It’s an image I’ll never be able to get out of my head.
As we walked down Sonagachi Lane, I looked behind us, and saw a trail of yellow flowers marking where our feet had just trod. The scene behind me was no longer one of darkness… there were bulbs of brightness in the hands of each woman.
Last night, we celebrated our annual Flower Day. For the last 10 years, a team of senior leaders from Sari Bari have ventured out at night, handing out thousands of yellow flowers to the women working in the red light area right outside our doorstep.
I’m an intern here, and was invited to come along for the night. And it’s an experience I will never forget.
I’ll always remember those first initial steps I took into the red light area, which is a myriad of narrow alleys and lanes that house hundreds of brothels. The moment I set foot into one of those narrow lanes, it was like entering a whole new world. It’s hard to explain, other than it was like my vision turned to grey-scale – the alley I was entering into was dark, dirty and lined with over 20 women waiting for customers.
But then, the atmosphere shifted. Color, life and hope began to bubble up. As we started to hand out flowers to each woman, the scene before me shifted from greyscale, to color.
The women’s faces broke into smiles as they accepted their yellow bundle. They were happy and taken aback as they were told, “A beautiful flower for a beautiful lady”. And even if only for a moment, they were reminded of their worth and beauty amidst the place they’ve been forced to call home.
It was at this moment that I turned my head back and saw the effects of our trail of yellow. The ladies were showing one another their flowers and placing them behind their ears. It was like life had been injected back into the street. What an amazing thing to witness.
At one point, a young teenage girl grabbed me by the arm, and just stared into my eyes. I didn’t need to understand Bengali to see gratitude and thanks.
We ended our flower adventures back at the Sari Bari units, where we delivered the last of the flowers to our very own beauties. It was special to watch joy spread around the unit as the women handed out flowers to each other. They made flower bouquets, tied together with sari scraps, and spent the last hour of work adorned with yellow flowers in their hair.
Flower Day was an unforgettable evening. We gave out 3,500 flowers – that’s 3,500 seeds of hope planted in our neighborhood. It’s all worth it if the women experience just a small moment of hope before reality sets back in. Even just for a moment, these women knew they are cared for and are precious. What a night.
Written by Nicole Peck