—Sameer, who claims to be an MBA with specialisation in marketing, on the Mumbai mobile number 098216-86191.
It sounded like regular manager-ish stuff. Every bit like the countless interviews in my eight-and-a-half years as a business journalist. In fact, Sameer did sound every bit like a successful executive, a faint South Indian accent making the claim more credible for someone like me, whose brain has been numbed with business gyaan from tongues originating south of the Vindhyas.
However, this interview was unlike any I had done before. For one, I had introduced myself as Kashyap, a name that belongs to a friend who is a cop in Kerala and might put me behind bars upon reading this. The business that Sameer—who works for www. chamadi.com (chamadi is Hindi for skin)—referred to was the traditional, age-old flesh trade, stock meant girls, and customers were the clients. And the story I was pursuing was about several seemingly-Indian sex websites, like chamadi.com and bombaysexguide.com, which appeared to offer women blatantly, publicly and in a technologically-savvy manner. This seemed surprising since I thought this was illegal, done surreptitiously and away from the glaring eyes of the cops. The truth is that such sites are banned under the Indian Penal Code and Section 67 of the Information Technology Act of 2000. Still, they solicit, survive and thrive.
But first, let me make a clean breast of my motives. It was business, strictly speaking, not pleasure, not even loosely speaking. I got hooked to the idea when I first heard of bombaysexguide.com that announces on its home page: "This is the world where everybody needs to have sex with a pretty babe. Not everybody is so lucky because they don't have the right channels to get a babe. Life comes once? Then why wait? Now you have three outlets as a big operator of Bombay, you get the assurance of class." Chamadi.com, on the other hand, gives a clarion call to visitors to join the "new revolution".
A revolution it is. Considering that the world has already gone through the technology boom and bust (no pun intended) and Indians have dominated both, how can we leave the world's oldest profession out of the tech revolution? Well, technology has taken the forbidden fruit out of Eve's garden of guilt and put it in cyberspace, making it easily accessible to people who anyway think of Apple as a high-end PC. In a world where Janet Jackson's Super Bowl half-time show has become the most searched item in Internet history, it didn't require a rocket scientist to leverage the information superhighway for immoral traffic.
It has been done elsewhere, in more forgiving nations. Now, it seems that India—and Indians—has joined the club. In the process, the profession may shed its images of dingy lanes, peeling walls, ill-lit rooms and garish make-up on New Delhi's GB Road, Calcutta's Sonagachi or Muzaffarpur's Chaturbhuj Sthan. The new images would be that of mobile phones, keyboards and smart women. "A lot of educated people are coming into this field," says Sameer, the customer interface for chamadi.com. And they are seeking to work in professional environments. For instance, chamadi.com has shifted business from Delhi to Mumbai since Delhiites behave "amateurishly".
www.indiasexguide.com, true to its name, is more pan-Indian, giving contact details for most big cities. In Mumbai, you can contact one Robert or Ashok, reachable at 09819437751, who will do the needful. The duo has offices in Churchgate and Andheri (W). They also run their own websites, www.bombaysexguide. com and www.escorts-unlimitedsex.com, and promise to provide quite a variety. However, for those seeking a model or an air-hostess (for a charge of Rs 15,000-25,000), advance confirmation is imperative. Their philosophy? "Nice girls attract nice clients which attract nice girls."
While these are really explicit websites, some others are only slightly subtler but could be offering the same services. Mumbai's www.mumbaiglamour.com promises beautiful, intelligent, open-minded and friendly Indian girls with "good reputation" and "big experience" for reasonable prices. "Any age you want, any size you want, any time you want" is its confident declaration. Delhi has www. purnimabhat.com, which ostensibly belongs to a 23-year-old, Srinagar-born girl pursuing B.Com Hons in Delhi University. Bhat claims to be "an all-natural 36B-26-34" blessed with "good genes", a "spell-binding exotic look that will melt your heart with desire", and a smile "that can tame the fiercest tiger". She also talks about like-minded friends looking for "that extra fun and cash too". Bhat, however, is in-principle against bachelor parties, dance, videos, role-play or domination.
Some readers may find something fishy about some people surfing the numerous sites that offer escort services or dating opportunities. I found them smelling, in a manner of speaking, like a stale-fish market. Kumar, listed at www. escort.sexcia.com/delhi, is as direct as they come: "I am a young dynamic male gigolo. Ladies who wanna unlimited pleasure for quite affordable price contact me (sic)." Assuming that the visitors to dating sites have sterner stuff on their minds than old-fashioned friendship, the likes of Savitha Karan have infested the Live2 Love pages of www.indiatimes.com. Karan describes herself as a 27-year-old lady from Vishakapatnam "who can be very accommodating and sexy in the right company" and "open to anything as long as the reward is right". Giving her company is madam_ xxx, who warns that she is "too hot to touch...jal jaoge (you will get burnt)".
A registration at the indiatimes.com dating site in Kashyap's name (Is Outlook ready with my bail money?) led me to Arun, available at 098218-44021. "I can sure provide the service in Delhi. Just call me two hours in advance," he said. Based in Mumbai, he needs just an hour's notice there. But is it secure, I asked diffidently. "Oh, you don't need to worry," he assured. How much? Rs 5,000 for 3-4 hours. I pressed a little more: "Where do these girls come from?" The salesman raised the quality pitch: "Most girls are from decent families. We catch them from discos in five-star hotels." Even the message/discussion boards of otherwise respectable sites are not spared. For instance, the discussion board of the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd's website has a message posted on September 16 last year that talks about escorts who will "give you everything you need to have a great time".
My intention is not to raise awareness about Sameer, Arun, Purnima, Robert, Ashok, or their websites. I wouldn't dream of doing that in a magazine that's read by my mother. My honest intention is to make cyberspace a little more worthy of our kids' eyeballs. So I spoke to the cbi about it, whose spokesperson expressed surprise and wanted the addresses of these websites. However, in a somewhat unsure manner, he also advised me to speak to Delhi Police. But then the investigating agencies need a complaint to proceed. "Suo motu, it is very difficult to take action," said the cbi spokesperson, even as he emphasised that "it was definitely punishable".
But punishing the offenders won't be easy. It is almost impossible to access the backend of these websites. My research with www.bombaysexguide.com ended with Network Solutions, which provides the database for the site but "does not guarantee its accuracy"; the person who registered the site is Cosmos: lrujkxjiwd (try assigning a gender before you search further) and the administrative contact is Cosmos: qviopxmrwo. The site, registered on January 20, 2003, does not expire before January 20, 2009, but it will be difficult to prosecute Mr Cosmos lrujkxjiwd or Ms Cosmos qviopxmrwo.