Friday, February 24, 2012

Amsterdam RLD

Courtesy Wiki

Janet, Deepti and Me the three of us had visited Amsterdam in Aug 2009. Windmills, Canals, tulips and cheese were on our list of things to see. Since drugs(soft drugs) are legal in Amsterdam, Deepti also wanted to 'eat' hash. Yes eat, since it is actually mixed with a brownie. More about this below. But what actually became the highlight of the trip and the only thing which I now seem to remember and picture very clearly
was the 'De Wallen'!
De Wallen, also known as the rosse buurt to the amsterdammers, is the largest red light district and one of the major tourist attractions in Amsterdam.
Right! So we girls never really had any intentions of actually visiting the RLD, but a day cycle tour changed our prehistoric notions and convinced us to see the liberal attitude of the people of Amsterdam towards prostitution.

So, after about 10 minutes of walking distance from the Centraal Station (the main station in Amsterdam), is located the RLD. After the entire morning city tour on the cycle (which was awesome by the way), our very handsome guide, made the group halt and in a proud tone, started to explain about the RLD and its culture. This was when we realized  that the RLD visit is also a part of the tour and we would soon be actually visiting the RLD! After that information sunk in, as if on cue, the three of us started blushing and exchanging quick glances amongst each other..!!??

So this was what he had to say:
Prostitution is legal in Holland, and it dates back to the 14 century, when sailors used to arrive on the banks of the Amstel river for pleasure. There are about 4 million visitors each year in Amsterdam, who specifically come into the city, just to visit the RLD. The prostitutes stand in windows which are lit by red fluorescent tube lights to attract customers.Safety is the key here.Sex workers have their own unions, body guards, plenty of police protection, an information center for the visitors, frequent monitoring and testing and very high professional standards. Each sex worker has a secret buzzer which is hidden in her room, which she uses for violent clients, or clients who don't pay up later. The police arrive within minutes after the buzzer is pressed and then, necessary action is taken. The prostitutes are legal tax payers of Amsterdam. (And most surprising) The maximum number of customers for the RLD are locals and not tourists. Most of them visit the RLD after they have left home, for work OR before they return home, after work.
We three, in total awe..and amused

So after this tantalizing introduction, we were led into the RLD.

What did I see?
The district had tall thin buildings which overlooked the canals. Beautiful canals with lined trees and amidst them the famous windows, all of them lit. Since it was still almost day time, the fluorescence of the windows was not very bright for us to be attracted, but the scantily clad women in the windows were.
I clearly remember that I saw 2 very beautiful women, in 2 adjacent windows, wearing white bikinis with great fit toned bodies. Both were blondes. The windows were not actually windows. They were glass doors which were rectangular in shape. The rooms were about 4*8 feet sized rooms/cubicles which had a basin and a bed, and the opening to it was covered by these strong glass door-windows, which ran all along the length of the door. And behind those doors were those prostitutes who made very seductive expressions to attract us.  We of course were more shocked than attracted..!

Before we could see anything else, the guide effectively led us out of the RLD, and then concluded the tour.
But 'jate jate' he did mention to us, that, if at all we were looking out for a real RLD tour, it would have to be at night 10PM, and it would start at the Centraal station.

Noting the quick advise in our minds, we set off to have an early dinner and then roamed about aimlessly around the city. After returning to the hotel, Deepti reminded us that, she wanted to eat the 'drugged' brownie. And then suddenly we were like, why not go for the tour at 10, and then find a cafe where we could buy the brownie(yes, they sell drugs in cafes in Amsterdam).
Since no one, except Deepti opposed to this idea (Well she was the eldest, so I guess she thought, it was the best if she was the one who opposed), we all set off to the Centraal station, instead of sleeping in into our warm beds.

So we just knew that we have to be at the Centraal station. Actually, outside the Centraal station, but where the tour starts, and who would be our guide, is something we had no clue of! Nevertheless we waited, and eyed every sleazy man with doubt, assuming he would be the guide to this tour.
But weren't we in for another surprise. After 15 minutes of waiting, we saw a pretty middle aged well dressed women walk towards us. And following her were a group of 8-10 people. Yes so, the guide for this RLD tour at 10PM in the night was not a sleazy man, but actually a pretty decent woman. And who were the part of the group? Couples, old young middle aged, every kind! So we did feel a bit better and safe, amongst this group, and with enthusiasm went along for the tour..

The tour was one of a kind!!!
From brothels to sex shops to museums, the RLD left nothing to the imagination. There were gay clubs, lesbian clubs everything! We came across a shop named Condomerie, which had condoms in all colors, shapes, sizes and flavors. 
There were the smoky cafes and joints as well, just like how you actually see it in the movies!!
And then of course, there were the windows with the girls. The glow of the fluorescent red lights above many windows became very very obvious as it was dark now! There were a lines of windows, all adjacent to each other in lanes running zigzag across the canals. The guide mentioned to us, that currently this RLD had around 250 windows.

The RLD windows were actually divided as per preferences.. There were lanes which housed Asian women only, lanes for blondes, lanes for African women. And of course, there were the windows with the blue lights, which meant these were the homosexual windows.

She also showed us the buzzers, and the information centre, and the police station. There were a lot of lanes which were very small and as we walked into them, we could practically feel the girls' eyes bore into us. There were also a lot of windows which had curtains across them. This, the guide explained, meant those windows were currently in use.

After going through couple of lanes, we came across theatres with huge lines outside them. I saw couples standing outside with prams. So the obvious thought which came to our minds were, what was a movie theatre doing in the middle of the RLD?
So firstly, the RLD does house respectable people like doctors and lawyers. 
and secondly, the theatre was not a normal movie theatre, it was actually a theatre where there were artists performing the different positions of performing sex. The guide told us that, the theatre houses a huge round rotating stage, with 6 couples performing with the audience below. She of course did offer the group free tickets, but since we had an overdose of knowledge transfer in so many other aspects, we choose to skip the theatre. And about the couples with the pram?? It was something which was the most difficult to digest amongst all the heavy stuff which we saw that day!!!
The guide also told us that, the oldest prostitute working in the RLD was 72 years old. In spite of her age, she is supposed to be one of the most sought ed out woman in the RLD. The guide words were : 'Experience is what is her friend!'
So after this long post, what did I learn??
Amsterdammers have embraced the fact that it only human to be into soft drugs and prostitution..
They have the most liberal attitude and are very tolerant for something which can be very disturbing in other countries.
The cycle guide, the RLD guide, and others are proud about the RLD.
So instead of demeaning the prostitutes and criminalizing everything, they are upfront about sex and drugs,
enjoy the honesty and don't hide behind closed doors. This is something which you would get to see only in Amsterdam and no where else.
The prostitutes lead a good life and their profession is just a profession like every other profession. They are not judged or are outcasts in the society. They are treated with respect and have honor.

And now what do I think?
In a country like ours, where almost every city has a RLD and none of them still out of business, sex and drugs are still a taboo, prostitutes only exist to provide pleasure and then be dishonored. All in the name of culture and ethics. Is this right? 
At the end of the journey, my notions have changed, and I have learnt that sex is not a taboo, but is infact the most natural thing in the world. Accept it, but also those women who sell it. Respect, and nothing more. 

PS: If you go visiting anytime, and please do visit, it is really an eye opener, not for the sex, but more for the outlook, Do not take photos of the occupied windows - this is strictly prohibited.

Disclaimer: This was couple of years back, so I have used the Internet to refresh my memory and provide appropriate information to the readers. The experiences are my own and the views are not meant to offend anyone.

This post is an entry for a contest by CupONation, an online retailer of discount coupons, and The Shooting Star travel blog.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Which F.R.I.E.N.D are you?

I am addicted to F.R.I.E.N.D.S, so much that when I go home, the first thing I do is, boot my lappy and watch any episode of FRIENDS. I have seen all the reruns on the TV and am the proud owner of all the 10 seasons! I know all the trivia about friends, and can tell which episode, a particular scene belongs to, so much that sometimes I dream about friends, and imagine myself to be one of them.

Although I like all the 6 characters, I feel the closest to Monica. The thought of me being one of them, has actually triggered this post. Have you ever wondered which of the 6 FRIENDS, you resemble the most?
Even if you have no idea what FRIENDS is, please don't skip the post. Read it, and immediately rent out a video of any of the seasons. I am sure you are bound to love it!

So guys now tell me, what kind of a FRIEND are you?

If you are childlike and innocent but at the same time mature.
If you are weird but street smart and tough, tough as in 'traumatic experiences tough'.
If you believe that Santa Claus exists and believe in reincarnation and God.
If you are not a sucker for romance, and are cool with casual relationships and one night stands and heavy drinking sometimes.
If you have such a big heart that you readily agree to become a surrogate for your brother.
If you are so comfortable in your skin, that you can carry any weird outfits, play and sing music out of tune in the loudest possible voice and run around in the jogging park like a 6 year old running towards the swings!!
Then you are Phoebe!

If you are extremely pretty and beautiful.
If you are the more secure, independent one in a relationship.
If you are image conscious, so much that, you may change the size and shape of any of your body part.
If you were the spoiled daddy's self absorbed girl, but have changed to the responsible one over the period of time.
If you are slightly dim in the area of domestic skills and cooking but extremely fashion oriented.
If you are very supportive of your friends, that you would move out, to accommodate the BF of your roomie, with no qualms.
If you are independent and mature, to give birth to a child out of wedlock.
Then you are Rachel!

If you are very good looking, but still simple minded.
If you are a womanizer, but doesn't disrespect them.
If you would be in a constant dilemma, if you had to choose between food and sex!
If you are caring and a kind hearted person, despite being dim.
If you could forgive your best friend for kissing your GF, because friendship means more to you than the girl.
If you are so determined to make it in your profession, that you would do any kind of job, to stay active in the same.
If friendship and happiness of your friend, means more to you than money.
Then you are Joey!

If you find yourself in difficult situations, where people consider you to be gay, due to your behavior!
If you use your humor and sardonic attitude as a defence mechanism, again due to a traumatic childhood experience.
If you were first allergic to commitment and long lasting relationships, but eventually mature into a responsible husband.
If friendship means so much to you, that you support your friend all along, paying rent, paying for the classes of your friend, and paying for food all along.
If you choose friendship over love, where you would sit in a box and not say a word, even though your GF is going away for ever, just for your friend.
If you love your girlfriend, despite her bossiness, neatness, and overly competitive nature.
If you are so mature, that you can handle infertility, and decide to adopt, because you want to be a parent no matter how and more because your wife is already in a place where she is a mother.
Then you are Chandler!

If you are an attractive woman, with an hourglass figure.
If you tend to be the mother hen of you group of close friends and love to play the perfect host and cook for them.
If you are very careful around men and relationships, because of your past body imperfections.
If you are a cleanliness freak, and have an obsessive personality, bossy and competitive nature.
If you are a sucker for strong relationships, and love and want to have kids, so much that you would consider becoming a single mother through artificial insemination!
If you always on guard in front of your mother!
If you are quite affectionate towards your friends, so much that you would make the friend (who doesn't invite you to her wedding) as your roomie and support her till she is her independent self. That you would be the more mature and supportive of your sibling, even though you are the younger one. That you would give up a special name, which you have decided for your child, for your friend's daughter.
Then you are Monica!

If you are a geek, but still charming, sweet natured and the most romantic of all your friends.
If you are not scared of commitments, so much that, for you, marriage is the first step of every relationship.
If you are the one who always seems to have the greatest body mishaps, such as excessive whitening of teeth or a lot of tan only on the front side.
If you are such a good friend that, you being a guy, would even kiss your guy friend in order to help him practice for a gay role.
If you are insecure, jealous and possessive in your relationships.
If you have the annoying habits of correcting people grammar, and are unable to pull out a sentence straight when nervous.
If you are wonderful father and the most supportive husband for all your wives. Such that you would give away your lesbian divorced wife because her parents would not, on her wedding. That you would bring up your illegitimate child with the most care and support her mother and your friend always.
Then you are Ross!

So here we are! I have tried the best to get out the best traits of all 6(google helped me out) of them and
now I await to know which one are you?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My Binani cements - Sadiyo ke liye

My life has been sculpted by a lot of people, but there are only few who have moulded no cracks, mixed the correct proportions of ingredients and carved the right curves, so that this body of the perky girl stands proud and erect always. Welcome people to the Michelangelos, the Berninins and the Rodins of the 'Jen' era. Welcome to the most important women in my life!

For being the god send angel, specially for made for me.
For handling all my tantrums and odd ways and still always being there for me.
For teaching me everything from ABC, to how to cook paneer, to how to write a check.
For waking up at 3 in the morning with me and making tea while I study, so that I don't fall asleep again.
For standing outside the examination hall, so that I don't feel alone, not even for 3 hours.
For being the most warm hearted person in the world. (She gives free tuitions still and has bought up my cousin as her own son from the time he was 3).
For being the most independent women, who can cook, clean(we never had any maids), teach, pay bills, send emails, fix motors, get insurance for herself and me, and still come shopping with me anytime.
For crying and fighting with me, but in the end always trying to fill that void which Papa left 3 years back! For just being what you are, My God!

For being my agony aunt, from the time I understood that you were my aunt.
For being the super woman, who can teach yoga, who can learn classical dance at the age of 40 and teach a class of college students philosophy
For being the wonder woman, who love is unconditional and who has whole heartedly arranged my entire wedding.
For being the strongest woman I have ever known, the tigress, who can endure any amount of pain for the family and me.
For being what you are for me, My Guide!

Kiniamma(Aunt 2)
For being the person, I always wanted to be like and whom I almost look like.
For being more of a friend, unlike Mummy and Malamma, who can ask me if my husband says 'i love you' or not :-P
For being the person who gets paranoid at the drop of a hat, and can even call at night to ensure, I have not worn my lenses and gone to bed :-P
For being the most patient woman, who will treat the kids in the house as adults, and give them the same attention and respect.
For being what you are for me, My Friend!

Khushboo (Best friend since school)
For being my friend from 17 years and still wanting to continue :-)
For being someone which I felt, was always around, even though we have not met for the last 4 years.
For guiding me all along, in the most difficult times when Papa left in 2008 and then again during my wedding in 2011. Always being the one to call me, even though I always forgot!
For being the only person, who life runs parallel with mine, you going through all those things which I went, just couple of years earlier!
For being what you are for me, My Gaurdian!

Ashvini (My roomate for the last 3 years)
For being the person who turned from the senior in the team, to the confidante in my life.
For being someone who is very independent, and an achiever and I look up to in all matters.
For being the person who held my hand and took me home from office in London when I heard about papa. Who packed my bags, and held me till the departure gates at the airport and has been there for me since then.
For being the sole counsellor of my relationship with my husband, and the person who helped us go through the toughest times before our marriage.
For being what you have become over the years for me, My Sister!

Raisa (Sister)
For being the most prettiest girl in the world for me, 8 years my junior.
For being the person who only listens to me in the family, where everybody else is scared of her, rather her temper :-P
For being the girl, who makes me proud each time, she wins a medal, and gets great grades, and the only one who had achieved my Mom's dream of becoming a doctor(SE MBBS)
For being the my greatest critic, and at the same time, my follower.
For being what you have always been, My Doll!

Gomathi, Pooja, Prachi(College friends)
For being my faithful friends through college and then the initial years of co operate world.
For being my companions in sharing the anxiety of college exams, and then the placements.
For being the envy of the college as the 'best good group of girls'.
For almost having grown together from girls to young women to now wives!
For being what you would still be, My Chums!

Priya(My London roomie)
For being an exact replica of me, nature wise.
For being the better daughter for my mom, when she was in London.
For being the least selfish person and the most innocent person (never guessed I had a BF, even though he used to come home in London almost everyday!) I have ever met.
For coming for my wedding with your mom. Your presence was such a postitive change for me, most needed then!
For being what you are, My Twin!

Thank you all for being a part of my Life, enriching it with so much of goodness, that in spite of all those tough times, this world still seems such a beautiful world to live in. Thanks for being my Binani cement, Sadiyo ke liye!

PS: No feminist takes here please. The men are equally important. Maybe someday would write about them as well :-)