This Mother’s Day, We Celebrate The Unsung Mothers

By Vasundhara Dudeja in Editor's Pick 12/05/2019

Today is Mother’s Day and we are remembering how mother’s day always meant petty Mother’s Day gifts that we used to assemble in our school times and the feeling of gratitude to the woman who knew just about everything.


Our thoughts wander to the different kinds of motherhood, across different fields and we find ourselves in the narrow lanes of Patparganj, filled up with a dry mid-day May heat and sparse crowds.


We enter a small home which is a tiffin centre called Maitri Meals. Started two years back, Maitri Meals is an extension of Kat-Katha Organization which uplifts sex-workers from red light areas by giving them vocational training, education and work opportunities outside of the red light area.


It’s a small flat, with three rooms, yellow walls and an aroma of food throughout the place. We are greeted by the project manager Pragya Di. She makes us sit down in a cosy room where the walls have a beautifully painted installation of the sun with words Maitri, Ma and Bachpan; and aesthetic pictures spread out amidst fairy lights.


“It all depends on how comfortable they are in sharing, and we won’t allow any pictures or videos in which identity will be revealed,” says Pragya Di as she runs us through their norms of taking an interview.


We agree and nod hastily, unable to control our curiosity to meet these women who had braved motherhood in one of its most uncertain forms; while being sex-workers.


We sat down with the first mother, Priya (name changed). The questionnaire is clutched tightly in my hand, given the sensitivity of the whole situation.


Priya has her hair braided and beams at us with her yellow teeth. With much anticipation, she starts narrating her journey of motherhood. She became a mother when she was 22. She had this child within her marriage and raised him while working in Sales in Mumbai. However, after a few years, she found herself in G.B Road working her way in the sex business.


She had her second child when she was 28 in G.B Road. “I had already been a mother once, and so when I had my second child, I felt really good because my first child was separated from me. Whichever happiness I was deprived of from my elder child was now being compensated by my little one. I had someone to call me Ma again.”


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You could see how fond she was talking about her child, who’s now 11 years old and is studying in Class 6th.


“When I was doing sex work, I was not able to give time to my child. For example, when I was doing sex work in the hotel line, we had a set target of 15-20 days and the child used to stay 40-45 km away from me. So, it was not possible for me to look over his studies.”


Supported by various organizations connected to sex-work; initially, Riya’s medication and delivery during pregnancy were handled by an organisation and later another organisation helped her to raise her child when she was out working.


“The way I brought him up; straddled with poverty and doing sex-work to make ends meet, I feel so good and surprised seeing him this good in his studies! And to know that he’s doing good makes it so easy to forget the hardships we’ve been through.”


Riya left sex-work a few years ago. Despite, being unstable financially, she realized that there is no need for her to oblige to do a work she doesn’t like, to earn money.


“I realised that no matter what problems I was facing money-wise, the solution to it was not sex work.”


Later when she left and joined this organization, she started becoming more stable and now has her own independent flat where she lives with her child. As we are asked for chai, Priya tells us that she won’t be having any as she’s on a Roza(fast), the very first time in her life after she got married to a Muslim.

There is a little 9-year-old running around in the flat. Intrigued by our setup, he comes and sits with us.


Does the father play a role in bringing these children up?

“No” says Smriti (name changed) who is also a worker at Maitri Meals and is a Mujra dancer, by profession, at G.B Road.


“It’s been a family tradition that either, the girl will do Mujra or marriage,” she says as she tells us about her advent into this profession.


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She became a mother when she was around 13 years old. She had a smooth pregnancy and had a healthy baby son. He grew up along with her at G.B. Road, and she had enough time to spend with the kid.


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While growing up, she faced trouble catering to her son’s financial needs. According to her, “I did face problems but I knew that I had to make him study somehow. His father sent money, books, throughout his education every month.”


Now, she works here and has also started learning. Her son now works and is married as well.


“He had a love marriage.” She tells us gladly about her son marrying the love of her childhood. Smriti has been working here for two and a half years now and now aims to expand this organisation further.


The 11-year-old who had been roaming around comes and snuggles around his mother’s lap, with his face shied away from our team. Seeta (name changed), who’s his mother strokes his hair and nudges him to tell us his name.


“This is my third son and unlike the other two older ones, who stay with my parents, this one grew up with me at G.B. Road where I worked. The other ladies there; my friends used to take care of him. Be it feeding him or putting him to bed, they used to help out a lot and I never even realized when he grew up.” 


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Now he studies within Kat-Katha’s organization. “Ever since he started growing up and understanding more, I stopped going to the road or taking him down there.”


She dreams of him having a good education now and hopes of having their work at the tiffin center expand further.


When we asked her about his father, she tells us that his father visits once in a month or two months but that’s about it.


“This is how the world works. Jab tak matlab hota hai tabhi tak aadmi puchta hai, jab khatam hojata hai matlab fir toh kaun hi puchta hai (A person asks for you only when he wants to get something done, once that is done, nobody comes and asks for you),” tells Seeta with a feeling of resignation and realization of their individual realities.


As they wrap their stories, we realize how these women are often just identified with the work that they do but there are so many stories of struggles, bravado and independence that runs beyond their work.


These women don’t necessarily come from a conventional background or land up in one, and somehow, they have an undercurrent of greater strength and a vibe of independence to raise not only themselves but also their kids and those around them.


Vasundhara is an in-house content creator. Other than past experiences of writing including writing as an Intern for The Hindu and various other platforms, she is also an engineer, a dancer, and a bibliophile.

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