Profession: Paris street masseur
Andre Chouckroun has made a career out of offering free massages (tips welcome) on the Parisian streets.Paris -- Known to all simply as "Tchouk", 60-something Frenchman Andre Chouckroun has found a dream way of raising cash while holding out a helping hand to people in distress -- street massages.
Lean, long-haired and a onetime vagabond with a touch of wanderlust, Tchouk on most dry days rides a scooter to a busy square in Paris' Latin Quarter, pulls out a couple of folding stools, hoists a sign and readies for work.
"The Free French Massage", says the sign, adding that the massages are offered by so-called "Anti-Stress Agents" and that there is a "box for tips".
Named after the Contrescarpe square where he and his apprentice masseurs ply their trade, Tchouk's legally-registered association is titled MoufftardusContrescarpus and provides what it calls "French-style relaxation", not the skills of a professional physiotherapist.
"The anti-stress agent," he said, "can help the body through his hands but above all aids the spirit while also helping citizens to bond socially."
"Our technique is simply to relax the muscles with a little kneading and stroking, but is essentially a way of communicating with others."
Since coming up with the scheme a few years back, Tchouk claims to have trained more than 200 street masseurs, for free, laying on an hour's coaching and then letting the new masseurs learn as they knead.
One of them is Brazilian Maria Celia Costa Fagundes.
"Usually we already know something about massage, but then Tchouk trains us, we get going, and try to improve. You always learn more, that's what life is about."
Also offering a 10-minute rubdown to tensed-up Parisians was Sidhu, from India.
"French people are very, you know, tired," he said. "When I massage them they become my friends."
Kneading the back, hands and thighs of a French woman plumped on his stool and wearing a hat to hide the effects of chemotherapy, Sidhu tells her to close her eyes while he massages her neck, shoulders and ears.
"I feel lighter," she says as she stands, fishing in her bag for a few euros she puts in the tin for tips.
Tchouk, who speaks half a dozen languages and has taken his "anti-stress" concept to festivals and sporting events across France and in neighbouring nations, says while making money is not the essence, the job helps bring in extra pennies.
"The record last year was 200 euros (278 dollars) in 10 hours," he said. "If we work eight or nine hours we often make 70 or 80 euros or more."
Like Tchouk, who sees his enterprise as a service and a source of self-satisfaction, Sidhu said the extra cash was not the point of the exercise.
"I'm a hospitable person, I like to do things for humanity, and this is the best way to make friendships," he said. "When you massage people, sometimes you can talk. I like new cultures and sometimes we have a cup of tea, or people will come and eat Indian food."