(Autobiography of a Sex Worker) - Nalini Jameela
Nalini Jameela (50) holds her book 'The Autobiography of a Sex Worker' in the southern Indian state of Kerala December 14, 2005. Her long, wavy, black hair tied loosely in a knot, Jameela looks like any other Indian housewife. But this attractive, largely uneducated mother of two is a best-selling author and prostitute whose outspoken views of sex work as an ordinary career choice have stirred controversy in conservative India.
Autobiography of a sex worker takes Kerala by storm
By Vinu Abraham
It is ironic that the most repressed society in the country has produced the first autobiography by a sex worker. For Nalini Jameela, 51, a sex worker from Thrissur in Kerala, the book was a chance to share her experiences in a profession that she says is "like any other". For the masses, it was a chance to take a behind-the-scenes peek, as it were.
Baring her soul: Nalini Jameela with her book
Hardly surprising then that the release of the book on June 18 was greeted with great curiosity. Published by DC Books, Oru Laimgika Thozhilaliyude Athmakatha (The Autobiography of a Sex Worker) is a hit already. (The book sold over 2,000 copies in less than two weeks.) However, literary discussions revealed that many picked it up only to find out if any well-known people figured in its pages.
Nalini is quick to clarify that her book "is not a f..k and tell". "There is no need for curiosity as to who my customer is," says Nalini, who is the coordinator of the Kerala Sex Workers’ Forum. "People talk about the sexual adventures of others instead of exploring their own sexuality. My book is a reflection of this pitiable state of sexuality in Kerala."
Interspersed with her life story is a close look at the reality of Kerala society. According to Nalini, the scenario today is one of ‘male tragedy’; a view that is in conflict with the notion that women are the victims of sexual crimes. "The socio-cultural establishment in Kerala forbids a man from seeking an outlet for his sexuality. So the average Malayali male is sexually frustrated," she says. "This is why he gets involved in sex rackets. The men that the media and society accuse as sex offenders, including former minister P.K. Kunhalikutty, are the real victims. Women and girls are the secondary victims."
Pressure cooker and safety valves
The charge that sex workers destroy clients’ families is wrong. Which sex worker would go to her client’s house claiming rights? ...As long as human beings have the urge for variety in sex, as long as societal repression on sex remains, as long as the inherent problems in the family structure remain, sex work will continue. If there is no sex work, it would lead to a situation comparable to a pressure cooker with its safety valve locked on. The truth is that sex workers are doing a great service.
There is another face to this reality, too. Some clients badmouth their wives to the sex worker to create a greater intimacy. They complain that their wives do not love them and that they are fed up with life. I once had such a client. As soon as we met, he began abusing his wife. But I realised his accusations were false. He told me that he would not give his wife a drop of water even if she were on her deathbed. I decided to teach him a lesson.
One night, around 11.30 p.m., I told him that I wanted a drink. He went out and bought me a bottle of liquor, though he had to pay extra money because it was past the closing time. Once he got back, he poured me a drink. After I became a little high, I started abusing him. I told him that he who had said he would not give his wife a drop of water on her deathbed, though she cared for him so much, had gone to so much trouble to get me a drink in the middle of the night. I asked him if he was not ashamed of himself. Upon my tirade, he left without even having sex.
Many in Kerala proudly claim that there are no red-light areas here. But in reality, the absence of red-light areas is the real problem. Though there are lots of sex workers, the lack of such areas means that the needy cannot always contact them. The availability of love nests is also a big problem because clients have to spend a lot of money to get such a place. Thus, many people who are denied sex or do not enjoy good sex in their marriage, are deprived of sexual outlets.
Often, this is the factor that works behind violence against young girls. When will the Malayali who protests against this violence realise the truth? It is the absence of safety valves (sex workers) that leads to incidents like the late-night attack on women at the tourism week celebrations in Kozhikode. Those who criticise men for such violence and sympathise with the women do not realise the illness or the reason behind it.
Translated by Vinu Abraham