By Muhammad Shahid
PESHAWAR: Farhad does not consider his job distasteful while roaming the roads of Peshawar and rattling his oil-filled bottles to let perspective clients know that he is a masseur.
Farhad, belonging to Azad Kashmir, said that he had become a masseur after getting trained by professional masseurs. About his fee, he said: “I charge Rs 150 for a massage, and daily earn approximately Rs 300.”
Asked what problems he faced, he said most clients backed away from their promise to give him the demanded fee after the massage. “Our clientele includes labourers, such as drivers, masons, etc,” he added.
After a taxing day around the city, bus, rickshaw and taxi drivers and labourers surrender themselves to a rejuvenating rub. Magical fingers ease the pain from aching bodies, creaking joints and tired souls. Relieved, refreshed and revitalised, they are ready for another long working day.
Massage means to rub and press someone’s body with regular repeated movements, in order to relax them or to reduce stiffness or pain in their joints or muscles. It may be the oldest and simplest form of medical care. In Eastern cultures, massage has been practiced continually since ancient times. A Chinese book from 2,700 B.C., The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, recommends breathing exercises, massage of skin and flesh, and exercises of hands and feet as the appropriate treatment for complete paralysis, chills, and fever. It was one of the principal method of relieving pain for Greek and Roman physicians. “The physician must be experienced in many things,” wrote Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, in the 5th century B.C., “but assuredly in rubbing, as it can bind a joint that is too loose, and loosen a joint that is too rigid.”
A massager, seeking anonymity, said the masseurs’ wages were barely enough to sustain them. “I suggest the government should set up a specific department to protect masseurs’ rights,” he said.
Asked if some masseurs were involved in sex activities, he said: “Masseurs do not compel a client to have sex, but it depends on people.” He said an affluent customer recently took him to his house for a massage. “But, after I entered his house, he asked his servants to not allow me to go back home. I did what he said, including sex with him, and he later set me free,” he said, adding that the client paid him less than what had been agreed upon.
Anique Khan, a Peshawar Cantt resident, rails against the massage therapy. “When a masseur gives you a massage, you feel relaxed, but it also harms your health in the sense that you will get addicted to it,” he added. Anique said there was no need for massage therapy if there were a balance in the routine activities.
Tayyeb Afridi, a tribesman from Dara Adamkhel, spoke in favour of masseurs. He said that if people spent hundreds on make-up and other things, they could relax their muscles by giving the poor masseurs only Rs 20 or 30.
“In the present-day modern age, everyone looks depressed. The massage therapy not only lessens depression of a person, but it also helps a masseur make ends meet,” he added.
Amir Khan (pseudonym, as he requested anonymity) daily visits the historical Jinnah Park in Peshawar. According to regular visitors of the park, Amir has carved a niche for himself as a professional masseur. About his fee, Amir said: “It is not fixed, as it depends on a customer. I usually charge the rich more than the poor.” He complained that people did not respect massagers. However, he bit his tongue when he came to know about the identity of this scribe. “I am a poor man, and has to provide for my children. Please stop publishing my name in newspaper if it will endanger my job in this park.”
On the other hand, the recent breakthroughs in medical technology have eclipsed masseurs, as people have begun using electrical massagers.
“I cannot help getting a massage after having a haircut at Shano Hair Dressers,” said Mumtaz, a 26-year-old student of the University of Peshawar. Asked if he had got addicted to massage, Mumtaz said: “I am not addicted to it, but I prefer a massage twice a month after the haircut.”
Ghulam Hussain, the proprietor of Shano Hair Dressers in Peshawar, said that most clients demanded a massage after a haircut.