Though famous as Delhi’s red-light district, G B Road has diferent aspects. It has Connaught Place-like corridors, Old Delhi-kind havelis, and even an ATM, tucked right next to a Madame’s kotha. This road houses a temple, a mosque and a school. It is blieved to be India’s biggest market for bathroom fittings. It even has its own ruin — the Ajmeri Gate. One can easily reach G B Road: a minute’s walk from the New Delhi railway station, next to the Anglo-Arabic Model School.
The history of G B Road can be dated back to Mughal period. It is said that there were total 5 red light areas or kothas in Delhi during that time. The night life of aristocrates and patrons flourished the livelihood of sex workers in this area. Then during the period of British Empire, a British collector consolidated all the five kothas to one specific area and christened it on his own name, Road or simply G. B. Road. Some people have reportedly experienced being conned and robbed in G.B. Road.
Today, GB Road has around 96 kothas. Each kotha has its own ‘family’ of prostitutes. Majority of these prostitutes come from desperately poor villages spread out in such varied regions as Nepal and Karnataka. Some are runaways, or have been duped by their lovers and sold here. Then they condition themselves, or are forced, to the life of a sex worker.
Around a decade ago, G.B. Road started running out of rich patrons because getting a woman in Delhi became easier. The five star hotels started offering their their own “‘special services” and there are also the guest houses mushrooming in South Delhi.
Once the decline started, things seemed to get worse very quickly. Today, the brothels of G.B. Road are places of such unimaginable sadness and misery that it is hard to imagine that they are there to sell pleasure.
It is harassment by the police that has really precipitated the decline. Since G.B. Road is technically illegal, it functions only at the mercy of the police.
The tragedy, of course, is that most women who end up in G.B. Road are usually illiterate and completely unaware of their rights. They tend to arrive in the kothas since they are abandoned by their husbands or because they come from such poor families where a female relative sells them into the trade merely to avoid paying a dowry to marry them off.
Because it is illegal to solicit, the sex workers never came out. Their pimps, and there were plenty of them – boys from different parts of India, old paunchy men who chewed betel leaves and spat everywhere, moved around, eyeing the passersby.
The business in GB Road is not booming anymore. The rates generally range from Rs. 100 to Rs. 500, but then the usual customers, the rickshaw pullers, blue collar workers, the students, couldn’t pay them a ton.
How to reach G B Road
G. B. Road is ten minutes walking distance from the New Delhi Railway Station or New Delhi Metro station. Or one can take a rickshaw from New Delhi Metro Station.