Sunday, July 31, 2005

wanderings and returns

some of you may have been wondering where i've been.
among other things (apart from cats, radio shows and general blah...) i've been hanging out nights at GB Road.

On assignment.

(those who've landed up on my blog via searching for chudai might think they finally have some meat to sink their teeth into, but they're in for a dissapointment. They should definitely visit this.)

GB Road, for those not from Delhi, is Delhi's red llight area, on the edge of the Old City, on the wrong side of the tracks. It's also a street for wholesale hardware stores. And long distance trucking companies.

And the article that I wrote is going to be dreadfully chopped up when it comes out. What follows is the unedited, unvarnished 'truth'...

21.30. Chawri Bazaar Metro Station. As the train pulls in, a nervous teenage titter behind me, ‘GB Road yaheen hai.

22.00. Shraddhanand Marg/GB Road. Policemen prowl up and down, whacking men seemingly at random. A naach is progressing in a kotha. The dhol and music waft down to the other side of the road, where handcart pullers are stretching out to sleep on the pavement. The kotha is above the Jaipur Golden Transport Company, full of packing crates and fluorescent lighting. Men step out on to the rickety balcony to talk on their cellphones. Where are the women? Unless you climb the narrow stairs, the women are just phantasms – a silhouette, a furtive blown kiss, a petticoat out to dry. That all the shops below advertise submersible pumps is a joke which can only be taken so far. Why are there so many cars here? All customers? Brothel owners? People who live in the lanes behind GB road but don’t have space to park their cars? All of the above? There must be a thousand rickshaws too, pulled up for the night. Like the whores, at the very margin of the Old City.

22.30. Raid. Hordes of men rush down a narrow staircase where a bored looking policeman gives each departee a solid whack across the butt with a danda. The men all smile as they run away. The police catch two Gurkhas among the clientele.
- You with the army?
- Yes.
- Show your I Card.
The Gurkha hands it over.
- I’m going to give this to the Military Police.
A struggle ensues. Three policemen pile onto the Gurkha. One grabs his head between his thighs. The other whacks him across the butt seven eight times. Hard. Then they let him go with his I card.
When he leaves he’s also smiling.

23.00. Two women a rickshaw are stopped by the Police. There’s a baby girl between them. ‘… Kyon Pareshan karte ho?’ The policemen smile and wave them on. One of the women folds the girl’s hands. ‘Saahab ko namaste karo.’
A garbage truck stalled next to the MCD dump, blocking the road, is pushed into ignition by a earth mover.
A man straight out Hindi movie underworld fantasy stands near the raided brothel, chatting with cops. Long hair, white safa, pathan suit with waistcoat, big moustache, gold watch.
The number of trucks lined up near Frash Khana increases. The railway goods sheds are right here. At the dhaba where I sit to write notes, all talk of mirchi is only about the food. I get change for my five hundred in tens and twenties.

23.30. The cops vanish from the road. The women come out. Three women take an auto. A woman in a burqa, with a bright pink purse underarm gets onto a rickshaw with a man. Husband? Pimp? Brother? Customer? Some women move out onto the street, blowing kisses to prospective customers, next to the sleeping bodies on the pavement.

00.00. A guy asks me, Where is 64?
- I don’t know.
- I’m going to do an all night tonight.
- Yeah?
- 64 has all Nepali girls. 64 and 51.
- How much for an all night?
- 400 for all night. 100 for one shot… walk out on the road, otherwise these women will stick to you. 64 is not like this. You go straight up. Tables and chais all arranged. Here it is. I’m going up. Come with me.
- No, thanks.
- Come, I’ll do an all night, you do a one shot. Meri bhi himmat badehgi.
I have no himmat. I feel like a prude.
- No. I’ll go on.
He grabs my hand. Chalo. If you don’t like it you can always come down.
- Nahin Yaar, Best of luck.
I walk on. A few women standing in doorways.
- Suno to… Just listen… 100 rupees.

00.30. GB Road is already winding down. The dhaba packs up. The ice cream carts strategically parked near the staircases pack up. There are children out on the street now, running through the arcades, giggling, playing. It is now that the pimps start to accost me, trying to get some business from passersby at the fag end of the day.
- Cheez dikhaoon badhia?
- Bolo kya chahiye, Nepali, Kashmiri?
They mumble under their breaths as they sidle upto you, like they’re selling tickets in black, but even more inaudible. A bit pointless, when everything here is so open.

01.00 The strains of music wafting out have been silent for a while. Even the paanwallahs who sit at the bottom of the stairs are gone. The women out on the streets are gone
. I notice the number 64. It wasn’t where my friend went to, but the place which was ‘raided’ earlier in the evening. In a rather matter of fact way, across the entrance, are written two messages –
-Jebkatron se Saavdhan. Beware of Pickpockets.
- Kripya dlalalon ke Bekhkaave Main Naa Aye. Do us a favour, and don’t get suckered by the pimps.
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