June 2001 |  Archive  |  Read article and © Josh Hobbins
reportage Behind the curtains of Kathmandu
Curtains across the booths are now illegal, though some places still have them. With added privacy comes added pressure for the girls. Propositions come more easily. If they accept, the booths can become more like cells, they are caught in compromise that leaves them trapped, and excluded from mainstream society. Dance restaurants are able to operate by offering ‘ethnic’ dances. The performances are of traditional stories involving male and female roles. Restaurants like Downtown Dance Restaurant employ one male dancer and many different girls who earn more, £20 and £80 respectively. They are the reason the male customers come in the first place. Tips and ‘dates’ are where the real money is for the girls.
Female dancers Shanti and Sarina don't spend much time backstage at Downtown Dance Restaurant. When they are not dancing they are expected to spend as much time as possible entertaining customers.
At 16 Suman developped a love marriage against her parents wishes. Now, at 22, the father has disappeared and she has come from Darjeeling to Kathmandu to support her 3-year-old, Priyanka.
When she next visits home she will bring her daughter a doll. "When I drink, I want to die", says Suman, caught in a viscous circle of desperation, prostitution and drink, in fear her family will find out she's working in a cabin restaurant.
Suman had never been to Patan’s Durbar Square, even though it was a few minutes walk from where she works in. Traditional Nepali society frowns on the activities that go on in the restaurants, bringing fear to the girls to expose themselves. << Back to start