Have grown too old,fear some dancers

The elders among the bar dancers are not as confident as the younger ones.

Written by Srinath Rao | Mumbai | Published: July 17, 2013 1:06 am

The elders among the bar dancers are not as confident as the younger ones.

“Around 15 years ago,the seths looked at how well a new girl could dance. Now,they only want young women who are good-looking,” says Salma Shaikh.

Salma,30,worked 10 years at White House Bar in Tardeo. In 1994,her mother contracted a cancerous tumour and she left Varanasi to look for work in Mumbai. “I met many girls who had found work dancing at bars. I went to one bar and saw that there was no obscenity or contact with patrons,and enrolled in a dance class. I trained for a year and joined White House,” she says.

“I was very fit because I danced for 12 hours a day. Since 2005,I haven’t had steady work,and when you sit at home,you are bound to pile on the kilos. But if a bar owner came to me today,I will immediately begin exercising,” she said.

She lives in a small room in Bachubhai Chawl in Kamathipura,spending evenings singing at a bar while also dancing mujra in the lanes. “Even on a good day,I earn no more than Rs 300 doing the mujra,” she says.

She sends some money to Varanasi,where she has two children living with their grandmother. “Every year,I go back home for a month or two to see the kids. I cannot tell them what I do for a living because there is a stigma attached to this job.”

Uncertain as she is about her career,she still welcomes the court ruling. “When the bars open,I won’t go back to White House. The seth there has forgotten me because I have grown too old for him.”

Prabha Desai of Sanmitra Trust,which was among the NGOs that opposed the ban in court,says many dancers are worried. “The demand will be for younger dancers. They also feel that if CCTVs are installed in bars,their clients will hesitate to go there,” Desai says. Sanmitra Trust had been providing vocational training to bar dancers after they lost their jobs. Some of them got jobs in malls,but many still depend on their old clients,Desai says.

Anil Gaikwad,legal adviser for Indian Hotel and Restaurant Owners’ Association,is optimistic talented dancers can return. “Talent does not evaporate,” he says.

(With Mayura Janwalkar)

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