces was the only thing that showed some hope.

Our next destination was another ‘kotha’ on far end of the road. On reaching the second floor of that building, we were welcomed by some bright faces. We sat on the furniture reserved for customers. The place was poorly lit with pretty old furniture and pale walls. While Gitanjali was talking to our didis, a man suddenly came up the stairs and stood still on the doorway. The man, in his early 40s, was completely drunk and he was pointing a finger at Gitanjali. At first, I couldn’t make out what exactly he was trying to do but when I saw didis shouting and asking him to leave, only then I realised that he was ‘choosing’ Gitanjali  out of all the women who were sitting there. The man left in a haste, but the whole situation forced me to think that how disrespectful it must be for a woman to be in a situation like this. Our didis go through the same situation repeatedly for many years, devastating every bit of confidence in them.

This time, I talked to didis more freely and openly. I tried to make them laugh, and to my surprise, my poor sense of humor worked. I felt myself much closer to them and to our cause. While sitting there and gazing at them, all I could think was that how unfair life has been to them. They deserve a life free of all the shackles, a life where adversities aren’t the only things that they have to deal with, a life where they can be respected citizens of the country, a life where they are accepted and much more.

After a well spent day with our didis, my curiosity has been replaced by the feeling of love for them. No matter where I will be in the future, I will continue to do my bit for them. I realise that we have a long way to go, but now I feel that I am much more prepared than before to go all the way for them. The realization might appear to be an instant one, but it’s the way I feel while writing this up. Not to forget, thank you Gitanjali and Pratima for taking along with you a newbie like me who otherwise would have been a mere ‘customer’ in the eyes of our didis.

Love.:)

-Sahil Narula

Initiating change in the lives of sex workers: Gitanjali Babbar at TEDxGBU

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Kat-Katha’s vision is to present a series of life choices to the women and children living in the brothels of GB Road and instill a sense of confidence in them to design and act towards a life of choice.

Gitanjali Babbar was initially involved with National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) where she got an opportunity to work with eunuchs. It was during this stint that Gitanjali first visited GB Road and interacted with the sex workers there. To her horror, she discovered the grim reality of these sex workers serving 20-40 customers in a day. They needed a support system to talk to about their personal issues apart from the regular safe sex information. Gitanjali did just that. She set up Kat-Katha- an initiative that aims to provide a better life for sex workers and opportunities to find alternative livelihoods.What makes Kat-Katha unique is the way they operate. Community participation is very much at the core of this initiative instead of the conventional raid, rescue and rehabilitation route. Gitanjali encourages GB Road sex workers to join mainstream life by teaching them arts like stitching, embroidery, painting and encouraging them to explore alternate life choices, both within and without the world of brothels. Today through her initiative, Geentajali works for 3500 to 4000 sex workers and continues to be an agent of change in our society.

Kat-Katha works with the commercial sex workers of Garston Bastion (GB) Road and their children. GB Road is the largest red light area in India’s capital city, Delhi.  The organisation employs a four prong “RISE” approach, which includes raising awareness of Rights, Integration with mainstream society vocational training, Skills training, and Education for both women and their children. Kat-Katha aims to impact 4000 women in 77 brothels of GB Road and to create a replicable model that can be used to offer choice and opportunity to sex workers across the country.

With a bustling economy that touches more than  4000 sex workers and pimps, policy and remedial interventions have evaded GB Road despite the fact an overwhelming 60% of women state that their profession was not one of choice, but poverty and desperation. Sex work has formed the core of the GB Road economy for over 2 centuries and has been untouched by reform through colonial times as well as in the independent Indian state. Sex workers’ children face social exclusion and have little opportunity for education. Through a vicious cycle that limits their opportunity and choice, many of these children are then forced into prostitution as well.

Listen to Gitanjali Babbar’s inspirational TED Talk, leave your valuable comments, and spread the word.
For more visit us at facebook.com/katkathaa or contact us at katkathaa@gmail.com

Love 🙂

Fly High

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अब बिखरे हुए ख्वाबों की फिर से ताबीर करना चाहूँ ,

इस ग़मगीन दिल को खुशियों से भरना चाहूं।

उन कड़वी यादों को दफ़न करके,

ज़िन्दगी को ज़िन्दगी की तरह जीना चाहूँ।

आज फिर मैं मुस्तखीम राहों पर चलकर,

चाँद सी मुनवव्र होना चाहूँ।

तोड़ कर हर बेडी को,

अपनी ही ताल पर थिरकना चाहूँ।

अब तक चन्द साँसों में लिपटी,

एक कठपुतली थी मैं।

पर अब अपनी हर सांस को,

खुल कर जीना चाहूँ

 

– Firdoz