This year’s Durga Puja is path-breaking in more than one way. While sindoor khela is being made open to all women, and not just the married ones, a puja committee has decided to honour the struggle of sex workers. Kolkata’s Ahiritola Jubakbrinda Durga puja committee has taken up a project to paint a graffiti dedicated to sex workers.
SheThePeople.TV spoke with Debarjoon Kar, curator of the project, about the significance of the pandal’s theme, the street graffiti and inclusion of sex workers.
The 300-ft-long graffiti, in Ahiritola, captures the plight and lives of sex workers. The pandal, with the theme Utsarito Alo (light emanating from something), got together with curators and artists to address issues concerning these women.
Interestingly, a redlight district is right adjacent to this particular pandal. Debarjoon said that the committee considered this year as the right time to dedicate something to these women who have never been considered a part of anything significant earlier. “While different clubs and committees have different themes, this Pandal approached us with this noble idea which we were glad to curate. They explained how they would like to spread this message as largely as it could get reaching out to the remotest corner,” he said.
Debarjoon and his team figured that the best way to implement this idea is to take it to the streets. “We’ve all seen the impact streets make; changes happen here. Whether it’s rallies, protests, causes or speeches, streets are significant. We also figured that never has any pictorial graphic been done on the street when it comes to sex workers,” he added.
Eight artists painted over two days and nights
Seven college artist students and one professional artist helped create this vision. The team shared and discussed the curation idea, designs and creative insights before taking to the streets. Debarjoon credited the entire team for their collective effort.
The pandal has also introduced handmade posters, demanding rights for sex workers, and other art installations depicting the everyday life of these women.
“This Durga Puja, we’re trying to encourage the idea of inclusion that has by far been neglected by our society”
Time and again, our society has failed to value and accept sex workers and their journeys. This theme is a beginning to start a dialogue about inclusion of sex workers not only in the puja but also in other celebrations. “The graffiti is to educate people about the fact that sex workers are women, who are mothers and sisters as well. They have long been fighting for acceptance and rights apart from other social stigmas they face. The third eye painted in the artwork showcases their inside lives and their feelings of rejection,” he revealed.
“We all make the society. Nobody taught us to look outside the window and we’ve have been conditioned with an age-old thought process”
Debarjoon points out that our education system never teaches to appreciate lives beyond books. “We need to redefine the systematic functioning and also teach people around. We’ve failed as a society neglecting the sex workers’ community. We need to change this responsibly,” he concluded.
While Durga Puja is about prayer and celebrations, we must remember it’s also about acceptance and inclusion. This street graffiti is a noble start enabling the society to acknowledge sex workers, their lives and honour their dignity. The puja pandal, which was only limited to using a brothel’s soil as one component for the making of Durga idols, is now not only embracing these sex workers, but also honouring them. There could not be a more impactful start to Durga Puja this year.
Featured Image credit: Debarjoon Kar