Sex, lies and Goa's massage parlours
What V. More (name changed), a tourist from Mumbai, was fantasizing about was soft, feminine hands kneading his shoulderblades and his back, slick with aromatic oil.
Instead, what the 27-year-old tourist, one of many thousand single visitors blinded by Goa's cheap booze, drugs and sunbathing white women, got were a few tight slaps and punches to the ear and stomach from a roughneck fraud massage parlour operator in Mapusa, a town located 15 km north of Panaji.
"We were hanging out on the beach when a young boy came to us and offered us a full massage for Rs.2,000. We bargained for Rs.1,500 per head. We were seven of us," More told IANS.
More and his friends perhaps thought they had lucked out on their Goa trip.
A promise of a "full massage" in Goa's coastal belt more often than not translates into a covert† sexual proposition or at least a "happy ending" for the many groups of single male domestic tourists who form a large component in Goa's tourism arrival figure. The state attracted three million tourists last year alone.
More insists that it was only a massage and not sex that he was after.
But the shock he and his group got, when they actually reached the massage parlour, was one that could put them off random massage quests for some time.
"We were told to shell out more money. We refused because we had already paid Rs.1,500 each up front. When we refused they ordered this bouncer to come and threatened to beat us up," More said.
While the ignominy of initially striking a deal with a shady massage parlour would discourage most conned would-be patrons from complaining to the police, More and his friends approached the Mapusa police station with the help of a local contact.
Their complaint resulted in the arrest of one Savio D'Souza, who ran the massage parlour, under sections 384 (extortion) and 506 (threatening) of the Indian Penal Code.
Over the last couple of years, several groups of tourists, especially those cruising the famous Calangute beach stretch, have been duped by pimps, who first offer massage and sex services and then beat up the tourists after relieving them of their money. The police are rarely informed.
The image of Goa Tourism has already suffered a beating because of the proliferation of prostitution as well as illegal massage parlours here. The Goa government's efforts to register massage parlours with the health authorities a few years ago has not found many takers.
The increasing number of hoardings, posters and lurid classified ads in local newspapers indicate that massage parlours have, in fact, blossomed over time.
According to a report compiled by local NGO Arz, women from as many as 18 states across India are trafficked into Goa's sex industry, which also encompasses the many shady massage parlours used as a front by the prostitution mafia.
The facade of one such massage parlour visited by this correspondent had innocuous posters promising ayurvedic massages. Inside however, the decor wasn't as spic and span, with small plywood partitioned cubicles with a table each, giving the setup a sex sweat-shop-like appearance.
The pimp who led me to the parlour located in Porvorim, a capital suburb, quoted staggered prices for services.
The lowest for a massage was a middle of the range quote for a handshake - slang for a tug-job after a massage - and the top-end price was for full-blown intercourse.
The prices varied from Rs.500 to Rs.3,000.
"I provide clients to two parlours. We have northeastern girls, young Punjabis, smart college educated girls... But foreign masseuses will cost you double the amount," claimed the pimp, Rakesh, who also claims he's the first to introduce a "business innovation" to the industry in Goa - a "massage on wheels" service.
"Our hafta to the police depends on the size of the operation and how many women we have on the premises. I offer massage service in a Tempo Traveller (a premium high-roofed mini van) on the move. It was high class interiors. The police do not know about it," he said.
While Goa boasts of working towards becoming a family and lifestyle tourism destination, the state has in reality struggled to shake off its reputation of being India's top sex and narcotics tourism destination.
And considering the proliferation of fake massage parlours and prostitution rackets, Goa's infamy as a sex tourism destination could soon be in peril (pun intended).