Garstin Bastion Road or GB Road is one of the most well-known stretches of Delhi, lying between Ajmeri Gate and Lahori Gate in the Walled City of Old Delhi, notorious as well as recognized for several reasons. Firstly, all sorts of automotive parts are sold here. Secondly, it is also the ‘red-light’ district of Delhi with a high concentration of prostitution and the business of sex being plied here.
What’s In A Name
The road is named after a British officer of the East India Company. According to stories, during the Mughal era there were five red light areas in the city but during the British rule, they all coalesced into one – on GB road. The name of the road changed to Swami Shraddhanand Marg since 1956 and today it goes by both names.
If you’re using the metro, your station would be New Delhi Station on the Yellow Line (HUDA City Centre towards Jahangirpuri). Take Exit #3, the one that says Ajmeri Gate or Kamala Market. Once out, ignore the cries of the many rickshawalas. If you hear them carefully, they will NOT mention GB Road in their list of names of places they could take you to. Of course, if you ask them, they will take you though.
Once out of the station, turn left. Walk straight till you reach a massive crossing; cross the road, and Ajmeri Gate should be on your right. Enter the road that says ‘Swami Shradhanand Marg’ – that’s GB Road.
Walking through the road is an interesting experience, especially if you’re a girl. Upon entering, you might be told by well-meaning people, ‘Please don’t go there, it is a red-light area.’ Don’t be embarrassed. Move on.
During the day, the road is teeming with people buying and selling auto parts. You will come across a couple of juice stands and chai wallahs and some cheap restro bars. You won’t see a single woman on the street.
What Lies Beneath
Above mechanics and automotive shops are dilapidated balconies, bright colours on the walls and once-upon-a-time pretty balconies with intricately designed balustrades or windows with wire mesh. Behind those windows and balconies, you will notice a line of clothes hanging out to dry and faces – brightly and garishly painted.
Women and girls up on those balconies and windows stand huddled together, if they make eye contact with you, they will wave at you, beckoning you to come up to them. These are the ladies GB Road is notorious for.
Going by the accounts of people, these ladies are extremely polite and face a number of hassles for basic needs such as water and electricity. Prostitution is a job and sometimes, the only source of income for them. Hygiene is expensive but important for them. Since organized prostitution is illegal in India, their lives are always tethered on uncertainty.
A walk here can be as interesting as you want it to be, and is certainly an experience in itself!
The room is smaller than the kitchen of an average DDA (Delhi Development Authority) flat. The walls are painted pale purple. A small ceiling fan hangs down from the roof. A red plastic table cloth lies over a wooden stool, which has a bottle of coconut oil and a box filled with condoms.
The Delhi Walla is in a room in the red light district of GB Road. There are five more rooms like this one in the establishment.
GB Road, officially known as Shardhanand Marg, has about 20 buildings. Dark corridors with steep stone stairs lead to places like this one on the first and second floors. The shops downstairs on the corridor are mostly stocked with bathroom and toilet fittings. The area has no parks, no playgrounds, not even a beauty saloon. Vendors of cosmetics such as nail paints and lipsticks keep coming inside the establishments to sell their ware to women.
Not all rooms in the area are as austere. In some, every inch of the walls are covered with posters of film stars. Some even have air-conditioners. This room feels bare in comparison.
The bedsheet has a floral print. A little pillow underneath has a silvery shine. The plastic basket is empty. The hooks to hang clothes are fitted beside the green door.
This room is a woman’s workplace, not her living quarters, however. Women in this particular establishment don’t really have a private place of their own. One of the woman lives on the roof, for instance. Another sleeps on a landing beside the staircase. Most women sleep on the kotha’s veranda at night, that is if they are not working at night. Then they stand in the corridor outside waiting for customers.
The room is quiet except for the faint traffic sounds. But that is another world.
A room not of their own
Distance between New Delhi Metro Station and Gb Road Red Light Area is 2 kms or 1.2 miles or 1.1 nautical miles
1 Mile is about 1609 meters. 1 Nautical Mile is exactly 1852 meters.
You can view the route map below. Click and zoom on the map to understand the route better and plan better for your trip.