Sirigahat: The story of a ruined world

Tuesday 09 May 2017 6 months ago 155   Hyderabad   Print

Photo Courtesy: Daily Dawn

Blogger  Kaleem Butt : HYDERABAD: A lot has been written, published and filmed on lives of prostitutes and brothels, be it Umrao Jan Ada, Maandi, Pakeezah, or work of Manto like Kali Shalwar or others, these stories of darkness have become popular in the conservative society of the sub-continent, courtesans have been part of every society and culture from a long time, indeed certain cultures are incomplete without the role of courtesans. When Sir Charles Napier conquered Sindh in 1843, he was so found of prostitutes and courtesans that he offered them space at what is now known as the Napier Street in Karachi. However, Napier used to call prostitutes from Sirigahat, the red light district of Hyderabad. Though it exists physically but it has lost all the charms of the old times, claims a sixty five years old paan chewing Madame still living in one of the ancient buildings reserved for courtesans at Sirigahat of Hyderabad Sindh. Madame Husna Bano is now pulpy old lady, who came to this area when she was merely a 15 year old skinny girl. Remembering the old days laying on the charpoy in the street under her flat holding a hand fan and silver paan box lying beside her, she said that: “in older days this area was heart of the city and the white color elite riding the tongas used to come here to enjoy their times, the beauty of the brothel is that its doors are opened for everyone be an elite or a deprived one, people used to come here for relaxation, the area was divided into two portions just opposite of each other one was where people used to come and enjoy the dance performances of lovely ladies of different ethnicity, and the other was were bodies were on for sale.” According to a local journalist Shabbir Tabbish no story on Sirigahat could be completed unless it does not contain the details of the peculiar style of breakfast of the prostitutes and the Sheesh Mahal. The brothel ladies used to have “siri paya and chola” while Sheesh Mahal one of the famous hotels of Hyderabad in old days, where the customers coming from different areas used to stay here, there were very few hotels in Hyderabad at that time so Sheesh Mahal was always busy place. “When a lady used to go out with her customer, she used to say that she was going for office. If her brother was standing in the street, the mother would shout: Oey Behan Dhanday Pay Jarahi Hai (Oh you! Your sister is going for work, and the brother would turn away his face,” he added. “All the activities of Sirighat would be suspended during the holy month of Ramzan and the ten days of Muharam, during the ten days of Muharram all the ladies whether madams or girls used to dress up in black to mourn for the sacrifice given by Hazrat Imam Hussian (R.A) the grandson of Holy Prophet (PBUH), at the battle field of Karbala. On the Seventh Eve of Muharam, we used to take out procession beating our chests. Up to late 70s and early 80s this was a celebrated area of Hyderabad,” claimed Madame Husna: “but later on things started to get worse for Sirighat, and in mid eighties the girls with their madams started to leave this place and as the millennium started the place started to ruin totally, and the ladies started shifting to different areas of the city due to strict government policies.” Now hardly any activity of dance or prostitution takes places in Sirighat, while it has been turned out into a commercial area, people use to sell different items used in daily life but the world that in full swing in the evenings has been totally ruined. Madam Husna sits on waiting, she used to wait for customers when she was in her youth and now she waits for death. 02