Autobiography of a sex worker by Nalini Jamila, a book I recently read gives an insight into the life of ordinary men and women through the life experience of a sex-worker. She deftly tells how emancipating her life as sex-worker has been in compare to that of ordinary wives – the decision they can make, that make them more bolder, happy and free woman almost in par with their male counterparts. For centuries women’s body and mind has been controlled by men in the society in the name of honor, culture, religion. By breaking that boundaries of dos and don't dos and making her own free choice, she created an identity for herself.
The juxtaposition of life of other women in her life, such as her mother, her sister-in-laws and her friends from childhood is deliberate it feels to underline the miseries of women bound by social, cultural and religious values where their opinions, wishes, wants and even needs are obliterated. But it is far from true to say her life as a sex-worker has been a piece of cake too.
To be out there in a man’s world and to maintain your confidence and dignity is no mean feat, for sex-working its even more, one can say, unfathomable. Men that believe that they are inherently higher than women, much so that from a sex worker and completely believing the action that they are committing is an inherent right of theirs, men with authorities that regard their position of power as an instrument to instill fear than respect their own responsibilities to protect – how do we deal with them? Jamila’s story lay those men bare.
She also highlights the world of NGOs, INGOs and activist carrying the mantle of philanthropy claiming to ‘save” lesser good people, in need of redemption for themselves. She makes it loud and clear that those that come to help the sex workers actually is feeding their own “pleasure” scratched out from the sufferings of the group their claim to be helping, the attitude all INGOs and NGOs apply in dealing with not just sex worker but in other field where they “identify” vulnerable people that are in “need” and crying for help and the need to “save them” A completely neo-colonial mindset modus operandi of all donor ridden projects of making yourself feel immensely above other that you have “saved” – completely rejecting the idea that there’s no “saving” required, but an acknowledgement of their existence. She is also not convinced of “rehabilitation” pointing out its limitedness during the course of “saving”, and abject failure to have a longer term plans by asking until when? She hasn’t got much answer to it yet, She is probing them to look deeper into the real issues and find real solutions for people that really do not need “saving”.
My personal favorite part is also her giving advice to men on relationship – men who come to her for advice and not for sex. It is an irony of our social structure that has created a cultural barrier preventing husband and wife talk openly about intimate matters – they can engage in the activity but not freely talk about it! I wonder if there could be a way for the wives to go somewhere to get proper advices.
A highly confident women, having a very high regard for herself which is in completely contrast to the image that ordinary people like us like to conjure up of a sex worker. She has no qualms of where and what she is today for the choice she made in her past to ensure the upbringing of her children. Befittingly, she calls her work as a career and how she has learnt more of the trade at every step, not only the arts of seducing, but to get out of it when she doesn’t want it, about her own safety and living a “normal life”. She is very much aware of the sexual exploitation of women and girls through organized rings and conscious of difference in her situation and theirs.
People can be forgiven for getting attracted to the book for the images that contort up in their mind and the shivers that might send though different parts of their body just by the title of the book, thinking what might the book provide. For those, I would suggest, leaving the book alone and go find a other suitable measures to take care of their needs. For others, this book probes to look within yourself and ask what you know about yourself and challenge you to accept it. Only from the confidence and ability to tell the world who you are, you can show them who they, where they stand and be honest with it. Inspiration can come from anywhere.