I still remember it was Kotha number 21 at GB Road… I was raped and shamed there

I still remember it was Kotha number 21 at GB Road… I was raped and shamed there

I chanced upon an article today that reported a peculiar story. It also brought to the surface an episode from the past that changed many things in my life.
The Election Commission (EC) of India has replaced the 'GB Road' address with Swami Shraddhanand Marg. The idea that triggered name change came after EC realised that most 'G B Road' sex workers chose to remain indoors on Election Days and not come out to vote, since they were ashamed and embarrassed at the mention of the word 'G B Road' on their voter's card.
The buildings here house jharokhas, from where courtesans seduce their customers.
It's been over two decades since I visited Delhi's infamous GB Road. And I went there only once! I remember vividly the chain of events and it still haunts me.

I had just given my senior secondary board exams. I couldn't wait to be free from restrictions and routine of the school life! My closest friend from Uttarakhand, was a generous fellow and our friends were mostly from Nepal. We bonded well and our friends invited us to Kathmandu for a small vacation. It was an exciting prospect and we immediately agreed.
The day finally arrived for us to go on our vacation. As we were waiting at the railway station in old Delhi we discovered that our train, Janta Express, was running eight hours late! We didn't know what to do. So my friend suggested we go to GB Road. I had heard the name but never imagined I would one day go there.
We left our luggage at the station and took a rickshaw to a world that has intrigued me ever since I was just a little more than a child. I had visualized the place many times, but nothing could prepare me for the horror that trapped us into its ugly tentacles!
Chain of events
Standing there in that road, we could see around 20 three-story buildings in a series. I later discovered there were about 100 brothel houses operating from these buildings.
Without warning, a tout snuck up to me and said in a conspiratorial tone, "naya kashmiri maal aaya hai. Sirf 16 saal ki kacchi kali hai…". I didn't know people spoke like that. This was over 20 years ago, I was naïve. We quickly recovered and I tried to fake confidence and maturity. I asked, "dikhne mein kaisi hai. Saaf hai na?" to which he replied, "ekdam mast". I asked how much and he said 60 bucks. We tried to haggle but he didn't budge. We had a deal.
Delhi, GB Road, kotha Number 21
We followed him stealthily and reached an opening that led to the first floor. It was towards late evening. Shops operate at ground level during the day and the brothels come alive once shops close. Only one person could take the stairs, one at a time. It was dingy, claustrophobic and there was a stench of sex everywhere.
The first level opened to a large seating area with a 'chauki' in the middle. A matriarchal figure was perched on it and around three 'sex workers' were tending to her. One was putting oil in her hair while the others massaged her hairy legs.
Delhi, GB Road, kotha number 21
Middle aged, unkempt women are ready to strike a deal for the day
A cacophony of voices had begun to give me headache. I wanted to run away from there. I couldn't breathe but there was no escaping the whole thing. We had a deal.
But I tried to escape. The moment I turned around to leave, the tout caught my arms and steered me back to Kotha number 21. "kahan jaa rahe ho bacche, aaye ho toh ab kar hi lo". I heard half-naked women call me 'Rahul Roy' because I had hair just like his.
The door opened. There was a cot and two young, ugly-looking girls were waiting for us. The tout was looking at my money bag around my waste. My friend whispered to me, "We made a mistake by bringing money with us. I think something bad is going to happen". I shot back: "It was your idea to do this…" He said: "Yeah, but you jumped at it!"….
The girls suddenly took charge and got up. They must have poured a whole bottle of some bad smelling oil in their hair. It was unbearable and disgusting. I didn't want to be there any longer. I felt helpless and ambushed as I begged to leave but was not let go. They forced us to strip.
I offered to double the money. But it was too late.

I kept my eyes closed as my body was pushed around and played with. I was forced into doing many unpleasant things. There were pimple and marks all over her body. I felt pity for her. Was she doing this happily? Did her parents know she is into prostitution? But that was just me.
After the abuse, the girls told us to give them everything we had. "Yeh sab chhod ke jao,"they said, pointing one by one towards my money bag which contained close to five thousand rupees, gold chain, a ring and a sealed packet of Marlboro Lights.
We thought we misunderstood them, but no they meant it. All together, we lost close to 10,000/- rupees, two gold chains, one gold ring and around 40 Marlboros.

I tried looking for the tout but he was gone. This was the real world, the big jungle where there are sharks at every bend. The shelter and comfort of school was history now.
On our way back to the station, we decided against filing a complaint. The possibility of exposure was too big a risk. Lights were fading away in the distance. But GB Road will forever remain etched in my mind. I was raped and shamed there.

Ramesh Pokhrel

Ramesh Pokhrel

Nepal & India base Freelance journalist .

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