What instantly struck me when I entered the Red Light area of Sonapur was the huge amount of tiny children running around. So gorgeous and innocent, it is heartbreaking that the girls are destined to follow in their mothers path, and the boys to become pimps themselves. Purnata is trying so hard to convince the women in Sonapur to put their children in ‘hostels’ which are kind of temporary safe orphanages so that they can have a chance of escaping this horrific cycle. Most of the women are adamant that they want to keep their children with them despite their circumstances. Many of the children are a result of one of their mother’s encounters with a customer, so I can only imagine how little love they receive. Many are badly malnourished and neglected.
Beena took me up to the Purnata drop in center where all the children started to filter in. They are so beautiful, warm and loving and I just wanted to scoop them all up and take them out of this hellhole. One thing that was amusing was when one little child entered the classroom, took one look at my pasty face and burst out crying with horror. I presume that I am the first terrifying white person he has ever come into contact with. This reminded me of when I was in Kenya and first was introduced to my friend’s toddler. He saw me and ran out of the room screaming with horror that a white, blue eyed, demonic ghost had come to get him.
I sat with the children who were all so warm and loving and I helped them with spelling. I will come here in the mornings to do English and art with them. I was told some stories of the children. One gorgeous girl comes from a family where it is their tradition for the women to become prostitutes. They see nothing wrong with it as her grandmother and mother have both worked in the business all of their lives. Her fate is more or less written for her. It is so hard to try and convince these parents to give up their daughter as they see her as a future source of income.
When their mothers have a customer, many of the children have already caught on that he wants them to go away. They tell him that if he gives them 10 rupees for some candy then they will not stay in the room. The fact that their mothers don’t care where their children are whilst they are working, shows just how mentally numb and hardened they have become. They live an existence which is in a twisted world of its own where privacy and boundaries don’t exist. When we were walking through the alleyways of brothels, I was constantly being asked for ‘selfies’ with the women (and yes I do find it quite strange that my sweaty, frizzy haired face is now on numerous phones around the Red Light District). We came across one little boy who had been in the class in the morning. He was watching something on his mother’s phone whilst she laughed at him. Beena pulled the phone away from him and all I can say is that it was the most disgusting, shocking child porn (I will not go into details of what is was as that image has disturbed me for life). Yet again her obliviousness to how disturbing this was for a three year old child, highlighted how much the people living here have no normal concept of sex. Love and even attraction are things that she would not even associate with it.
Many of the women are alcoholics and get completely black out drunk every evening (and I don’t blame them). What gives me the most chills is the thought of what must be happening to their little helpless children with these disgusting men when their mother is passed out.