This is a poem about the plight of a young girl, Apala, who was forced to work as a sex worker in Kolkata’s red light area, Sonagachhi. Forced into sex slavery there is no escape for her. Based on a true life incident, this poem, by Deeya, lays bare the sordid exploitation, in Different Truths.
The kinky sun ameliorates
a tragedy is sung by the Peepal tree
in our courtyard;
the frozen silence like hashish
Sumati, the landlady towered
like a Banyan over this household
for three decades, toiling in sun and rain
bearing several children, all
settled abroad – her broken bangles
a shimmer in the sunlit columns of the porch.
The landlord in a crisp white dhoti,
hardened by grief,
jostling between sorrow and amnesia
sonorous with a jay
singing his notes in the ordeal.
I stand, gathering the sorrow
in my folded arms, in an obscure city, leaving behind
the smell of lime, mangoes, raw pickles
in the sun, my menstrual corollaries
my tales of puberty, drifting like algae
into the scum of Sonagachhi, I stand
a pariah. Sumati was a mother to me.
Note on the poem:
Sonagachhi is a place in Kolkata, West Bengal, India, infamous for its brothels. Many underprivileged women are forced into ex-slavery here.
Apala is the youngest daughter of the Bose family, who had eloped with a neighboring boy: who after consuming her had sold her to Sonagachhi. He proved to be a total rake. Apala, however, clandestinely had gathered information about her mother’s demise through some acquaintance and mourns her loss. Sumati has no inkling of the whereabouts of her dearest daughter and dies of severe grief.
Photos from the internet.
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