It’s 1.45 AM on a Thursday night. In a nightclub in suburban Mumbai, a man wearing nothing but a black-and-red mesh underwear steps into a transparent shower cubicle stationed in the room. All eyes turn to him as he turns on the shower and starts gyrating, the water dripping down his shoulders, muscles, shaved chest, and extremely toned thighs.
He turns his back to us and starts rolling his hips to Vengaboys’ My Heart Goes Sha La La La. A poor choice of background music for the evening’s grand finale, I think, but no one else seems to care. They’re watching the ‘shower boy’ tug on his underwear, exposing a bit of his bare bum. They want more. But after around 10 minutes of extremely well choreographed dance moves inside the tiny, neon-lit cubicle, he steps out, wraps himself in a towel handed to him by a bouncer who’d been standing guard all along, and heads to the backroom to wipe himself dry and put on some clothes.
Rajesh Tamang, 25 and originally from Nepal, is an adult entertainer who works on a freelance basis at Kitty Su, an iconic nightclub known to be one of the few safe spaces for the queer community in India and a formidable symbol of inclusivity, located inside luxury hotel The LaLiT. Along with his public baths across cities such as Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, Tamang also usually dances in skivvies on the bar, pouring free shots down the guests’ throats and occasionally giving them lap dances.
Interestingly, Tamang actually started his association with the hotel in the day time, as part of the hospitality industry. He is a floor executive of their 24/7 coffee shop, handling a team of 36 under him for the last two years. But around once a week, he swaps his uniform for underwear, working some different kind of hospitality moves on the hotel guests. VICE met him before one of his performances in Mumbai to know more about what it takes to be a shower boy.
VICE: So, how does one end up taking public baths and getting paid for them?
Rajesh Tamang: I have been in the hospitality industry for seven years now; I started working with this hotel in 2017. I have always been into fitness and they had other shower boys before me, whom I had observed. The club manager noticed me and thought I could be one too because of my physique and because a new face is always exciting. That’s how I got my first break.
So did someone mentor you for the moves, or did you pick them up yourself?
I actually went through a lot of seductive dance videos. But my main inspiration was the movie Magic Mike in which Channing Tatum plays a male stripper. I would choreograph moves for hours, watching myself in the mirror. Luckily, I was good with my stretching and flexibility, something you really need in this job. But more than the moves, what you need is a lot of confidence. You’re shirtless and pantless, and it takes balls—no pun intended—to perform like that.
Do you remember your first performance?
I was so shy back then that I didn’t even take my pants off! Because I work in the hospitality industry, I know how to keep calm and smile even under pressure. But it took me three to four shows to get to a point where I could step out only in undies.
Do people hit on you while performing?
All the time. Earlier, while tucking their tips in my underwear, some of them would take the liberty to put their hands further inside. So, I started wearing knee bands (which also cushion my knees while dancing), and now I ask people to tuck their tips in these pads. It’s not like I was uncomfortable with people’s hands in my underwear but it just disturbs my performance. Also, others will think they can take the liberties too. Many come up to me and say they will pay me lots of money to get naked all the way (which can put you in legal trouble).
Also, I’m a straight guy performing in a club that is queer-friendly, so people of all sexual orientations hit on me. If they touch my hands, legs or back, it’s fine. But anything more, and the bouncer might show them out. The rest can happen only in private performances, which I also take on.
What about the showers really works for the crowd?
It’s the idea that it’s supposed to be a private space meant only for yourself and that it’s a place you are very, very wet in. This is usually the last part of the night, which also sees drag performances, me giving out free shots, and people dancing. By the time I get into the shower, people are usually already drunk and losing their minds. For me, the sound of the water just merges with the music in my head. When you dance in the transparent cubicle, you have to tease the people around you with your gestures and moves. It’s about making them feel like jumping in the shower with you, grabbing you, and finishing it off. But since they can’t, the feeling intensifies even more.
What happens if you get a boner during your performance?
It’s surprising but I’ve never got one! I usually work 12-hour shifts with my day job, go to the gym and then do my performance. My schedule is mad and my body is so tired at the end of the day that I just don’t get turned on. Also, the undies are so tight that there’s no possibility to get one anyway.
Does this job earn you wild tips?
That’s one of its best perks. The biggest tip I’ve got was obviously in Delhi—someone gave me Rs 25,000. Mumbai people are comparatively stingier. The highest I’ve got here is just Rs 7,000.
Has your family ever seen you in your side hustle?
I have a wife and 9-year-old kid back in Nepal. I was 15 when I got married, and of course, at that time had no idea I'd do something like this. When I started this, I told my wife it is very safe and that there was no danger in it for me or her. She came to my performance once, and almost died laughing.
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