For my birthday this year, I decided to treat myself to a rejuvenation session. The next decade is fast approaching and it’s time to, as Cher sings, turn back ti-i-i-me. Our driver had hinted several times at an ayurvedic spa in a village close by, that is so famous that people from all over the world come and spend time there. And since I have a few minor medical problems that are widely known to be successfully treated with this traditional Indian medicine, I gave it a shot.
I got there at 11 and was given a sheet of paper with a schedule: doctor consultation, pranayama (breathing yoga), treatment, lunch, meditation, yoga, tea, visit of the facility, then dinner.
The facility is beautiful. It’s either imported from Kerala* or duplicated from Kerala style. It’s very close to one of the villages where we often go for rides on the scooter. It’s very quiet. There is a large wall around the place that keeps the rif raf out (dust, weeds, trash, dogs and unwanted critters).
* Kerala is the state where Ayurvedic medicine originated. It is still very commonly practiced there.
I met the doctor. The consultation should have lasted 30 minutes. It didn’t. I sat there for an hour and 15 minutes, and was subjected to a lecture by a self-professed ex-atheist-born-again-Christian-communist on how to treat my problems. Yep! That, I didn’t expect. I went there for oils and herbs and marinated flowers. Not Jesus! I felt trapped. I wondered if I had entered a cult. He wasn’t talking about spirituality but trying to convert me. I almost walked out. Then I remembered there was a massage coming, that the whole day was pretty cheap, and that I should keep an open mind. If the doctor had had any notion of body language, he would have realized that I had retreated to the back to the chair, arms crossed and was answering with “huh huh”. But he was so engrossed in conversing with himself about Marx, Nietzsche and Sartre (I read them too, dude!) that he didn’t notice. But after asking a few health questions, he wrote me a prescription for little pills.
I should have had a session of breathing yoga, but that got cancelled due to “Kerala Marx” taking his jolly time sputtering his cheap philosophy. Darn!
So off to the treatment I go. A young lady walks me to a bathroom and hands me a white cloth that looks like 10 pieces of toilet paper hanging from a string. “Take all your clothes off and wrap the string around your waist”. That TP thingie barely covers my hoo-ha, but whatever. I walk to the massage room and another lady comes in and they start chatting in a language I don’t understand, while I am sitting on a chair, with my breasts hanging down on my knees. Don’t mind me! The younger one starts rubbing oil over my scalp and hair. And the old lady is still there, still chitchatting away. So much for privacy! Then onto the massage table. Here, I took a deep breath. The massage table was ancient, covered in fake leather that was all ripped. I don’t care about the esthetics of it, but from a hygiene point of view, that’s a no no. Nothing I can do, so let’s relax and enjoy it. And I did! The old lady was a masseuse, and I got a four hand expert massage. One masseuse on the right with soft hands, the other on the left with calloused hands, with swift repetitive symmetrical coordinated movements. Your entire body gets massaged, except for maybe 5 square inches! I got oiled and rubbed and kneaded and basted, with a mixture that smelled of mustard oil and vinegar; in other words, a vinaigrette! I think I am being prepped for cooking!
It was great, and at that point, I decided to forgive the preacher for making me feel so uncomfortable earlier on. The massage itself was worth the trip.
Then shower. I am dripping oil. They provided a mixture of green gram powder instead of soap. I didn’t have much faith in it, but it was wonderful in degreasing me. My hair however still has oil and little seeds in it. The two pieces of fabric they give you should not be called towels, and would not dry off a normal size American man. I left with wet hair.
Then lunch. YUCK. There were many Americans and Europeans who were fawning over how good the buffet was. Nope. Bland and yuck. Made for white people. Served with warm jeera (cumin) water. I asked for water but was again served warm jeera water.
Then nothing. If I had looked at the schedule closely, I would have seen a gap. I sat under a tree for two hours waiting for the meditation session, playing games on my phone. I now understand that the place is not meant for a day trip but for longer stays, a week to a month. If you live there for a while, you will have a room to retreat to during that break. I didn’t have that luxury. In 100-degree heat, it isn’t exactly a pleasant moment. But, I kept reminding myself, the massage was worth it, and I had more learning to do in the afternoon. Still no water.
Meditation. I have never done group meditation before. There was five of us, lead by a north Indian man (different body type, different accent). He was chanting commands I couldn’t understand, in a poorly ventilated room, with the ceiling fans turned off, while I was wearing street clothes (I had asked about clothes before coming and was expecting them to provide something more suiting upon arrival). They must have put goat milk in the massage mix (they do it a lot) because I was starting to smell like bad cheese! I am not much of the “let the positive thoughts come it through your nostrils while inhaling and release your negative energies while exhaling” crowd. I got so bored I stopped participating and laid down in the back.
Right after that, I had a yoga session with the same man, one on one, and I really liked it. He also showed me pranayama, the yoga breathing techniques. It’s a cross between Lamaze classes and a panting dog, but for the first time, I felt my head cleared of most thoughts and my legs fell asleep!
Then I went home. I didn’t want the herbal tea time, the historical tour of the place, I didn’t want their dinner. I got my extraordinarily expensive pills (capitalism isn’t so bad after all I guess) and jumped in the car.
It was a great experience, but I won’t do it again. Right now, I am eating the delicious dinner prepared yesterday by our new cook.
Happy birthday to me!