What am I doing in a red light district with a biscuit on my forehead? The short answer is that I am trying to move that biscuit over my eyes, down my right cheek and into my mouth, all without using my hands. It’s a good challenge and great fun. And, despite having played the game before recently, the biscuit slips and falls to the floor. This is much to the amusement of the women and children in the room.
Later on I am asking myself a different question. I am listening to Kavita*, a lady wrapped in a colourful sari but who speaks little and rarely looks me in the face. How did a girl from Bangladesh wind up here in Mumbai, making a living from sex work? It wasn’t her intention, this wasn’t how her life was meant to work out. But the aunts she trusted sold her and people she didn’t know trafficked her. So now she’s here in a seedy slum with just one way to survive.
It’s not an easy journey for Aesha. Some people in her church misunderstand her and the work can, at times, be deeply disappointing. One colleague came into work recently in tears having heard that one sex worker, who had been making great progress, had slipped back again. ‘Sometimes we slowly build relationship and gently begin to challenge these women about change but get rejected’. But Aesha has a vision that keeps her going. It’s the inspiring vision of her organisation, Sahaara, a vision of ‘gifting dreams’ to those who’ve forgotten how to dream.
*All names changed for privacy.