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The Red Light Room: A Song for Kolkata’s Women and Children

“This song is for the inspirational people of New Light, the working women of Kolkata and their children. May you continue to push for a better future.” -Eden H.

At the start of their term in India, Eden H. and several of our Grade 12 students embarked on a weXplore to the West Bengal city of Kolkata. Here they had a chance to explore the historical and contemporary issues that make Kolkata an attractive place for many to live and visit, but a squalid existence with no opportunities beyond sex work for many others. During the weXplore, students considered the following driving questions as they visited colonial strongholds, a shelter for the children of sex workers, Hindu temples, and the traditional potters’ quarter known as Kumartuli:

  • Are men/women involved in the sex trade victims or perpetrators of their own circumstance?
  • How has Kolkata’s history of colonization affected its present condition?
  • What contradictions are most compelling to you and why are they significant?

It was a visit to New Light, the shelter for the children of sex workers, that has the most profound impact on the students in attendance. Founded and run by Urmi Basu, New Light opened its doors in 2000 and since then has been protecting young girls, children, and women at high risk of commercial and sexual exploitation, providing them with career opportunities outside the bounds of the sex industry. Eden and her classmates had the opportunity to interact with the children of New Light, some of whom had been at the shelter since our first visit back in 2013, and interview New Light’s staff about their work.

Upon returning to Mumbai from Kolkata, Eden set about working on a project centered around her time with the New Light community. Drawing from her inspiration, she wrote and recorded the following song in the Apple application GarageBand, with editing help from Badr Morsadi.

Eden on creating Red Light Room: “I created this original song as part of a school project to raise awareness about the truth of the sex industry in Kolkata and the repercussions it has on the local community. It is based on the true stories of the women and children I met in Kolkata and aims to accurately portray this.”

If you’d like to learn more about New Light and how you can help make a difference in the lives of those they protect, visit their website at http://www.newlightindia.org/.

Lyrics:

Girl you were abandoned
Your only hope was your love
She left you at a train station
Yet child you lived on

Oh, mother your children are crying
You’ve been forced into this pain
There is no escape for you
Men will continue to pay for you
But you do what you do to get by

She’s a child born of sadness
Yet a smile upon her face
She never knew her siblings
She was raised on her own

Oh, mother your children are crying
You’ve been forced into this pain
There is no escape for you
Men will continue to pay for you
But you do what you do to get by

Girl you are a product of sadness
You lived in the room where she worked
she swore that she loved you
But she wasn’t there
And she left without saying goodbye

Oh, mother your children are crying
You’ve been forced into this pain
There is no escape for you
Men will continue to pay for you
But you do what you do to get by

Oh, mother your children are crying
You’ve been forced into this pain
There is no escape for you
Men will continue to pay for you
But you do what you do to get by

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