The venomous, many-headed virus, in its indiscriminate torrent, swallowed livelihoods whole, especially those deeply tied to human contact—travel and tourism were the first to fall prey, so too did restaurants and bars. These are lately showing signs of flickering back to life, buoyed by the imperatives of a ‘new normal’. Yet, an industry whose stock in trade is that most intimate of human acts, its purveyors denizens of a shadowland, cowers atill in darkness and neglect.
The red-light area of Gokulnagar in Sangli, Maharashtra, lies frozen in inactivity even at 8 pm, when it normally heaves with people. The empty streets echo only with sounds of police cars out on Covid duty. A few souls, intent on seeking the usual services, slink away at their sight. As night falls, the women at the doorsteps retire to their rooms. Another grim day draws to an end. Sex workers across India share their desperation.