Riveting Play Puts the Spotlight Squarely on Human Trafficking

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May 27, 2015

By Geeta Goindi

Rockville, Maryland – On May 24, Natya Bharati, the Washington area’s pre-eminent theatre group, presented an eye-opening play, ‘Lal Batti Express’ (Red Light Journey), more like a series of skits featuring girls from India who played their real life roles highlighting one of the most important issues of our time – human trafficking.

May 27, 2015

By Geeta Goindi

Rockville, Maryland – On May 24, Natya Bharati, the Washington area’s pre-eminent theatre group, presented an eye-opening play, ‘Lal Batti Express’ (Red Light Journey), more like a series of skits featuring girls from India who played their real life roles highlighting one of the most important issues of our time – human trafficking.

Natya Bharati presented a play, 'Lal Batti Express', by Kranti, an NGO that empowers girls from Mumbai's red light areas to become agents of social change.  Shown here are scenes from the event held in the Conference Center at the Universities of Shady Grove, Rockville, over the Memorial Day weekend,

The young artistes, who exhibited a remarkable inner strength, are with Kranti, a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) that empowers girls from Mumbai’s red light areas to become agents of social change.  These girls, mostly the daughters of sex workers, do not see themselves as victims, but as revolutionaries!  Kranti means revolution.

Currently, the NGO provides shelter to sixteen girls in Mumbai, of which thirteen are on a tour of the US, which began on May 14 and extends until June 21, including stops in New York City, Washington, DC, Maryland, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.  Accompanying them are: Kranti’s co-founder, Robin Chaurasiya; a therapist; and a mother of three of the girls.  Robin candidly told us, “I experienced a lot of things in my life that made me want to create a home that is a safe feeling space for girls because I never had it as well”.

Robin, an Indian-American, teamed up with three like-minded women in India and founded Kranti some four-and-a-half years ago which functions mainly by Crowdfunding whereby monetary contributions are raised online.  But, fundraising is part of the endeavor.  Robin admitted, “It requires a lot of emotional effort and energy to take care of the girls.  We have a lot of problems.  All of these girls come from traumatized backgrounds.  There is a lot to deal with psychologically, on the education front.  It is a lot of work”, she emphasized.

Sex trafficking, a global epidemic, is not an easy story to talk about, but it’s one that needs to be told!

Dedicated members of Natya Bharati, the Washington area's pre-eminent theatre group, with the team of Kranti, an NGO that empowers girls from Mumbai's red light areas to become agents of social change.

On stage, at the Conference Center of The Universities at Shady Grove, each girl narrated her personal experience of violation, exploitation, discrimination.  There is the 10-year-old who loves to play with her doll, until her stepfather enters and throws her doll away, signifying the loss of innocence.  This girl tells the audience, “When I was ten, I was very quiet and silent.  I used to eat a lot, cry a lot to go to school”.  The child was abused.

Then, there is a 14-year-old girl from a village who falls in love, gets married and comes to Mumbai with her husband who sells her to many bidders.  Another girl craves an education, but is barred from attending a school because her mother is a transgender sex worker.  And so, through a series of dramatic pieces in both Hindi and English, the audience learns about these girls, ranging in age from 12 to 20, who have been traumatized beyond belief.

Yet, the play by Kranti is not mired in misery.  On the contrary, it speaks of hope, of the optimism of the girls endowed with an uncanny ability to overcome all odds.  These girls are not to be bullied into silence.  They will not allow themselves to be victims.  They accept no one’s definition of their life, but define themselves!

A common thread runs through all – they were all wounded in some way, yet still have so much love to share firmly believing that “love heals”.

Shweta, daughter of a sex worker and a survivor, told the audience, “Our background is not our weakness; it is our strength.  We have this voice.  We are going to speak up for ourselves and others”.

Shweta is among the fortunate few who has risen from the ashes, brushed them off, and is now pursuing a four-year undergraduate program at Bard College, in New York, where she will be a Junior this Fall.  She told us that upon graduation, she plans to go back to Mumbai and open a cafe with her siblings in the red light district where they grew up.  The café will house a library and cater to the needs of children growing up in the area.  Shweta is determined to make a difference!

Another girl, Sheetal has been living in the Washington area for about eight months now where she is drumming with the generous support of musicians and other artistes.  So, there is the promise of a brighter future!

Outwardly, these girls don’t exhibit the signs of sex trafficking, and the ensuing trauma.  But, they have seen therapists, including the lady who is accompanying them on the US tour and who told the audience in Rockville, “These girls have so much of inner strength”.

It is their courage which gives them the power and capacity to jolt people out of their complacency, to make them think, to shake them to the core of their being!

The event in Rockville was sponsored by Natya Bharati and raised 5,000 dollars for Kranti.  Considerable credit goes to the dedicated members of this theatre group including Mrs. Pushpa Dashottar, Mrs. Adarsh Gupta, Manoj Tiwari, Dr. Suma Muralidhar, Avantika Gupta, and Meera Narasimhan.  And it was a very special audience that attended the performance of ‘Lal Batti Express’ over the Memorial Day weekend – an audience comprising members who are conscious about social change, enlightened about the issues that matter, and determined to contribute in whichever way they can!

Dedicated members of Natya Bharati, the Washington area's pre-eminent theatre group, with the team of Kranti, an NGO that empowers girls from Mumbai's red light areas to become agents of social change in Shady Grove, Maryland.

Robin was elated by the support from all quarters.  “This is the biggest group of men that we have had in the audience”, she said, at the show in Rockville.

About the US tour thus far, she gushed, it “has been out-of-this-world”!  She expressed gratitude for the benevolence of the American people, especially the Indian-American community whose members are hosting them in their homes.

In the Washington area, the girls were staying at the Hilton Hotel thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor.  Robin mentioned that people are sponsoring their meals, offering them free rides including in limousines, and that JetBlue has donated all of their domestic flights.  “I cannot believe the love that has been showered on us, the outpouring of support”, she said.

For more information about Kranti, please visit the web-site at www.kranti-india.org


Community Special by MYDOSTI.COM