The beauty of Delhi lies in the fact that you can look at it and see what you want to see. It is not one city but many cities existing in parallel dimensions simultaneously. At Moolchand Metro Station, you can take a stroll with your family and treat yourself with some delicious paranthas. When you are going at the parantha and lassi combination, there is another universe not more than twenty meters away where men are haggling with women for intercourse-related purposes.
Right outside the metro station, sometimes even in broad daylight, there would be women smoking cigarettes, sitting on the sidewalk or walking around. Your mind immediately would not go to prostitution because of course, there is no way to tell. But if you frequent this area, you can easily develop an eye for the shady ones. I am not sure if the traders of world’s oldest profession are in cahoots with the police but there sure are no cops to drive these women away.
I had read somewhere that in India, prostitution itself is not illegal. It is pimping that is against the law. So, perhaps technically this isn’t illegal. There are no pimps. It is just a scene of two people haggling for some sexual favours. A regular scene at Moolchand Metro Station and the nearby traffic light looks somewhat likes this – a girl, hardly thirty year old, with cowboy boots and red jacket would be walking around with a cigarette between her fingers. For her, this seems to be a theatrical performance. She is scanning the crowd. People who are there for the paranthas choose to ignore her. But then there are some young boys circling around. They want to know the price. The boys are visibly young – some even adolescent. A boy would stand with the prostitute and discuss the matters. Perhaps the rules of the transaction are being decided upon. The cycle-rickshaw walas and autorickshaw drivers watch the scene with the anticipation of a cricket match.
The boy, after a chat with the prostitute, comes back to his friend. ‘She is asking for two thousand rupees,’ he says. ‘Too much!’ Then they proceed to discuss the issue with much sobriety. The woman throws them a glance but does not appear to be worried about the deal getting through. She does not budge from her initial offer. The rickshaw-walas are rubbing their foreheads, some licking their lips, half smiling in anticipation – they seem to be waiting for the outcome of the deal. The woman seems unfazed from all the public attention.
A similar scene goes on at the traffic signal. Bikers stop among a bunch of women – pick out whoever they like. Sometimes the prostitutes seem to be minors. The flesh gets traded and it is normal. No one bats an eyelid. It is commonplace. People do turn around to watch but no one seems to be shocked. It is what it is.
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