Karishma (name changed) works for nine hours a day at a small tailoring shop in Byculla. Her favourite songs are loaded in her mobile phone. The music brings back memories of her bar-dancing days.

Bar dancers celebrate the 2013 SC verdict that dismissed the government’s appeal to ban dance bars. FILE PIC
Bar dancers celebrate the 2013 SC verdict that dismissed the government’s appeal to ban dance bars. FILE PIC

“The money was better then, but I am respected more now,” she says. With dance bars set to make a comeback, Karishma says she is excited, but that is tempered by scepticism. In the past too, there were rumours of dance bars being re-opened, but they never fructified.

“I am going to wait till dance bars actually start functioning and take off in a big way, then decide if I want to go back. I have been dancing since I was four years old,” says the 34-year-old, and “dancing makes me feel liberated. I used to make twice the amount of money I do now, also, there will be no fear of cops raiding the bars,” she said.

Though money would be the big lure to get back on the dance floor, her past keeps coming back to haunt her. Karishma remembers, “There was a man who regularly came to the bar, and he would keep masturbating as I danced. Some men also used to tail me till I reached home. The new rules of railings on the stage were much needed.

“We were paid by the cops to keep them informed about certain people they were chasing. I have managed to help cops bust a drug racket too,” she proudly said.

One of the few dancers who has been rehabilitated, it has been extremely tough going for her. Former bar dancers still have to bear the brunt of considerable stigma, and Karishma is no exception.

“I was working at a cosmetics shop soon after the ban on bars was implemented, but when my employer found out I used to be a bar dancer, he asked me to leave. I don’t want the same to happen here,” she says, as she signs off, rushing to finish hemming a dupatta.