Air filled with diverse smells of exhaust, samosa, smoke, kebab and intolerable stench from the filthy public washroom was the first one to greet me as I got out of my taxi. The race competitions between stray dogs and children made it even harder to move in the already overcrowded area. As I moved a bit further by pushing people because my elite 'excuse me's didn’t work, I saw them. Standing next to the pan stained walls, they stood wearing the tightest clothes and loud makeup. I cursed myself for agreeing to my boss’s order to interview one of them but being an intern for a channel’s, I had no option to say no. So there I was at Kamathipura, Asia’s second largest red light area.
The thought of me standing with so much filth around me made my narcissist self take a break before I start my interview. I walked up to a distance where an NGO had invited some high schoolers from a reputed school of the city to interact with the Kamathipura kids. It was already evening and the area was dimly lit, with a few lamps kept around. Their session was about to start in half an hour since the people from NGO were having a tough time convincing the Kamathipura kids to leave their race and sit down. I wondered how come these children from good schools agreed to meet them, since I had to hide from my parents where I actually was. I wondered why would they go so low to talk to such kids who hardly had any etiquettes and morals instilled in them.
As I sat down to munch on my Parle-g biscuits, I noticed a girl in her early twenties coordinating the program with much poise. As soon as I turned my head away,I got terrified seeing a huge, demon shaped shadow cast on the wall in front of me. Just then, the girl came laughing to me and said, ”Relax, that is just a shadow cast because this saree is lying down awkwardly here. Sometimes, just see things beyond the shadows others cast.” I laughed along and striked a conversation with her, telling my motive to come here. I discovered she is a lecturer at St.Xaveir’s and assists in this NGO. As we talked, I came to know that she has a really good knowledge about the Hindi film industry-from its history to the phases to the legendary actors or directors.
“Just answer this honestly, did you have plans to work in the Hindi film industry? One does not simply research so much,” I asked.
She smiled and said, ”Not me, but my mother had. And trust me, she was pretty good at it. But life had other plans and it didn’t work out. So, in her free time, she began giving her knowledge and wisdom to me, along with helping me with my schooling.”
'What a graceful lady she must be,' I thought to myself.
I said, ”Nonetheless, she must be proud for raising a lady like you. You know,upbringing and schooling matters a lot. I mean just look at these Kamathipura kids-immoral, devoid of innocence and ambition! I seriously need to please my boss so that he does not send me at such places the next time.”
I noticed a sudden unpleasant change in her expression. All the kids had gathered by now and it was time for her to leave.While she stood up to take my leave, I asked, ”Oh!I just forgot to ask this–are you a resident of Mumbai itself?”
“Oh yes! I am a Mumbaikar and even I also forgot to mention, I was a Kamathipura kid too just like these kids racing with the dogs. Sometimes, just see things beyond the shadows others cast,” she replied with a smirk and walked away, giving me the tightest slap of my life.