Come into my Parlour ….!
By Maxwell Pereira
maxpk@vsnl.com

A while ago, the Delhi Police were seemingly bitten by an obsession to chase after the mushrooming massage parlours in town. Not without reason, the unsavoury hovering image of their propensity to be used as sleazy joints selling sex – always real, was rampant and glaring, assuming alarming proportions enough to attract adverse concerns for the community. A visit to the classified and other ad columns of daily papers is educative – how openly, suggestively, and aggressively the ‘services’ at these parlours are advertised, with nothing left to imagination or conjecture, despite whatever police intervention there’s been or is imminent.

Then after every raid, detailed accounts in news columns, of various services offered, the innovative masquerading adopted, and the sex objects used. The star-lets that fly in and out for a weekend binge, the house wives from so called decent backgrounds out for a quick buck with or without the knowledge of their spouse. And horrifyingly, of even tender lasses, be they from university hostels or the next door neighbourhood, who could always do with a bit more of the moolah to keep up with the latest fashion trends or the new model of the mobile phone in the market!

I am not sure what’s happened to these raids – for over the past few weeks now, one has hardly read any coverage on such raids by the police. Is it better sense, or for some other consideration? For surely, the parlours continue to exist and operate like before! Does it mean they operate now under police protection, supervision or active monitoring!?

I would be worried though, at any overly police interest in such activity, which should frankly be the sole concern of the local community. Through their RWA (Residents’ Welfare Association), may be as part of the Bhagidari stake for people’s common good as a whole. A valid and wider reason for this. Decent scientifically managed massage parlours are a necessity, since they tend to fulfil a community’s therapeutic needs. Properly managed, kept clean and transparent with whatever checks and balances prescribed, this activity can not only be a boon, but also an impetus to our famed medico/ physio-therapeutic tourism.

Massage is known to be the oldest and simplest form of medical care. Egyptian tomb paintings depict people being massaged. In all Eastern cultures, it has been continually pactised since ancient times. The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine – a Chinese book from 2700 BC, recommends “breathing exercises, massage of skin and flesh, and exercises of hands and feet" as the appropriate treatment for complete paralysis, chills, and fever."

Massage was among the principal methods for relieving pain, adopted by Greek and Roman physicians. And Julius Caesar had a daily massage to treat neuralgia. In the 5th century BC, Hippocrates the father of modern medicine wrote, "The Physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing... for rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose, and loosen a joint that is too rigid”. Not the least our own Ayurveda, the traditional Indian system of medicine, places great emphasis on the therapeutic benefits of massage with aromatic oils and spices. Practiced widely in India, it is now a craze in the developed world too.

Down the ages, doctors like Ambroise Pare – a 16th-century physician to the French court, praised massage as a treatment for various ailments. Swedish massage, most familiar to Westerners, was developed in the 19th century by Per Henrik Ling – a Swedish doctor, poet, and educator. His system was based on a study of gymnastics and physiology, and on techniques borrowed from China, Egypt, Greece and Rome.

Physiotherapy, originally based on Ling's methods, was established in 1894 with the foundation of the Society of Trained Masseurs. During World War-I patients suffering from nerve injury or shell shock were treated with massage. London’s St. Thomas Hospital had a department of massage until 1934. Later though, massage was eclipsed by breakthroughs in medical technology and pharmacology, as physiotherapists began increasingly to favour electrical instruments over manual methods of stimulating the tissues.

It is unfortunate that Massage lost some of its value and prestige with the unsavoury image created by "massage parlours”. This image is fading elsewhere in the world as awareness of its value and therapeutic properties keeps growing – even as we in India, despite our world famous ayurvedic massages, are still wallowing in the mire of the unsavoury image and usage, such parlours convey.

There is need to realize that Massage is now used in intensive care units, for children, elderly people, babies in incubators, and patients with cancer, AIDS, heart attacks, or strokes. Most hospices in the developed world have some kind of bodywork therapy available, and it is frequently offered in health centres, drug treatment clinics, and pain clinics. A variety of massage techniques have also been incorporated into several other complementary therapies, such as aromatherapy, reflexology, Rolfing, Heller-work, and osteopathy.

Today "massage is to the human body what a tune-up is for a car" – not anymore something for just feeling good. Losing the ancient stigma associated with blue light and red light districts for its re-juvenative or therapeutic value, it is a holistic therapy that reduces the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, increases blood circulation and lymph flow, relaxes muscles, improves range of motion, and increases endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. Therapeutic massage compliments and enhances medical treatment and helps people feel less anxious and stressed, relaxed yet more alert. Authorities may like to note!

900 words: 28.03.2005: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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