Durga Puja 2018: Kolkata pandal pays tribute to sex workers
Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Devdas told us that soil from Sonagachi is an essential component for the making of a Durga idol. Well, it has truly transcended into something beautiful and impactful. Truly, this year’s Durga Puja seems to be breaking the ground. From sindoor khela being open to all – not just married women — one puja committee has decided to dedicate this year’s theme to the struggle of sex workers.
Ahiritola Jubakbrinda Durga Puja pandal in north Kolkata is attracting city dwellers to appreciate the artwork on the street. It’s not how beautifully painted it is, it is about the subject.
The 300-foot-long graffiti captures the hardships and the circumstances that force a woman to enter the profession. With the theme Utsarito Alo, they are addressing not only the inclusion of these sex workers but also trying to give them the respect and dignity they deserve.
The curator of the project, Debarjoon Kar, told The Indian Express, “Durga Puja is about social mingling and celebrations by all, including sex workers. With this graffiti, we are pledging to return their basic rights to live in society, keeping their head high just like others.”
The work has been created by eight artists. Kar added, “Streets have always been a place for protests, be it political or social, so we thought why not use these same streets to tell their story and demand the rights of the sex workers.”
It’s not just the artwork on the streets, but also props used inside the sanctum, hand-made posters demanding rights for them and art installations which depict the everyday life of these women. One of the grapphiti says, “I am not being able to express the difficulties that I am going through.”
The working president of Ahiritola Jubakbrinda, Uttam Saha said, “Through time, our orthodox society has neglected the community of sex workers. We fail to realise that they are also someone’s mother, someone’s sister. They also have a family that should get the right to live a life with love and dignity, instead of facing torture and hatred from people.”
Kolkata’s Sonagachi is Asia’s largest red-light area and is home to 10000 sex workers.
Members of Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), which is an NGO which closely works with sex workers were invited to unveil the project and paint the artwork. Their secretary, Kajol Bose told the daily, “We are done being on the margins. Till a few years ago, it might have been true that we were shunned from the puja festivities, but not any longer. Now, not only do we host our own puja, but also people invite us to pandals, make us judges of puja competitions, ask us to participate in sindoor khela and many more activities surrounding the festival. All I can say is, we are moving forward and finally, we are getting results for all that we have been fighting for.”