Sunday, April 5, 2009

Mumbai freeze-frame: At the neighbourhood massage parlour

6. At the Neighborhood Massage Parlour

He walked in like he was in a major hurry or something. His regular guy was shut that day apparently and he was hurting – ‘I need a head massage badly, please. Last night’s shift was too long and too much’ - was what else he said, I think. He sat straight down in front of Abdul. Abdul turned and looked at me and I turned and looked at Preeti. Her attention had already switched to her 2 P.M. regular who had come in just then. He ignored all of us and walked straight into the back room. She followed him in there closing the door and just like that, there were only the three of us left in the parlour.

Abdul poured a ton of oil on the guy’s head, and I shifted slowly on the bench so that he could get a better look at my legs. The young square face began to look a little confused then, poor thing, and the eyes were trained on me in the mirror. I gave him the servile puppy dog gaze - eyes opened wide, lips pouted - straight into his eyes. I may not be irresistible but it generally suffices. When I use it on the streets, they mostly look away instantly and the occasional daring soul darts a challenging glare right back. This one though, was confused, like I said, and stared, just bloody stared. Abdul was really working him over by then and whenever his head was moved away from my line of vision, he glanced quickly back a moment later, perhaps to confirm that I was really there. Another five minutes of this and I could see that Abdul was getting impatient. Eventually he bent down low and said something indistinct into the man’s ear. Like a shot, head dripping of oil, the man got up, pulled out a note from his pocket, threw it on the table and ran out of the door. I kid you not – he just ran. It surely was the highlight of my day.

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