We were coming to the end of our whirlwind trip in India. My travel partner and I had seen the poverty of Delhi, the ghats in Varanasi, the Taj Mahal in Agra, and decided to finish the famous ‘Golden Triangle’ (a famous tourism route encompassing Delhi, Agra and Jaipur) with a stop in the Pink City. People spoke about Rajasthan like it was an oasis, and the bus ride over revealed a gorgeous countryside peppered with villages and farms growing mysterious crops (as a farm girl from Ohio, I could tell that they were not growing soybeans, wheat or corn, so I decided that it must have been something eaten at one of our recent meals- but really, who knew).
In Jaipur, there was no escaping the constant exercise in the art of ‘no’- ‘no I do not need to buy a sari’, ‘No I don’t need your help’, and ‘NO you cannot give me a ride. Thanks.’ The walls of the pink city were pink, and the sites were as interesting as ever (including the FANTASTIC Hawa Mahal, a pleasant surprise for two weary travelers in the warm afternoon), but we were both exhausted from the traveling and ready for some pampering.
After the lovely Hawa Mahal, a women’s palace reminiscent of a child’s tree house with patterned windows of colorful glass and stairs leading to an open air view of the city’s observatory, mountains and bazaar, we decided a massage was in order. A team consisting of three men, an auto-rickshaw and a bike-rickshaw drove us to our destination. The Kerala Ayurveda Kendra promised an experience in the 5000-year old ‘science of life’ that would help cure ailments caused by imbalances in the body. And really, after all of that food and travel, who could help but feel imbalanced?
We luckily came during a slow period of the day and were able to get walk-in appointments that were set-up by the only business woman we spoke with on our entire trip. She explained the differences between ‘Abhyanga’, ‘Sirodhara’, and ‘Patra Swedan’ therapies and suggested treatments for our ailments. We picked a full body massage with ayurvedic oils and a treatment for our throats and after our brief consultation, we were lead into a room with therapists waiting. Unknowingly, we had signed up for what would turn out to be a very interesting hour.
The lovely woman who was to be my therapist told me with a smile to ‘dress down everything’, which I took to mean ‘get naked’. Standing on the other side of the curtain was my boyfriend and his male masseur, and I could hear in his voice the same confusion that comes with being told to take off all of your clothes. There was no towel or fluffy bathrobe waiting, just my new best friend with a large strip of gauze and a piece of string, ready to create a make shift set of knickers to cover at least part of my nudity.
The nasal treatment included a face rub with a mysterious lotion, a steam under a checkered table cloth, and nasal drops that still burn just thinking about them. Meena, my masseuse, told me to lay down on my back. Then came copious amounts of spice-laced sesame oil, heated to a brilliant perfection over an gas flame and rubbed all over. ALL over. She didn’t miss an inch (okay, a very few inches of me went un-greased, but it was a very few). Imagine greasing a turkey with twelve sticks of butter, but it was me. I never could have imagined an ayurvedic massage and can promise you that I will never be able to forget it either.
A smile and handshake later, after my sponge bath and towel down, I was told to get dressed. It was obviously the most greasy and quite possibly the most interesting cultural experience of my visit to India. Even the bike-rickshaw driver helped clean some leftover pink goop from my ear with the corner of my sweater before driving us back to the hotel. India just could not back down from the surprises and secret giggles even for a minute, and I would not have wanted it any other way.