Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Power of Prayer !


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.


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.


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.

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.



– 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”


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.


-Sahil Narula

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


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.
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Love 🙂