I just finished reading The Dancing Girls of Lahore by Louise Brown. So seductively disturbing. Alternate realities where 14 year old girls happily sell their virginity and mothers look at their daughters as old-age pensions. Unbroken circles of abuse, lack of choices and victimization. The strange hierarchies of izzat even within Heera Mandi. The degrees of seduction. The placement of the dupatta that identifies someone as a gandi kanjri versus a woman of some respect, even if the outside world lumps them all together as whores. There is a world of meaning in each glance, each giggle, each time the dupatta slips down to reveal the glimpse of a heaving bosom or long, flowing hair.
Why am I so interested in dancing girls and burlesque these days? In some ways, these women, owning their sexualities is a twisted kind of feminism? But, in fact, they are still victims of the shohar or the ashiq who they keep falling love with but who keeps leaving them as they grow fatter and grow more wrinkles and white hair. There's always someone younger, sexier, prettier around. Sometimes even their own daughters.
Sex is a tool for them to make money but also a weapon that denies them the identity to be anything but a prostitute. But then don't our jobs make us the same? Am I just an editor? Or something else? A writer? Struggling writer? What defines me? What makes me who I am?