Inviting a journalist for a sneak peek into the goings on at a nude club in Goa's upwardly mobile society had seemed like a good idea to a few members until Sunday (March 10) morning. But a pen and a notepad, the only appendage on me that time, apart from a borrowed face-mask of course, had put what is perhaps Goa's only or one of the very few nude clubs on alert.
"You have to understand we are doing nothing against the law. And we don't want to be projected as a perverted set who like orgies. It is just a bare lifestyle thing. We only think social nudity is not just nice, it's fun," said the buck of the pack, a young broad-torsoed man in his late 20s.
Around the room, were seven others. None of them were addressed by name. Each had a nom de plume. The woman by the mock-leather sofa wearing nothing but a purple feathered mask was Robin, while the man who opened the conversation with me was called Tiger.
"We meet every once in a way. Not all of us live in Goa. Some of us are working professionals, businessmen and women. These get-togethers are often over-nighters and are great stress busters," Tiger told the IANS correspondent.
"And you don't have to have a great body to flaunt it. It's more about an attitude thing," said Tiger, the only one with a toned ribbed body.
The air-conditioned drawing room, the only place in the apartment I was allowed into, was not very dramatic. A bookshelf, a largish LCD screen, a sofa set, a dated India Today and paintings on the walls. The dulled, yellow lights, though, added to the layer of intrigue.
"We keep them like that on purpose. It tends to get harsh and sometimes, the new members tend to get self-conscious. Some days the older members do not even use masks. The newcomers prefer to," Robin said, sipping her beer on a day when the temperature outside hovered around 38 degrees Celsius.
Started two years ago, the members, Robin said, comprised local Goans as well as regular visitors to Goa. She did not drop any names or hint at who any of the existing members could be or any of them foreigners.
Nearly all the members are below 50 and entry to the unnamed club is on recommendation only. "Recommendations made by the members have to be vetted and okayed by three-fourths of the existing members. A single veto can reject a case. We need to be sure about who we are getting in. No one wants nasty surprises," Robin said, adding that keeping the identity of the members' secret was top priority.
"That is why we debated heavily over allowing a journalist to view our activities from up close," Tiger said.
And if you thought a nude club was all about orgies, grapes and vain food binges, think again. Robin said it was just another hangout, only the shedding of clothes made it "weird" for some.
"We watch movies, cook food, read, play games and if someone wants to cozy up, they can do that too," Robin said, as three of the group's members watched Ben Affleck's Oscar-winning film "Argo" on DVD.
On the way out, I was put through a drill similar to the one when I walked in. And executed in almost sleuth-like fashion.
The blindfold around my eyes was a Virgin Atlantic sleep mask.
I was ushered into a car, parked in what could have been a basement. And the drive back to Panaji was an uneventful 15 minutes.