MADURAI: A man in his 20s is sitting with his eyes glued to the computer screen. He is sifting through profiles on popular job portals. Suddenly he comes across a profile that seems promising. He picks up his mobile and calls the candidate...
Selvi (24)* has been on a job hunt ever since her employer handed her the pink slip during the lockdown. When the caller tells her that her profile has been short-listed for a lucrative job, her hopes rise.
“I was told to visit a place, from where the recruiter took me to a house converted to an office. The man was keen on knowing my family and financial background. He assured a handsome pay before promising to contact me later,” she says.
Selvi is one of the many unfortunate people to have lost their job in the lockdown. When she was handed the pink slip, like others, she too thronged the job portals. The response was lukewarm. It was amid this despondency that the call came.
A week passed before Selvi got the promised second call. She was asked to visit the same place. However, instead of the promised job, the recruiter had a proposition for her.
“They were very persuasive. They harped on my family’s condition and how I could change everything. All I had to was to act as his wife for a few hours. I was given a lump sum. There, in that room, was the key to escaping from the poverty that had been hounding my family. I said yes...” she says.
“I was taken to a residential area in the city. There I met a man and a woman. I was told they too were a couple. After exchanging a few pleasantries, my recruiter sent me with the other man... It took me sometime to realize that I was being masqueraded as his wife so that he could swap me,” Selvi recalls. The next day, Selvi was given more money and taken to meet another couple.
“I had walked into a trap. I had become a part of a wife swapping network,” Selvi says, adding that her attempts to escape from the gang had earned her their wrath, with threats becoming the order of the day.
Lost job and broken family
A qualified Montessori teacher, Sundari* (35) returned to her parental house with her two school-going children after her husband lost his job during the lockdown.
“I left my matrimonial home in May and applied for job on various websites. I was not choosy,” Sundari says. It was during the height of her search that she got the call.
“The recruiter was a young man. He was upfront that I would not get a job during the lockdown. He assured me a significant sum if I consented to his wife swapping deal. He convinced me that his proposition did not tantamount to prostitution. He assured that his clientele comprised high profile couples wanting to have fun,” Sundari says.
Though she knew she was taking a wrong decision, she had no option. Sundari was often taken to houses and lodges and introduced as the live-in partner of her recruiter. It was during her stint with the recruiter that she saw the underbelly of the flesh trade racket.
“At some point, I realized that not all couples were real. Once I witnessed a young girl posing as the wife of a 40-year-old man. She too was trapped,” Sundari recalls.
“Most couples checked whether I was wearing mangalsutra? Most of them told me that wife swapping was one of their sexual fantasies and they were willing to share a premium for a real experience,” she says.
Sundari believes she is lucky to have escaped the ring. She managed to find a new job, shifted house, and changed the mobile number. “But, there still are many trapped in the racket,” Sundari tells Express.