In India, massages are usually a straightforward, no-nonsense, no-fear affair: there's a beauty/massage centre on virtually every corner, for the most part specialising in the sort of Ayurvedic, slippery-oil massages that Gora-Gora-Gora wrote about rather descriptively here.
The cold weather recently caused my rapidly ageing muscles to contract painfully, so I went in search of a decent, firm deep-tissue massage to sort it out. There's a place nearby I've walked past regularly that had good, professional signage and looked clean and neat inside, so in I went.
The day spa was warm and inviting, green-painted walls dotted with Asian wooden carvings and sculptures. There was a long list of facials, massages and other treatments on offer.
In the waiting room sat three burly but fastidiously-groomed gentlemen. The sight of them raised my hopes; surely metrosexuals, particularly Indian metrosexuals, would be particularly discerning about the quality of their massage and facials.
(Going to a men's-only beauty salons is quite common here. By sheer accident I once found myself inside the 'Madonna Mens Saloon': it was like the saloon bar scene in a Wild West film where everyone stops talking and looks at the swing doors. But in this case, instead of gunslingers in boots and spurs chugging down sarsparilla, it was men getting pedicures while flipping through mags, getting vigorous facial massages, and so on, all stopping their grooming and turning to gawk at the interloper in the doorway.)
As I was waiting, another man came in and insouciaountly flopped into the chair next to me.
"Do you have an appointment?" asked the receptionist, displeased.
"No, but I was sure you'd be able to fit me in easily," he replied, somewhat arrogantly.
None of this struck me as odd initially, but as the young masseuse kneaded my shoulders like dough as I lay on the table, I got to wondering about the place and why it might have been popular with menfolk when it didn't advertise itself as such (unlike the Madonna Mens Saloon).
I am also a chatter during massages, I like to know a bit about the person who is up close and personal with my hamstrings.
So I got talking to my masseuse, a young woman from a faraway state.
I casually asked whether they had many customers, many regulars, and what they were like.
She answered dutifully and then paused on the last one. "Mostly men," she answered, then looked at her colleague who was also in the room and they both giggled.
A short time later she moved me onto my back. Snapping her gum she hovered over me. "Just chest or also boobss? she asked, hissing on the s.
"Wha? I struggled to ask.
"Do you want me to massage your boobss?" she asked, indifferently.
"Erm, no thank you," I managed.
Noticing my discomfort, "We have to ask, some people want it," she said, slightly apologetically.
She paused, and added, "In fact I have one regular client who wants it for fifteen to twenty minutes each time."
Then she and her colleague both fell into a volley of giggles. My girl was laughing so hard she was convulsing, the other was doubled over clutching the side of the table.
"She makes me do it at the start of the massage and..." giggle "her voice..." giggle "her voice goes all sexy."
Then she made appropriately sexy noises to illustrate.
It was at that point I remembered a news article I'd stumbled across, which had reported that some massage centres had been busted for moonlighting as something else. Surely that wasn't the case here? The room was innocuously decorated, the expert masseuses both dressed modestly. Plus, the place was part of a chain across North India, which wouldn't be a particularly discreet way to conduct parallel services.
Whatever the case, one thing was for sure: discretion was not a strong point.