Muneera Jamal

Muneera Jamal

A dentist-in-making who is a writer by passion.Her work revolves around struggles of women who are sacrificed to satiate the demands of the society.
Muneera Jamal

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Sitting on a worn out mattress, I take a detailed look at my surroundings. It is a poorly ventilated room, illuminated by a single, dim bulb, which is probably a hundred folds brighter than the lives of the girls who live here. The Naika asks me to wait here as she excuses herself to get a drink for me.

Of all the things I have ever done in my life, pretending to be a prostitute has been the toughest. The way the Naika inspected me accelerated my already thudding heart, and I gulped down the stale air to prevent myself from a highly probable projectile vomiting episode. I felt nauseous from fear of the lethal-looking scrutiny. Being gauges as ‘goods’ is the most demeaning thing that could ever happen to anyone, and I could not help but marvel at the strength the sex workers must have to muster to waddle through it on the daily.
This particular apartment has two rooms, and a kitchenette, and is one of the six that are located in this lane. The house smells of waste and rotting vegetable; it looks like this place has not been cleaned in a very long time. The room I am sitting in right now is the smaller of the two; the other one has a forlorn bed and a dresser. Two women and two children live here. The lady who asked me to wait for her looked way younger than the other one. She was casually dressed in slacks and a fitted sleeveless shirt. I could not guess the relation between the two, but I know the children belong to the younger Naika. I feel sorry for these children, especially the daughter. I know she will be consumed by the ‘system’ and the prospect of her getting involved in the vicious cycle broke my heart.
‘Why are you here?’ she demands to know.
‘I am here for work,’ I manage to say without stammering too obviously.
‘Do not get emotionally attached to the customers,’ She instructs.
‘How much do I ask for?’
‘Do not settle for anything less than a thousand.’
‘Thousand rupees per hour?’ I ask in my naivety.
‘No, silly. You charge a thousand for a session.’
‘How long are the sessions?’ I wonder out loud.
‘That depends on a lot of things,’ she laughs in a very wicked way.
It is not long before she notices me clutching my phone, and snatches it. I was trying to film the conversation, but gave myself away in the process. She deletes the video before I could do anything about it and browses through my phone’s gallery so she could confiscate any other evidence. Even though she finds none, she is skeptical. I see her transform from an empathetic woman to an enraged protector. How wrong I was when I thought she had nothing to lose; now everything she has is at stake. She has to protect her children and her livelihood. She has more to lose than an ordinary woman.
‘I need you to send over our Banday (bouncers), I am in trouble,’ she says into her phone.
I do not know who is on the phone, but I do know I need to run for my dear life. I snatch my phone from her clutches and dash towards the door and into the dingy alley that houses the six apartments including hers. This alley has never seen a single ray of sun, very much like the lives of its residents who do not have even a single ray of hope in their lives and are in dire need of it. There is water everywhere, I do not know if it is sewage malfunction or someone tried cleaning this wretched place; I really doubt the latter though. People inhabiting other houses try to figure out what the commotion is all about as they stare at me with peculiar interest but I did not stop till I got into my car.

People are quick to judge a sex worker because she sells her body to survive. They call her names because they ‘feel’ it is a choice she makes and rightly so, it is indeed a choice she makes because she has no other choice. Trust me, nobody ‘opts’ for such a low life.

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