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From historical Tawaifs to modern escorts – the transition of Lucknow's erotic culture

The 18th and 19th centuries saw the rule of the Nawabs in the Awadh region whose capital was the city of Lucknow. The Nawabs were famous for their nobility and the courts of the rulers were great patrons for dance and music. The city was the centre of art and culture and famous for its fine language, Urdu, and etiquette. The culture for which Lucknow was famous was reserved for the rich and noble and the legendary courtesans or Tawaifs. In this article, we will see how the city of Nawabs transitioned itself from the nautch or dancing girls to local prostitutes and finally to the modern-day Escorts in the last 2 centuries. The "Tawaifs" were highly accomplished women in Lucknow who excelled in dancing and singing. Apart from the royals, they performed for the rich and the elite outside the royal courts and in their own private homes popularly known as "Kothas". These women were financially independent and had great social prestige in society. The word "Tawaif" is an Urdu word which means "prostitute". The word prostitute was never used in the traditional society of Lucknow and a more subtle word Tawaif was used instead. People who used to visit the Tawaifs were associated with a more licentious or a liberal term such as debauchery or commonly spoken in Urdu as "aiyyasshi". The desire and fascination for courtesans or Tawaifs were so deeply ingrained even among respectable families that a famous poet revealed how men found more happiness with the courtesans than their wives.

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Things changed after the decline of the nawabs of Awadh. Once the Britishers came and established their East Lucknow Company, the nawab culture was confined to history. The officers of the East Lucknow company took the services of the courtesan as entertainers in social gatherings and later they were pushed Lucknow Escorts into prostitution. The courtesans of Lucknow were famous for their exemplary behaviour. They were born to be entertainers and excelled in music, dancing, art, and poetry. They were considered an authority in etiquette techniques and they became the centre of polite north Lucknow culture or "Tehzeeb". In addition to the above sphere of activities, the courtesan was also famous for providing entertainment of the more erotic variety. However, the sexual services were only reserved for the select clients and not easy to procure by anyone. This activity also contributed to the downfall of the Tawaifs, and their future generations became plain prostitutes lacking in finesse and manners.

The call girls of Lucknow post-independence

The Britishers also made the world "Nautch Girl" popular as they felt that the word "Naach" fitted well with the dancing that the courtesans were famous for.The Tawaifs operated from their homes which were standalone buildings known as "Kothas". This place housed the dancing women, musicians, poets, pimps and was the destination of the patrons. During the 18th century, the Tawaifs were at the zenith of their popularity. The kingdoms and the royalties were an integral part of the tawaif culture. They patronised these women and in return for financial support, the Tawaifs provided the art and culture and along with it the most necessary evil – Sex.

With the decline of royalty in modern Lucknow, Tawaifs fell on hard times. The connoisseurs of art and music gave way to full time flesh trade in order to solely survive. The Tawaifs and Mujra culture were replaced by Escorts in Lucknow who were new entrants and who danced way in titillating manners to double meaning songs. Many girls who were not from the Tawaifs lineage were kidnapped and forced into prostitution against their will and always exploited by the brothel madams and pimps. The present-day Lucknow has only a few residual kothas but one is unlikely to encounter the old traditional mujra and sophistication of the women. The contemporary prostitutes or call girls have evolved from the Tawaifs of affluence and sophistication into a modern Lucknow citizen, very distinct from the past perceptions and part of the democracy with right to vote but liable to be prosecuted under the Lucknow laws as sex trade is considered illegal.

Seduction Techniques of Courtesans

The courtesans were adept in the art of seduction and knew all the sexual techniques which could entice men. They were well trained by their seniors in the trade and knew how to control and charm the minds of men. In those days the wives of these men were confined to the popularly known 3 C's – Chulha, Chaddar, and Char Diwari, meaning the call girls in lucknow were confined to the oven or cooking, covered from head to toe and confined within the four walls of the house. These domestic women did not know the seductive art of sex and were often shy and unresponsive unlike the Tawaifs who were inhibited, and could give enchanting pleasure to men from their sexual expertise. This was the reason that while the wives stayed timid in their homes, the men made merry with the Tawaifs. In fact keeping these Tawaifs as mistresses was common among the nobles and wealthy in those days. The truth was that professional sexual services continued as long as the money was splurged by the men on these courtesans till they found someone richer and younger. The equation between a tawaif and her patron was based on artificial and insincere love. The basic objective of the tawaif was to earn good money to maintain her lavish and independent lifestyle.

The prostitutes in Independent Lucknow

During British rule and after independence, the kingdoms of Awadh gave way to a democratic state in free Lucknow. The decline of the tawaif culture coincided with this and later when the government of Lucknow abolished privy purses to the princely states and also the zamindari system. The courtesans fell on hard times and resorted to full-time flesh trade. Present-day Lucknow has seen the rise of prostitution from beyond the old Lucknow which housed the Kothas and had spread across the cities including posh areas. Surveys and studies of the female sex workers revealed that most of them were either married, divorced, or widowed and they took up the job of sex workers for economic reasons. The increasing poverty and household responsibilities with a tectonic shift of Lucknow men's preference for sexual service led to brothels operating out of commercial red-light areas and even residential colonies. Many of these prostitutes were illiterate and lacked the resources to come out of the clutches of pimps or brothel owners who exploited them badly. In addition to the laws which termed soliciting sex as illegal, the onus of crime was totally on the women and not on the clients strangely. The fear of contemporary men to go to red light areas for fear of law led to prostitutes coming out on the streets and soliciting clients individually. The term "streetwalkers" became popular and created their own segment identity for sex work.

Transformation of streetwalkers to call girls and escorts

The sex industry got revolutionised after the coming in of the internet and the mobile. For sex workers, it provided them the freedom and connectivity to operate on their own. They got freed from the clutches of the brothels and pimps and aided by advertisements, referrals, and online contacts, they could procure business safely and securely. The earnings also increased as the middlemen cuts were eliminated and the power to decline a customer became the new strength for the call girls. The sex workers got a little more respect with name-calling, as a more respectable name like call girls replaced the "whore" word. The widespread usage of mobile devices including smartphones meant that sex was just a call or text away. Clients could contact the women directly and vice versa without any fear. The connectivity helped call girls to fix a place of mutual convenience and relative safety. The onset of social media and increasing e-commerce via websites allowed high-end call girls known with a new terminology called Independent Lucknow Escorts to advertise their services openly. The concept of website advertisements and the renaming of high-end call girls took the cue from the western world. Earlier the sex workers were the marginalised section of the society who were illiterate, suffered from poverty, and were exploited by the system but as the new generation of young women got into this trade, the entire complexion of the sex industry changed.

High profile Escort – the modern version of the Tawaif

The nawabs and other royalties disappeared and were replaced by the well-heeled upper-class businessmen, industrialists, politicians, and the well paid corporate executives who look out for sexual pleasures beyond the confines of their homes. The classy escorts are the go-to women for that mind-blowing experience. Even travellers to Lucknow look forward to experiencing the famed tawaif culture but the overall experience is always disappointing. The alternative is the availability of high-end escorts who operate out of private apartments, posh hotels, and from their own homes. Many star hotels provide rooms for the wild escapades thereby replacing the traditional kothas.

How to contact an escort?

Many escort agencies have escort girls on their payrolls. They have all types of profiles, be it a professional call girl, a model, housewife, or a celebrity. The present-day escorts are both full-time and part-time depending on their requirement. Private escorts or those attached to agencies have both inbound and outbound services for their clients. They also have tie-ups with star hotels so that there are no hassles for their clients and the escorts. One has a wide choice of escorts when booking online after going through the profiles on the website. Booking an escort online is easy. After the identity verification check is done, the agencies book the selected escorts and arrange to send them to the hotel where the client is staying. After the four metro cities, Lucknow is now the new capital of excellent escort services. The escorts from these agencies are extremely sophisticated and well-mannered and they provide the modern version of the services provided by the erstwhile Tawaifs. Lucknow is the epicenter of growth and power in the country today. Many industries have come up over the last decades and there are plenty of opportunities for working professionals. The rich and the wealthy Nawabs have been replaced by the politicians and industrialists who are the new patrons of the escorts. Technology in present times has made the availability of sexual service at the click of a mouse or mobile call 24/7. A Lucknow escort is unique in the sense that she has inherited etiquettes and manners of the Lucknow culture and replicates the same in her behaviour, manners, and dealing with the clients. The "Tehzeeb" remains intact when it comes to Lucknow. Whatever be one's choice, there is a solution available to her. If a client wants service in the hotel where he is staying, then outbound calls are met with a prompt response. Many independent escorts prefer inbound services and call the client to their place, for safety is of prime importance when dealing with strangers. Contrary to popular misconception, these independent escorts are in great demand for their unmatched services.