“Hello, my name is Araj. Am I doing it right? Can..can you hear me clearly?” The agitated 21-year-old asked the reporter. Obviously sharing his life story wasn’t easy for him. I never really understood how he found the courage to do the interview, but here I was listening to it along with my reporter friend and his crew, curious to know what he had to say.
“You’re fine Araj. Why don’t you start by telling us about your childhood?” My friend asked him.
Araj went on for a while, reminiscing the sweet taste of his childhood. A good home, loving parents, food on most nights. All he could ask for.
Then came in the hard questions.
“So when did it all start? And how did you get into it?” My friend asked.
“Umm, I was nine. Nine a tough age, ain’t it? The rules of life still vague, games your entire purpose of living..”
“I’m sorry to interrupt you Ajar, but you are going off topic again.”
I would love to walk you guys through the interview, but Ajar’s sentences were slurred with ominous harsh memories. So I am going to paraphrase.
Ajar was nine years old when he met the man he had heard so much about from the older guys. The Dreamcathcer they called him. He took poor needy kids and gave them a career.
That unfortunate day, a month after his ninth birthday, Ajar met the man with the reputation.
The Dreamcatcher met him with a warm smile, and promises of riches for his family. And God knew Ajar’s family needed the extra money. But his proud dad,and coddling mother would never deliberately ask their youngest for help. ‘Children are to play and grow’, they always said. But if told that ajar was just working to carry bags for old lady’s at the market they would never question it, and be happy he is trying to help.
So Ajar agreed to work for him, but covertly.
For the first day of his job , he wore his finest shirt, and practised his introduction. Had a filling breakfast, whatever his mom could prepare that morning. ‘An earning man needs his energy’, he thought to himself. Packed his lunch and marched proudly to the bus stop to get to work.
His workplace, a huge duplex. With small boys practising dance with their appointed teachers. He was given a few guidelines at his orientation, which he didn’t understand completely. They said he had to learn to do his own make-up. They’ll provide the ghaghra. He works for five hours, and gets 400 a day, the only part he understood clearly. He was then sent into a room with bright flourescent lighting. Given a dress to wear, a girls dress. He tried to question the attire, but was answered with an angry ruthless stare,which he guessed could lead to firing on his first day. So he got dressed, they did his make up. When done, he looked in the mirror and couldn’t recognise his own gender. His groups appointed teacher thought him and the other boys,who looked calm and skilled, a few dance moves. And they were quickly pushed into the spotlight.
There was loud music in the huge room, and brighter lights than the room earlier. And howling men, who seemed to be enjoying the show they were to put. Ajar danced as thought. Even though missing out on most of the steps, he still received a good response from the drunk men. He didn’t quite enjoy this fame though. Something about it made him feel sick. But it was good money, so he danced.
The music stopped and the boys were taken inside. He could hear the men screaming out colors as he was leaving. The other boys discussed that their ghaghra should be the voted color for the day, cause that’s extra money. Ajar was still clueless. This new workplace was gruelling, and weird he thought. He was asked to wait in a small room for the other half of his assignment they told him. He entered the room, there was a small dirty bed, dim lighting, and a table with a jug full of dark brown liquid which filled the room with its stench. He was finally addressed by an older boy, Ajar had so many questions that he hurled them all out at once. The older boy asked him to calm down. He said, ‘The good men outside are lonely and ailing. They come here for love. And you give them that love. Do you understand? You can leve if you want. But Ull be paid only 1/4 of what was promised, and shall not return. Will you finish your room assignment?” He stared at Ajar for an answer. Ajar not understanding the graveness of the situation, quickly told him he’ll do his best at all assignments given. The older boy smiled and left.
Ajar waited in his room.
An old man with silver hair, and yellow teeth came stumbling, and singing,a few minutes later. Ajar greeted him with a smile. The old man told Ajar he needs to do nothing but lie down, he will take care of the rest. Ajar obliged. But the old man came on to him, And he was heavy. Ajar started squealing under him, and resisted the forceful caressing. The older man was quickly infuriated. And said he is going to ask for a different boy if Ajar was to cause any more problems. Ajar out of fear of losing his job, lied down.
The old man did things Ajar couldn’t comprehend. His genitals hurt, his lips were sore, his skin was burning. The old man was strong and harsh with his love. Ajar didn’t understand it, but he felt disgusting. And prayed for it to end soon so that he could go back to his mom. Once the old man was done Ajar was hurting all over,and sobbing with distress. He laid naked as the old man got up, dressed and left. The pain was horrible. His entire body was shivering.
Ajar couldn’t walk straight, or sit for days after the incident. He didn’t return to his appalling job.
That was until his family slept yet another night without dinner. Then he returned again,and he did until he was 14, and wasnt the right age for the lecherous pedophiles.
His parents never knew what was happening with him, they were consumed with their own problems. He simply told them he fell while playing football,when asked. Slowly his body adapted to its sullying every day for that one hour.
“I tell you my story today,because I need my story to be heard. For boys to know better than to get sucked in, and be exploited at such a tender age.
I need them to know it’s not their fault or choice to be raped every day, or to dance to horny men. I can be their cautionary tale. Save them from the foul the world has to offer at every corner. The world is a horrible place, especially for the poor. It really is.”
Ajar ended his story, with tears in his eyes. I could feel his pain through his clenched fists, and his despairing morose face.
I could see him experience it all over again. I could see horror in his eyes, and hear the disgust in his voice. How tough it must have been for him to relive it in front of a camera. Knowing he will be heard was his only solace. He had helped.
– Sabah Batul