‘Hunger will make you do anything’

Krishna has been modelling nude at the Delhi College of Art since 2000. She says there is no shame in the job, but she would cry quite often when she began to do it

NH Photo by Qazi Raghib
NH Photo by Qazi Raghib

Ashlin Mathew

When one is hungry, one will do anything. Hunger takes over and then there is no right or wrong and even the question of morality pales in front of it. How can the society decide anyway what is right and wrong if the society doesn’t come forward to quell my hunger?

I began modelling at the Delhi College of Art in 2000; now it has been 18 years. In the beginning, I could not pose without clothes, but now I can do it without difficulty. All these years at the college and I have never been made to feel ashamed. Not one of the students has ever leered or looked at me with judgement in their eyes. All of them call me ‘aunty’ and treat me with care and concern. I do an honest day’s work and it is respectful. There is no shame in this work.

When I began modelling, I would cry often. I would think if this was what life had in store for me. Now, it is simply just a job and I like it too. I don’t, of course, tell anyone. My family knows; in fact, my sons have also come to model in the college. They were simply sitting at home and we needed the money to pay the rent. Since they all knew that I was modelling, they had no problem in doing so either.

I am in my 40s now and I wasn’t always modelling. I used to work and continue to work in homes, then I have worked with an export house. My husband used to work as a security guard at the home of Rajiv Lochan, who was a professor at the Delhi College of Art. Initially, I didn’t understand what the job was, but after I had applied, and it was approved, then I understood it. Initially, I would sit with clothes on and then the rate was Rs 100 per day and if I was nude, I would be paid Rs 220. Now, it has become Rs 420 per day. It is not enough, but what can we say or do. It is not a regular job, I get called when they need a live model in the sculpting department. But, now the payment is not regular.

It all changed with notebandi (demonetisation); that one move has made our lives difficult. Earlier, we would get the payment regularly. Now, it will come only in the account. I still haven’t been paid for the last couple of months. Earlier, even if I worked only for five days, I would get Rs 1,100, but now, because it is a small amount, they wait for it to accumulate before transferring it into our accounts. How do they expect poor people like us to get through the month? I have not been paid for a few months, but I still go to the College, because it is examination time for the students and they need a live model. I have been working here for so many years. How can I simply stop? I also understand their need.

It all changed with notebandi (demonetisation); that one move has made our lives difficult. Earlier, we would get the payment regularly. Now, it will come only in the account. I still haven’t been paid for the last couple of months

We live in Sarita Vihar and during this winter, we went back to our village in Uttar Pradesh because there was no work and we didn’t have money to pay the rent. I came to Delhi almost 30 years ago from Badaun zilla, Uttar Pradesh, in search of work, after my marriage. I was married off when I was 14; it is not a strange thing to be married off at such a young age where I come from. I have five children, three of them are married and two are still studying. My son is studying at the Industrial Training Institute and my daughter goes for weekend classes at Deshbandhu College.

My body is also not the same any more. I have a weak frame now, unlike earlier. Hunger and the weariness of life shows on my body. There are days that we can eat only once and that is why I keep talking about money. I used to go to Amity College in Noida as well, but now they have stopped calling me. I do go to work in houses before I go to the College, but still we find it difficult to make ends meet.

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