Ayurveda is an ancient medicinal science native to India. If you have grown up in India, it is highly likely that you have been exposed to some or the other forms of Ayurveda in your life. The Neem twig as a toothbrush or the combination of Basil, Ginger and Honey as a cure for throat infections have had their implementations in Indian households since ages unknown. Although, various forms of it have been practiced all around India, it is the state of Kerala and its enterprising people who have made a global brand value out of it. In spite of the meteoric rise of Baba Ramdev, the billionaire Yogi, who runs his empire on Ayurveda, the Kerala Tourism Industry continues to thrive on Ayurvedic massages and medicines.
Binu George looks a man of few words and is rather serious for his age. He promises me a full body massage and Shirodhara for Rs.800, which I think, is a good deal! But after I enter the massage room, I am in for a shock! He asks me to strip completely and tosses a tiny loincloth that looks utterly inadequate to protect my modesty. I somehow manage to wrap it up my butt and tie it hard with a cotton string hoping that it will last the ordeal and preserve my dignity.
Binu asks me to relax and tries his best in broken English to make me feel at ease. He starts with the head massage while I sit on a wooden stool. The massage is supposed to relax my mind but the current state is far from relaxing. My perturbed mind worries about the thin piece of muslin that might betray me at any moment.
He guides me to a wooden table after the head massage and asks me to lie down on my belly, then slowly pours hot oil making me feel like a fish laying down to be pan-fried. He rubs and slaps the oil all over my arms, back, sides and legs in rhythmic strokes as I settle into a trance. The synchronization unwinds the mind and it gets free of the discomfort sooner than later. The circles and eights keep getting created, as I get slippery, skidding all around the table with oil. The cloth is long gone and I lie naked wondering how I could turn onto the back at his command. I am not really shy when it comes to stripping, having done that numerous times during the Army Entrance medicals and hostel ragging sessions of the engineering days but that doesn’t mean I would be a naturist to show off my assets to a stranger. I ask him for another fresh disposable undergarment and he obliges soon. As the sweeping strokes continue on the shoulders and the ribcage going down all the way to the toes, I am back into the trance again.
If the full body massage charmed me into a trance, the Shirodhara made sure I went off to sleep. The medicated milk, poured rhythmically onto my forehead through a tiny hole in the earthen pot was a magic potion, which deeply relaxed my mind and let go of all the stress. “I heard you snoring,” said Binu with a rare smile.
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