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
“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.
Railings will keep bar dancers safe, says activist
Varsha Kale, president of the Bhartiya Bargirl’s Union held a meeting on Thursday at their Dombivali office, post the recent decision. Kale said that some girls, who were rehabilitated and are still enthusiastic, are eager to dance agian, while some have moved on.
"There are some dancers who are now older or have children and who don’t want them to go back into the profession. I met some of the girls from our Union on Thursday, and as of now, I know of at least 800 bar dancers who are waiting eagerly for the bars to open," she said.
The activist said she is happy with the modified rules of having three-foot high railings between the stage and the patrons, since it will ensure that the girls are safe.
"In the past, men used to climb up on the stage and grope the women at times. This railing will help them feel safer."
Kale said that while the government and police fear that re-opening bars will attarct anti-social elements in the city, they should up their ante in nabbing them, instead of blaming the bars. "The CCTV cameras at the entrance of the bars should suffice in helping them," she finished.