Born into Brothels: An Ode to Sonagachhi

This poem is Lopamudra’s poetic tribute to Sonagachhi, the red light area of Kolkata, and the children of the sex workers there. It’s a continuation of the series of poetic pieces based on the significant landmarks of Kolkata (after College Street and Prinsep Ghat), exclusively for Different Truths.

Listen, the shell of the black sky breaks, its torrents
Tumble down the shady lane where gentlemen
Tussle over used women, and their fragrant, forbidden rain.
Houses, close quarters huddled, one after the other,
Breathing raspy, rickety, festering in a rain smell
That has never known the pervasive rhythm
Of a pure, welcoming sun. The mothers’ voices in the noon,
Droning, spewing filth over each other, calling out names
Cussing their matriarchy, breathing on their marred blood,
bones and flesh, chewed on, the children of the lesser gods,
Ramesh, Rahim, Radha, Sultana, Mariam, choking
On the litter-laden rooms, painting their lives nonetheless.
Is there potency to smell perfumed petrichor in the same rooms
Where their mothers unveil, writhe and moan,
where the hallowed ground cradles their meat, traded, tracked down?

The red earth dances in the crushed spring of Sultana’s footsteps.
In her parched, eager mouth, the hunger to know words, geometry
And the intricacies of an ornate world. Mariam, stumbling on
Her mother and grandmother’s daily scuffle and the echoes of sour nights,
Dreams of a tranquil piece of earth, a mountain range and a cascade
Unzipped, wild, a car driving her to the shining streets of uncertain miles.
Rahim sneaks into Ramesh’s room, the soft earth of pastel shades spilled
Till the edge of the room where he slips, his frothy dreams triggered
In the brushstrokes where the threadbare hands of Ramesh weaves
The magic of an escape, vicariously. Radha trips over in her cheap silk sari,
Her rosy twilight stalked by one of her mother’s clients. A whore’s daughter
will trail after her as a whore, whoever needs a license to devour whores?
In her black slate, as she practices her alphabets, draws a crescent moon
swirling above their primal roof, she carves her own orbit, in the dull, stinking room.
For they are all born into brothels, their feet hopscotch in the vacuum in between.

Poet’s Note: This poem dedicated to the infamous red-light area of Kolkata, Sonagachhi, to the daily ignominy of the lives of the sex workers inhabiting the area, and the dreams fostered by their children forced to share the living spaces with their mothers, grandmothers, torchbearers of a grim, primitive legacy, the flesh trade.

It is also inspired by and dedicated to the exemplary documentary on these young lives titled ‘Born into Brothels’, directed by New York based filmmaker Zana Brisky, which became a trailblazing exploration of these lives lurking behind the forsaken alleys of Kolkata’s red light area.

©Lopamudra Banerjee

Pix from Net.

Lopamudra Banerjee

Lopamudra Banerjee

Lopamudra Banerjee is a writer based in Dallas, USA. She is the co-editor of ‘Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas’, published in collaboration with Incredible Women of India and Readomania. Her unpublished memoir Thwarted Escape has been First Place Category Winner at the Journey Awards 2014 hosted by Chanticleer Reviews. Her English translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s novella The Broken Home has been serially published at Café Dissensus. She is also an editor of Learning and Creativity.
Lopamudra Banerjee

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