Their work is not defined by any exotic ambience, candle-lit rooms, soft, soothing music or expensive oils. They are content with a space that\'s enough for their clients to be comfortable. Add to that a bottle of simple oil and they\'re ready for the task at hand – a good massage. The recent boom in high-end massage and spa parlours did threaten to affect their work and business in the city, but these individual masseurs have survived it. They\'ve built a niche clientele – those who prefer a humble massage to a posh spa treatment.
For 70-year-old Parvati Dhage, a professional masseur for the past 12 years, maalish is just a side business. Dhage learnt her skills from the Date Institute at Bhandarkar Road to bring home an additional income. She perfected the art over time. The money she earned from washing utensils in several households was not enough. “I never imagined that I would be able to sponsor my grandson’s education with the money I earned by giving massages to people,” Dhage says with a smile. She charges Rs 1500 for a month-long service and Rs 200 for a single massage. Her clients, mostly women, include patients suffering from paralysis and joint aches. She feels that her thin frame and old age might take a toll on her regular job as a maid servant but it will not affect her massaging abilities. “I may discontinue working as a maid in some months but I will be a masseur throughout my life as it is less exhausting,” she adds.
Like Dhage, Sanjay Salve (28) loves his work. He was working in a multi-national skin and massage clinic for a long time till he set up his individual massage business. “Despite the pricey massage packages in the clinic, we were paid very less. I realised that it was better to have personal clients than be associated with a high-end massage centre,” he reasons. Salve has four regular clients and he charges per session. Twenty-three-year-old Lata Lokhande had to quit her job at a beauty parlour after she gave birth to her son. \"I had to leave my job to take care of my son. But I have always supported my family with a stable income, thus I continue working as a freelance masseur now,” she adds.
These masseurs who have taken to part-time massaging services to supplement their income feel that their job is much more reliable than working at spa. Lokhande explains, \"Some massage centres can be quite misleading when they claim that getting a massage can help one lose weight. Exercise and keeping one\'s diet in check are better options as massages can never reduce weight!” Massages can give relief from joint pains and stress, she adds.