Lalitha applies kohl to her eyes. A bright bindi adorns her forehead. She picks the most diaphanous saree from her wardrobe; its red and green color permeate against her golden brown skin. She slips on the bangles, some broken like her some nascent unlike her. Lalitha’s lips are made red by smearing on some chapped lipstick she has been using for months. She wishes to buy a new set from the money she will earn through this new visit. She lights the antique oil lamp; its smell so habitual to her nose she does not even bother to breathe it in. She draws the curtains of the dingy bedroom. She readies herself on the bed waiting to be sexually ravaged.
Lalitha like thousand other Indian women is a sex worker. Two words should ideally not define her but they do. She is a sex worker, a piece of meat to be devoured when a man feels ravenous. Her kohl smeared eyes entice him. Her blood red lips seduce him. She is afraid every day that her family who is feeding on her “immoral” income will find out. They will throw her out. She will have nowhere to go. She will be shunned by the society who expects her to be shoulder of her family. She will be shunned by the society from where resides the men she embraces as her customers.
Who are her customers?
Do they live on a faraway island?
Are they the lechers of society, the grim, the dirt, the fleas?
Do they inhabit the dingy lofts in streets we would never set foot on?
No. Those people do not have the money to buy sex. Well off men do.
The ones buying sex almost every other day, every other week, every other month are not the fleas, the grim, the dirt of the society. They are the men living in the brick houses with families, wives who they abuse and leave in the shadows while they go out to look for ‘pleasure’. This man will and never has been given the stare of shame, the untoward eyes. He is the real beast with no chains who goes out to look for pleasure and it is his libidinous impulses which force the woman to sell it.
It is he who burns the oil lamp. It is he who rubs his palm against the diaphanous red saree. It is he who pushes the woman on the bed and makes her his for the night. It is he who violently breaks her remaining bangles which are pushed against her veteran skin. But she says nothing at all.
It is he who penetrates through the moral fabrications of society and it is she who is blamed. It is he who does it out of his desire and it is she who does it out of desperation. It is he who is liberated and it she who is confiscated to the shadows of her home. It is the woman with the bangles who has been circumscribed by the lakshman rekha of morality even though it is he who belongs there.