Hyderabad: Age is just a number for 72-year-old Zainul Abideen, the visually-impaired masseur from Misrigunj in the old city. For the past 35 years, the nimble fingers of the master masseur have relaxed the sore muscles of scores of bodybuilders in the old city.
Despite being visually impaired, the deft hands of Zainul Abideen, popularly known as Zainul Bhai, are quick to isolate the stress points in the muscles. As his hands start working the magic ‘maalish’, bodybuilders immediately start to relax. On any given day, at least four to five bodybuilders line up in front of his nondescript house, located in the narrow lanes of Misrigunj.
Knock at his door and a voice asks, tel laye kya (did you get the oil)? And, when the answer is in the affirmative you are invited inside.
“I learnt and practised the tricks from practitioners who massaged bodybuilders and pahelwans (wrestlers). These days, mostly youngsters who frequent gymnasiums come to me for a massage,” Zainul Bhai says.
Struck by jaundice
Zainul Bhai lost his eyesight at the age of 16 after a bout of jaundice. “I did odd jobs here and there. I also worked in a few mosques. It took me a while to realise that I was good as a masseur,” he recalls.
Offering massage services has become a full-time profession for Zainul Bhai.
“I demand Rs. 130 for upper body massage and Rs. 200 for full body massage, but still customers bargain over it,” he says. Why do people come for a massage?
“At times when you lift heavy weights in gyms, the muscles get stressed and strained. A massage relieves the stress and helps them recover,” he explains.
People bring in different oils, including zaitun oil, til (sesame) oil and apricot kernel oil for the maalish (massage).
“If someone cannot afford such oils, then I ask them to bring edible oil,” he says.