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Looting the Rajdhani
The Rajdhani express steams into Bombay Central every morning at 8.05 AM. As passengers alight from their first-class air-conditioned sleepers, little bands of all-but-invisible infiltrate in between their legs and into the vacated compartments, which they pick clean in a handful of minutes. Sometimes, however, and on this particular morning, they get caught, by the notorious Remand Home or Japu police. How they got free is another story!
Fragments of the Past
In 1986, I came to Byculla, interviewed the women, recorded their first meeting, didn't have a clue what I was doing, nor of the significance. But my fortuitous presence, and my tapes, are an invaluable archive of, quite literally, their first steps together.
Two Years On
By 1988, the women realized they were not going to get houses overnight. But already they were coming up with strategies to get out from dependency on outside development aid-- forming a bank, designing houses that made sense for them, and which they could afford to build for themselves. And, in the process, beginning to change their minds.
A portrait: Sona was just fourteen when her brothers in Karnataka sold her to a brothel in Mumbai. But by sheer grit and cunning Sona escaped, sold bananas and stitched clothes, and then discovered the goddess Yellama, in whose name she now works as a street bank officer, soliciting offerings, no matter how small, from pavement dwellers and prostitutes alike.