Friday, Aug 19, 2022
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Shades of Gangubai and Kamathipura

Lachmi is in her late seventies and now owns a room in the old building in gully no 14 where gangubai used to own rooms and where her statue is. Lachmi is from Karnataka and used to be her manager. She later managed to get a room of her own and remembers gangubai as someone who took care of the girls. Lachmi has never been anywhere and wishes to see Delhi before she dies. “Take me there once.” “It is the capital. I want to see the Lal quila” Has she seen the sea in Mumbai? She said she doesn’t remember Champa Bai is old and ailing. She has a set of rooms in the old Alishan Building on the first floor where sex workers share the floor with migrant laborers. Like many chawls with interesting innovative architectural design to use space in the most optimum way, champa bai’s room is divided into small sleeping quarters with sliding doors. An iron staircase takes on to the mezzanine where she has four rooms that can barely accommodate a single mattress or a cot. She rents them out for Rs. 30 to sex workers for per client. That’s how it goes here now. She used to know Gangubai as they both owned rooms in the half-down Musa Buikding across the lane. Both Alishan and Musa buildings are very old and have an interesting story. Both wear the signs of ageing and the vagaries of life as it changed in Kamathipura with time as builders moved in and things changed for the sex workers; most of who will get nothing if the buildings go for redevelopment.

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