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Sometimes life imitates a pulp fiction novel. Start with a beautiful, sophisticated prostitute. Add the nice-guy pimp who just wants the best for his 'girls'. Sprinkle fabulously wealthy clients and opulent settings for sexual high-jinks. Mix, blend and serve. The result is a media story on high-priced foreign hookers. There's an air-brushed quality to the reporting — as though the more unpleasant aspects have been consciously left unexplored in order to sell high class hooking as a genteel trade.
The latest in this genre is Caravan's cover story which offers a close up look at the life of Polina, a 25 year old prostitute from Ukraine. This story has a Jackie Collinesque flavour. Cue the nice small-town girl came to Delhi looking for a life of glamour, only to be led astray by the high life: All she wants is to make enough money for rehab and a plane ticket home. So what's a girl to do? Enter the pimp, Azam Khan "who manages the stable of 20 female and five male prostitutes " Khan too is a good boy from Lucknow who just wants to repay the Rs 1 lakh his father spent on his computer training class that turned out to be scam.
What's a boy to do? He first becomes a tour guide, moves on to "satisfying male tourists," and then inevitably a pimp. For a story on prostitution, it's exceptionally genteel. The clients remain safely out of sight, and so do the sordid details of what such work entails. In many ways, picking Polina as the main protagonist is also the safe choice, and feeds into the "happy hooker" stereotype.
At the very least, a closer look at the male prostitutes, or digging deeper into Khan's own experiences would offer a more intriguing and complicated view of the same profession. Jeelani also works very hard to make us feel empathy for Polina who, we're informed, had a "very, very tough" childhood.
And, hey, she's no bimbo: Prostitutes, they're just like us! Then again, Polina takes to hooking like fish to water. But we have to wonder just how glamourous Polina's life can possibly be when it involves spending the night of her birthday servicing three different men:. First, two hours at the Taj Palace Hotel with a visiting Sri Lankan businessman — who had dispatched the young man in the overcoat to check her out; and then two hours with a builder from Mumbai at The Lalit hotel; and the rest of the night in another room at The Lalit, with a man about whom all she could recall was that he wore diamond rings and had a gold tooth.