Confessions of a Bussiness man in Bangalore
But I have to confess to knowing the truth about this sordid profession - because eight years ago, I succumbed to the lure of paying for sex. Over the course of 18 months, I spent all my savings - 10 lacs - on high-class escort girls in bangalore. Before I go any further, let me make it clear that I am not in the least proud of this.
I'm ashamed of exploiting women, and of having supported a degrading, dangerous industry. I don't expect anyone to condone what I did. But now, after many years have passed, I want to explain why I was propelled into that addiction - and why so many other men are, too. The statistics say that one man in ten men uses prostitutes, and not all of them conform to the stereotype, as my own case suggests. I had a comfortable, middle-class upbringing in bangalore, where my parents were both Docters. I went to one of Karnataka's top universities, and I now work successfully as a Bussiness man. The clues to why I was drawn into such an a moral world lie in my disastrous relationships with women up until that point. At school, I was a bit of a nerd. At 14, for example, I was publicly humiliated by the popular girl I fancied.
She told me to meet her in a secluded corner of the playing fields, and then ambushed me with her friends and shouted: 'I wouldn't go out with you if you were the last person in the world.'
The years that followed brought a series of similar rejections. My shyness, if anything, got worse as I got older. Things didn't improve much when I moved to bangalore in my early 20s. Meeting women wasn't a problem; the hard part was meeting them twice. All told, in the Nineties, I've worked out that I was stood up on 27 different occasions.
I couldn't for the life of me figure out what was going on. I wasn't a horrific-looking chap.
Hooked: I enjoyed the thrill and convenience of hiring escort girls.
I was physically fit, funny and, with a good degree, had reasonable prospects. Yet life was one big round of 'You're too nice' and 'I don't want to ruin the friendship'.
Things perked up for a while in the mid-Nineties, On the back of my successes in bussiness, I embarked on my first serious adult relationships. But each one fizzled out. I was an intelligent young man with my whole life ahead of me, but by the time I got to my late 20s I felt as if my life was falling apart. While my fellow comics progressed to bigger things, it was clear that I didn't quite have what it took. They weren't the only ones moving on. By the time I was 29, virtually all my friends had got married and were either having kids or moving out of the city. Then, to top it all, I started losing my hair. With it went the last vestiges of my self-esteem. When I hit 30, I hadn't had a GirlFriends - or even a kiss - for three years. I was starting to feel desperate: lonely and with little to look forward to. One area of my life that was going well was my finances. After years in low-paid jobs, I'd just started my first decent full-time bussiness in real estate in bangalore suburbs, (I was living in shared rented accommodation) and no GirlFriends, my outgoings were minimal.
It was like going on a really expensive date, but one where you were guaranteed a goodnight kiss Without really intending to, by 2000, I had saved up several lacs. At about this time, I read an article in a magazine about escorting. I'd never seriously thought about paying for female company: my image of the sex industry was of Mumbai Red light area, but in reality here in bangalore it was very safe and very clean. You visited the girls in plush, rented apartments; you were paying for companionship, not sex. It was like going on a really expensive date, but one where you were guaranteed a goodnight kiss. That night, I went online and looked up a few escort agencies. I was scared, certainly, and a little ashamed. Was I really capable of this? But everything the article said seemed to be true. I looked at my empty bed. I looked at my empty diary. And I looked at my bank statement.
Then, heart pounding furiously, I picked up the phone.
As I waited for an answer, a thousand terrifying thoughts flashed through my head. I was scared of what my friends and family would think if they found out.
I was scared of being arrested (I was unaware, at the time, that what I was doing wasn't technically illegal). And I was scared that the girl I arranged to visit would turn out not to be a girl at all, and an thug waiting to rob me. Then the person at the other end of the line picked up. It was a female voice - calm, professional, friendly.
She asked me who I wanted to see, when, and for how long. It felt like booking an appointment at the hairdresser. I made more effort for that first illicit rendezvous than I ever had for a real date. I went to the gym. I used a tanning machine. I had a haircut, bought some new clothes, and read all the papers so I'd have something interesting to talk about. It sounds ridiculous that I prepared for such a sordid sexual transaction in such a way, but I really believed the disclaimer on the website: 'We offer only a legitimate introductory service for beautiful women. Anything that takes place afterwards is a matter of choice between two consenting adults.' Two days later, at 8pm sharp, I arrived outside an anonymous-looking flat in a well-to-do area of Indra Nagar. As I triple checked the address scrawled on the Post-It note, I thought about going home. But she was waiting for me now. Besides, I was curious. I took a deep breath and pressed the buzzer. The door was opened by Radha , the girl pictured on the website. I'd chosen her not because she was the prettiest, but because she had the friendliest face and she didn't disappoint. She took my coat and led me into the living-room. I handed over the envelope full of cash: INR 30,000/ for three hours. Radha went into the other room to make sure the money was all there, called the agency to tell them I'd arrived, then poured drinks and sat down. I told her I'd never done this sort of thing before. She smiled and said she could tell. Within minutes, she had put me completely at ease. I tried to spin the conversation out as long as possible - we talked about the area, how my day had been but when I finally ran out of words, she walked over to me, kissed me, and led me to the bedroom.
When the three hours were up, I thanked Radha for her time, she thanked me for being 'sweet', and I walked to my Car. I won't deny that I felt seedy. For the first time, I'd just paid for sex. At the same time, there was an unmistakable thrill of transgression. And the actual experience had gone remarkably smoothly. I'd spent an evening in the company of a beautiful woman, and she hadn't rejected me. I went to bed that night feeling a little less unwanted, a little bit better about myself. Did I feel guilty? Not really. And I confess I hadn't dwelled on the thorny issue of why this girl might be sleeping with strangers in Indra Nagar . Frankly, like a teenager, I was just revelling in the experience. From that night, I was hooked. I went to bed that night feeling a little less unwanted, a bit better about myself Escorting seemed the answer to all my problems. It was exciting. The sex was always safe - although I got myself tested regularly for sexually transmitted infections just in case. My reasoning went like this: why should I hang around trying to pick up women in bars when I could meet far more attractive women with no risk of getting hurt emotionally? Over the next year and a half, I visited 16 different escorts, some of them several times, and spent almost everything I'd saved over the previous few years - around 10 lacs. Each time, like the first, I treated it like a real date. I was always courteous, I always bought flowers and beer, and I always paid for an extra hour so that I could get to know the girls first. Sometimes we had dinner, sometimes we went out for a walk. Once, we sat down and watched Cricket. It was only on my fourth visit that Sowmya, a cute, funny 26-year-old, laughed and told me that no one else did that; most people just paid for one hour, got straight down to business, then scarpered. But I liked doing it this way. I was deluding myself, of course, but it felt normal, almost like a real 'GirlFriends experience'. So began a life in which I carried on working and seeing my friends, but existed with this big secret that I knew I could never divulge. The only girl I visited regularly over those months was a 27-year-old from Chennai whose professional name was Shreya.
Pretty Woman Had a fairytale ending but reality is very different for real life call girls She was just my type: petite, brunette, with a gorgeous figure. And maybe she was just very good at her job, but she seemed to like me, too. She told me her real name - Nandhini - and all about her glamorous other clients: For my 30th birthday, I'd thrown a big party with 90 guests in Mg road , but I'd ended up going home alone. So when my 31st came around, I was determined that wouldn't happen again and booked a whole night with Shreya. What the hell, it was only INR 30,000/. The morning after, I woke up to find a cup of tea and a gift-wrapped box on the bedside table. When she had found out that it was my birthday, Shreya had gone out and bought me a Gift. It was an absurd gesture, but I was really touched. I was convinced, after that, that Shreya and I had a special connection. Maybe the whole Pretty Woman myth was true. Maybe, if I played my cards right, I could persuade her to quit escorting and be with me.
'Do you think,' I asked her on my next visit, 'that if you met the right person, you might give all this up?'
Shreya put down her drink and laughed.
'Well, it's not my ideal job. But I have got used to the lifestyle. If I did give this up for a man, he'd have to earn twice as much as I do. And I earn two lacs a month.' She never did come and watch me do stand-up. I'm ashamed to say that for about a year, I had felt that my time with these girls had been relatively harmless - and mutually beneficial. But one incident changed all that. One night, I went to visit an escort called Ramya at a flat in Ulsoor. I was too immersed in my own self-pity at being single to worry about anyone else's feelings I handed over the cash . Everything progressed as normal, until halfway through the evening Ramya said: 'I am very happy you came here tonight.' 'Why's that?' I asked. 'Because you are nice.' I smiled, but she continued: 'And also because now I can pay my Rent.' The words were like a slap in the face. In a year of visiting escorts, this was the first incontrovertible evidence I'd heard that not every girl did escorting because they enjoyed it. Some of them were doing it because they had to. And even though Ramya seemed to like me, even though I had helped her out in the short-term, I was helping to perpetuate that situation. Perhaps I'd been naive not to notice anything amiss before; perhaps I was just too immersed in my own self-pity at being single to worry about anyone else's feelings. But the truth is that up until that point, I had genuinely been convinced that all the girls I'd seen were selling their bodies entirely of their own free will. On this occasion, I consoled myself with the thought that I'd paid enough to last Shreya until 2012, and put the doubts out of my head. I made one more trip after that, to see Kushbu , a mesmerically beautiful lady in Koramangala. During our chat, she told me she was 20, from Mumbai, and had been a model. But as she sat on the bed and started to undress, I noticed a glistening in her eye. I didn't know if she was doing this under duress, if she was pining for her modelling days, or if she'd just had a rough day. But one thing was for sure: she really didn't want to be there. This, I realised, was my greatest fear. Not catching a sexually transmitted disease, but meeting a sex worker who didn't want to be a sex worker. I handed over the money - and then, to coin a time-honoured phrase - made my excuses and left. I never paid for sex again after that. But, however dreadful this may sound, the confidence I'd gained from those experiences stayed with me. I felt ready to face the world again.I took up hobbies - singing, books , bar nights - and met new people.
I asked more women out on dates - and, this time, a few of them turned up. None of them turned out to be The One, but the signs were encouraging. Last summer, my quest for love took me back to the internet - this time, to an online dating agency. And within a month, I'd met the beautiful, caring, fabulous woman who is now my GirlFriends. A couple of months into the relationship, I told her about my escorting days. Once I'd reassured her that it had all happened a long time ago and would never happen again, she was understanding.
So I told my friends, too. Some were surprised; some were surprised I bothered to mention it. Then came the hardest confession of all: my parents. After spending an hour working out what I was going to say, I called them. They were pleased I'd told them, they said; they'd suspected something was wrong. Many people say that men who use escort girls hate women. That may be true for some; but in my case, I believe those escorts stopped me hating women. I feel gratitude towards those sweet, beautiful girls for the warmth they showed me. Guilt, absolutely, that I helped perpetuate an industry that is unregulated and potentially unsafe - but also gratitude.
I firmly believe that while some sex workers are escorts by choice, thousands of others, like Shreya and Ramya, are not. And the fact is, when you book an escort, you never know which you are going to get. And that's why I'll never again try to re-create the 'GirlFriends experience'.