Monday, August 21, 2006

‘There was dignity in dancing’

Permission to reproduce this article has to be obtained from Hindustan Times

A former bar girl dancer rues her present occupation of waitress

Shevlin Sebastian

The ground floor apartment of former bar girl dancer, Mala Lichaye, 22, is at the very end of the Sindhi Camp at Chembur. The building in which stays is so close to another, that when you look up, the sky is just a sliver. Inside, there is a small living room, (with several pillowcases drying on a clothesline on one side), a dining area, a kitchen and a bathroom. But what catches the eye is a shoe rack, which is crowded with all sorts of shining women’s footwear: platform, wedge and stiletto heels.
Lichaye is brushing her teeth at 4.30 pm, while her friends are busy in the kitchen. She is an irritated mood: the water has run out. One of her friends produces a cup of tea within minutes for the visitor. Without make-up and their garish clothes, all of them look ordinary and, sad to say, a little run down, although they are all in their twenties.

“I am now working as a waitress in the Trimurti bar at Ghatkopar,” says Lichaye, using a towel as a dupatta. Works starts at 7 pm and goes on till 1.30 am.
“Earlier, we used to dance and earn our money,” she says. “There was a dignity of labour. Now, we have to pour drinks and stand very near the patrons. Some of them talk rudely. Some pinch us, and say, ‘Look what has happened to you. You were a glamourous bar girl and now you are just a waiter.’ I feel bad when I hear comments like this.”

She earns about Rs 200 a day, a far cry from the Rs 600 to Rs 800 as a dance bar girl.
All the other girls who live in the area are going through the same financial problems. “They are also working as waitresses,” she says. “The ban has really hurt us.”

When asked what she would say if she were to meet Home Minister R.R. Patil, she says, “I would say that what you did was not right. It is a terrible thing, to take away somebody’s livelihood and you have no right to do that. Why don’t you come to our homes and see how difficult is our lives. Like any human being, we also want to lead a decent life and give our younger brothers and sisters a good education.”

Sitting next to her is Shyam Sundar, a member of the Bharatiya Bar Girl’s Union: “I have heard the Russian girls are doing dances in bars but there is no ban against them. Patil says the dance bars are against Marathi culture. How can a dance form be against Marathi culture?”

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