24 November, 2020

24 Hours In Life Of Ishwar Bari: A Gentle River Breeze, Mustard Oil and Some Old-Styled Body Massage

Men like Ishwar Bari were patronised by the babus of North Calcutta and the trading community wanting to relax their body and mind. A traditional masseur, experts like Bari are a vanishing tribe

Photographby Sandipan Chatterjee
24 Hours In Life Of Ishwar Bari: A Gentle River Breeze, Mustard Oil and Some Old-Styled Body Massage
outlookindia.com
2019-11-25T11:59:48+05:30

Ishwar Bari, 55, hails from Odisha’s Puri district. He came to Calcutta with his brothers 30 years ago to earn a livelihood. Ishwar was taught a few tricks of the trade by a masseur. Since then, he has been earning his bread by offering massage to ‘babus’ of Calcutta. Ishwar and 12 others—the last of the group of traditional masseurs—do not work in parlours; rather, they work at Babu Ghat and nearby Rashmoni Ghat on river Hooghly, near BBD Bag, the business district of the city.

At a time when daily lives hewed to traditional Indian modes of leisure and work, babus of north Calcutta and traders regularly used to patronise masseurs. Winter, summer or autumn, bathers would throng the ghats for their early morning dip in the river. Ishwar and his fellow masseurs would give them an old-style body massage— generous blobs of mustard oil would aid the slithering lubr­icity, an aid to the kneading, cupping and slapping. With Rs 300 an hour and four-five clients a day, five days a week, and no soc­ial security, the masseurs...

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