Friday, January 15, 2010

Through the streets of Mumbai

Ever since I have been with the Art of Living, I have been observant of the things and events around me. Recently, I was in my hometown, Mumbai and was helping my dad out with some of his business work. I visited a govt. office located in a very congested part of the city. I passed through utterly crowded streets and as expected, there was the usual hustle and bustle, super busy market areas, roads camouflaged on both sides with old dilapidated 2-3 floored buildings inhabited by their ‘original’ city residents; and cluttered with road-side stalls that would sell you all the things you would ever want for your household at the cheapest possible rates. And of course the 4-wheelers moving inch by inch trying to make their ways through the busy pedestrians. Once in a while, one happens to travel through such streets. Today, I moved through one of them and as I moved, something that really pinched me happened..

On my way, I passed through a red light area. Now, whenever I have seen prostitutes on the streets, I have silently and passively prayed for them and then, moved on, completely forgetting. However, this time my confrontation was a bit more touching. As my taxi slowed down due to heavy traffic congestion, I gradually passed across three young prostitutes standing separately barely a few meters away. With all the little time that I had, I observed them in more detail. I felt that all the three of them were just normal innocent people and very very young, not more than 18-20 years. Their eyes seemed to be waiting for customers probably. They looked not educated or intellectual, just young innocent kids from some far-off villages.

Now, I have been a volunteer for the Youth Empowerment and Skills Workshop (YES!+), a 7 days amazing workshop for city youth. In the recent months we got a few local engineering college students from the city suburbs doing this workshop along with the young, busy and ever-stressed IT professionals. I realized that whenever we volunteers go out to graduate colleges to publicize our workshop, we normally speak to people of the age of these prostitutes about sharpening their skills. But this time I do not talk to these kids. I just leave them to be ruled by their cruel fates. I felt disturbed. Why am I available to help only the college kids and not these? Can I just take these girls out of that miserable area and drop them to some rehabilitation centre? Certainly not. These girls have been enslaved by some of the powerful and brutal local mafias and no one has the guts to do anything like that. What a shame, the entire country knows what happens on that street of Mumbai, but no body bothers to take any action. Our entire system is sinked in corruption. No single person can do anything against it. Thinking all this, I just happened to leave the street and the kids behind as my taxi moved on.

I realized that even after organizing so many YES!+ courses in the last 3 years, I am not empowered. Reaching back home, I hurriedly searched the google to know more about the menace. Many of these girls are lured/forced/sold into prostitution from the poorest parts of Nepal by middlemen. What are the NGOs doing about it? Nothing substantial has happened so far. Of the lakhs of prostitutes in the country, only a handful have been rescued from the clutches of the pimps and brothel-owners. The pinch still lingers in my heart, wondering whether anything can really be done about it.. and if not, then what did I learn from the YES!+ ?