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‘Nobody Can Love You More’ Book Review: A Non-Fiction About Love And Lust Along Delhi’s Less Trodden Routes

Told from the first-person narrative point of view by Mayank Austen Soofi, who is famously known for his pen name that appears on his blogs, The Delhiwala, Nobody Can Love You More reveals the inner thoughts, views, and opinions of the sex workers of Delhi’s Red Light Districts, namely, pockets of GB Road and Chawri Bazar, to name a few. Regardless of all that may have been written, known, or heard about these places and their mechanisms of conducting sex trade, this work of non-fiction brings a fresh perspective in terms of the ways that such locales function and the rules or regulations of the functioning of a persistent pocket of sex trade. The focus of the author is more on getting at the core of things from those who are enduring the circumstances. He tries to bring forth the other side of the story by being able to strike up simple, casual conversations with the female sex workers. These workers are the voices who have seen it all. Their reality seems more akin to fiction for most of mainstream society, but these women have lived through the unimaginable. The author goes back in time to mention how he actually became acquainted with the kotha teen sau number as an English teacher in the month of Ramadan.

Most of the story-telling unfolds at a moderate to slow pace, at times slowing down purposefully to lay emphasis on certain aspects that add to the underlying issues that grip society at large. The narrative moves forward in the form of dialogue exchanges. Through these exchanges of dialogue between the author-researcher and the different people who inhabit the red-light districts, a lot of information is revealed about the lives and times of those engaged in sex work. The author also learns a lot in this process of conducting fieldwork, and the information is interesting, though definitely heartbreaking, as most of the women are forcefully engaged in the trade. They were either initiated into this form of employment by being sold into it by someone that they had deeply trusted or were born in the red light area to others engaged in the same work as them. They may have tried to return to their families, but once they were sold, they were disowned and had no other option left but to take up prostitution professionally. Many of the sex workers remained, as they did not dare to face their families and go home. The manner of storytelling is rather descriptive and detailed. The author uses easy, catchy phrases and passages that bring out the larger picture amidst all the destitution.

The grim and sorrowful lives of these workers reflect the dire negligence towards their issues and the shame that is attached to their work. A lot of the information that is revealed will remind an informed reader who has some knowledge about the workings of the red light districts, movies like Gangubai Kathiawadi, or the work of social worker Pallabi Ghose, who has relentlessly worked to rescue many underaged girls. A significantly important aspect of Nobody Can Love You More is the city of Delhi and its different locales. The path to GB Road, for example, from the posh locales of New Delhi may be strewn with shops, people and places but Ajmeri Gate marks an important landmark to usher in the happenings of GB Road that is located close by. This is highlighted in the words of the sex workers, some of who note the first impressions of Delhi that they had once they were brought into the city. They had no idea and did not even get any inkling of the kind of work that was required of them. Their age of employment ends once they enter their 30s and are considered too old. They are then to remain to do some menial jobs to make a living.

The author discusses the appearance of these sex workers but the focus is more on their inner lives, their emotions and personalities, who they are as individuals and not as they are painted by the eyes of the society. Yet, there is no sense of pity shown towards them. Their lives are reflected through their words. Nobody Can Love You More then becomes a retelling of the stories of the workers by the workers with the author as a facilitator, an interviewer and an inquisitive onlooker. A detailed description of the layout of GB Road follows. Interestingly, the malik of Teen Sau number is not a woman but a man named Sabir bhai. The oddities of his character are juxtaposed with another significant male character named Mohammed Nooruddin who is primarily the rafu master of the red light district but also functions as an informer. It hints at the huge racket that sex trade but the book does not focus on providing solutions or discussing the pros and cons or anything serious. Rather, it becomes a written record of the impressions received on the mind of the author based on his exploratory walks across the red light districts. Photos in black and white add to the charm of the storytelling though colored pictures would have, perhaps, been better.

The lives of these sex workers and their livelihoods are intertwined with the socio-politics and historical background of contemporary India. This is noted in the effect of the Emergency in India in the 1970s and the then government’s decision to take a step to eradicate the ills of the society by demolishing slums and kothas/ brothels such as GB Road that was actually set up by the British. This led to a decline of rich and aristocratic customers who were drawn towards the spas and massage parlors that cropped up across the city that provided sex services under the pretext of beauty services. The fact that GB Road or other red-light districts could not be wiped out completely hints at the plight of the workers which is further etched in the narrative as the story progresses.

Nobody Can Love You More gives a non-judgmental attitude towards this entire topic and presents everything more like a record, a perspective, not an opinion to decide whether the concept of brothels should or should not exist or to answer the many questions that surround the functioning of the brothels. Rather, there is a sensitivity towards the issue and a human touch is provided to distinguish between the emotional and the physical, to elaborate on how self-love remains the main and the only source of true love for the pitiful situations of the sex workers. The field study is done extensively and at the grassroot level. What makes Nobody Can Love You More memorable is the manner in which Soofi has simplified the complicated to give a peek into a world that is shunned by society but feeds the deepest desires of it. It is an eclectic mix of the past and the present, the historical and the contemporary.

Tasnima Yasmin
Tasnima Yasmin
Struck by bouts of bibliophilia several times a day, Tasnima can often be found between the pages of a book. She loves switching between book genres and can get terribly garrulous when it comes to discussing her recent reads. With an ever-growing TBR, she is frequently guilt-ridden at not being able to attend to all her book pals at the same time.


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