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Kerb-Crawling: From Brazil to Kashmir

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Zia Darakshan

I have spent almost three years in Brazil and experienced life in a different shade when compared to my conflict-ridden home place – Kashmir. Amid most beautiful experiences, I came face to face with a most ugly scenario of Brazil where young girl children , mostly from slum areas, were pushed into flesh trade to promote tourism in the country. I found the racket so strong and widespread that government was left helpless to curb it.

After a few weeks of my entry into the country, I began to explore this magical latin american country and believe me, it was mesmerizing to visit the places. It was fascinating to walk on the streets and one unique sight almost everyday was parading of cute girls who were in the age group of 10 -17 years. We used to exchange smiles whenever we used to come across each other on the streets. Many a times I would catch them individually boarding taxis.

While walking down the street, many a times taxis would stop near me and offering a ride. Sometimes, a cab would follow me and insisting to board the cab. I would always thank them for their courtesy and never boarded any cab as my home was in the vicinity. Over a period of few weeks, I could smell that while walking down on the street all was not well. I was seriously facing kerb-crawling. My doubts got cleared when I was told by a friend that parading of teenage girls on the streets was not a normal picnic activity, but these teenagers were into flesh trade looking for clients, particularly tourists visiting Brazil. Even my friend vetted my apprehension that Kerb crawling is a routine activity.

The google definition of kerb crawling says, “A kerb crawler (or curb crawler) is a person who drives around the  areas known for street prostitution soliciting prostitutes for sexual activity. The act is known as “kerb crawling” because the person will typically drive very slowly along the kerbside.”

 

On hearing my friend, who was working for the welfare of children living in slums in Brazil, scene of a teenage girl who was looking not more than 13-14 years old flashed in front of my eyes.

She was wearing a small bikini exposing her tiny frame along with dozens of girls parading the street looking. She was looking beautiful among the all girls. When we came eye ball to eye ball contact with each other on the street, we exchange smiles and waved at each other. I thought the girls were on some picnic activity. But it was a huge shock to learn that they were parading the streets in the blazing mid-afternoon sun looking for clients. Most of the girls were from the surrounding favelas.

Over a period of time, when I returned to my my homeland – Kashmir – all these incidents automatically got erased from my mind till I met a strange incident in the heart if Srinagar city. Lately, just a few miles ahead of Dalgate petrol pump I was hurrying to the bus stop, which was a bit deserted in the late hours. Before I could catch any bus all the public transport had already left for the day. On the contrary, a red i10 car with a doctor’s emblem sticker on it stopped near me, which was slowly driven by a young man, I think, in hislate thirties. While I was busy talking over the phone the person in the car was continuously ogling me like an eagle.

Before I could protest, he asked, “Your face looked so familiar that I couldn’t stop myself from gazing in wonder.” I was about to react to his pearls of wisdom, two more cars pulled in near me. A person from a black car, who was wearing Pheran murmured something in Kashmiri to me. Whatever he muttered sounded something sleazy about him.

Later, I discovered it through my friend about the predicament which gave me shivers, was nothing but kerb-crawling. I was deeply hurt inside, seeing the plight of this land of Sufi and Saints, which has also become a place for Kerb-crawling.

When I was living in Brazil, I never faced any such situation despite the fact the place was flooded with night clubs and flesh trade so common. But I was never chased or solicited by a kerb crawler, even if travelling alone or walking down the street late at night, unlike in Kashmir. Here in Kashmir I could find that if you stop for a while late in the evening a breed of kerb crawlers would chase you without any lead.

I am sure Kashmir is not a place where flesh trade is acceptable in any form  yet Kerb crawlers are increasing manifold. I think the conflict in which Kashmir is ridden has taken the toll silently on our socio-economic set up badly. Time is till on our side to preserve our glorious past and let the whole world know Kashmir is not a home to evils like kerb crawlers and flesh trade.

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