(...and still pretty jet-lagged; I slept for about four hours last night but woke up around midnight and was just awake till morning. Very frustrating when one ‘tries’ very hard to fall asleep but just cannot. I think I’ll break down and drug myself up tonight or I’m going to get all out of whack. Thankfully, the food borne illness from Germany seems to have…passed.)
We met yesterday and today with folk from Jyoti Kalash. They work mainly with prostituted women and their children in Kamathipura the red light district in Mumbai (which is also Asia’s largest red light district). We walked around the district yesterday (I had not slept for over thirty hours; this, combined with the full on onslaught of that is India, made the experience doubly intense—or perhaps numbing). There are perhaps 30,000 sex workers in the district and 100,000 in Mumbai as a whole. The common situation is that a woman will rent a bed in a collective house; this is her whole world where she works, eats, sleeps. Some are basically lockable cubicles but oftentimes it’s just a bed with dividing curtains. The beds are set up on blocks and the woman’s children live in the space beneath. We went into one working home where five or six women live and work in the space of about 12×20 feet.
The children of these women are at risk from a number of established factors (about 50% have TB according to a paediatrician we spoke with at a local hospital). We went today to an outlying suburb of the city to see a home Jyoti Kalash has established for girls who are children of sex workers. This provides a safe place for one but they also provide tutoring for school and such basic secondary services as they would not receive living in a brothel (the girls, by the way are exceptionally bright and articulate. They all speak three languages and we had some very witty conversations in English). Dr. Welch, who I am travelling with, is attempting to asses what they health needs of the children are (or more specifically, how her organisation might come alongside Jyoti Kalash and similar NGOs here and asses what these needs are; the health situation of prostituted women and their children here is a bit nebulous). Surprisingly, when I looked at their textbooks, they were vaguely familiar; they are from the same publisher my High School used.
There is a whole lot more to write which I will parse out over the incoming days (not going to write as much now as I’ve mentally hazy and need some rest to be a bit more articulate). However, in a place where just attempting to walk along the street requires all my mental and physical agility, it’s going to take some doing to tell the story! We already ridden in their ubiquitous taxis, second class on the regional train and an auto-rickshaw. The interactions with people are interesting to observe as well (haven’t seen many westerners); especially on the train back today the men were staring Katherine down—not in a super creepy way, but more like “what is this strange creature” (nobody seemed to notice me but I don’t have bright gold hair).