In this funny and rollicking account, Srinath Perur travels with the Indian sex tourist to Tashkent in search of ‘full enjoyment’ (Excerpted from If It’s Monday It Must Be Madurai: A Conducted Tour of India by Srinath Perur, Penguin Books India.)
At a nightclub I go to with Paras and Rajesh, there are about a dozen minimally clad women in impossible heels who take turns with the pole in the middle and stalk the room giving lap dances. At one point in the evening there’s a cry from a table near ours and I turn to see a woman fly briefly through the air and crash to the floor. For some reason, the man she was straddling has thrown her off him. His table is at the edge of a slightly elevated section of the floor, making her fall all the more dramatic. She clambers back up onto her heels, looking at the man in disbelief. Gone is her strut, her inviting smile. It’s a tired, frightened girl who totters away weeping. There are bouncers around but they say nothing to the man (who, burly and impassive, may well be some sort of alpha night manager). If this can happen in public, how vulnerable must women be behind a locked door with a stranger.
Jabir is defensive when I ask him how Uzbekistan became a destination for sex tourists. He largely holds the tourists responsible. He says he’s interested in showing people around his country, but they only care for one thing. According to him there aren’t even that many women involved in sex work. He says, ‘There are maybe around a hundred girls in Tashkent. Everyone comes here, fucks the same girls and goes back.’ That sounds like a considerable understatement. There must be that number of sex workers from the former USSR in Delhi or Mumbai alone. The textbook explanation holds that the dissolution of the USSR created economic uncertainty in which many young women found it hard to support themselves, and ended up in different parts of the world as sex workers.