Of Massages, Masseuses and Madness

Steaming Pig.

Like every other touristy place, traveling to Kerala is fraught with cliches. And you have no choice but to succumb. And believe me – it is not always bad to do that.

The cliches usually involve a houseboat, the back waters, fish curry and a customary Ayurvedic massage.

Now massages in general involve a lot of undressing and creams and rubbing etc. But you haven’t experienced a massage until you have experienced a true blue Ayurvedic one.

It began innocuously enough with the dainty little woman telling me to get undressed. She handed me a little white handkerchief and I thought how very thoughtful considering the balmy weather until I realized that was not a handkerchief. It was a strip of cloth which is supposed to conceal the one part of my body that won’t be massaged. At least not in the respectable establishments. Now considering I am not an overly endowed woman I was still wondering by what stretch of imagination did they think that that fabric was enough to conceal anything ! It was something that would give a G string a complex. Anyway to humor her I went along with the idea and tied the little fabric to myself and then realized –  they mean it as part of meditation. You are supposed to relax to the point where the fabric feels like it has expanded and engulfed you and shrouded you with modesty.

So I lay down on the smooth table and waited. A lot of shuffling later she came back with a barrel full of oil and then began the massage, complete with my squeals because well… I am ticklish.

By the end of it – I felt like a deep fried croquette of sorts. You could have put me out in the sun, warmed me up and eaten me. If you weren’t on diet of course.

At the end of the massage she pointed out a little black box. I was supposed to get up and walk to it. Walk ? Walk ?

As I raised myself to sit up and swung my legs to the floor… I literally SLID off the table. Slid! and then swoosh skated on my bare feet in the general direction of the box… arms flailing all over the place. The horror struck woman tried to grab me to prevent me from falling to the floor  but instead slipped on a pool of gooey oil and went slippery sliding after me.

Now imagine if an outsider were looking through a window.

An almost naked woman..Oh who am I kidding … A naked woman slipping and sliding around a room followed desperately by another oily looking woman trying to lunge at her (Shakti Kapoor would have been proud).  This fracas lasted all of 20 seconds perhaps but for me, looking to avoid landing on the hard floor butt naked – it seemed like an eternity. Finally ugly black box saved me as I lurched towards it and held on for dear life. And did not move for a whole minute as I thanked all the saints in heaven who protect hapless naked women.

When I finally got my breath back, the masseuse came up to me sheepishly and with big doe eyes said something in malayalam which  I assumed was an apology. Either that or judging strictly by the tone, she was saying “How you doing?” Joey style 😛

She then proceeded to cocoon me in the Black box. One of those funny looking steam baths where you are sitting in a box with only your head protruding out.  As I sat there looking like a corpse trying to wiggle out through its coffin I contemplated the scene of the crime. The oily table, the greasy floor, the unctuous diminutive woman… my pinguid head minus the body( the reverse of a headless chicken)… I started to giggle. And couldn’t stop for the longest time.

It was the most eventful massage I had ever had.

Forget the oily smell that wouldn’t leave me for 2 days – the laughter was well worth it.

I tipped her well and promised to return. This time with anti skid slippers.

Oh and I finally understood the purpose of the little strip of cloth.

It was like one of those charm bracelets. Only difference is that you wear it around your waist.

You don it for luck and laughter.

I enjoyed both.

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Lost

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To paraphrase Catherine in Wuthering Heights “Whatever our souls are made of – Google maps and mine are the same.” On a very primal level – we both are lost and we both vehemently deny that we are.

When I ask how to get to any place people try to give me all kinds of useless directions. It isn’t their fault really that I do not get ‘WHC ROAD’ Or Colaba Causeway or Connaught place or any acceptable landmark.

My partner gets me thoroughly though – if only I could I would load him on my phone. He tells me to go to that square with that fat statue and turn right – after five min you reach that stinking drain which you always complain about – keep going straight till you reach a Dirty Blue color building with a yellow stripe on it and then take a left. We had dinner for our first anniversary at that restaurant on this road – stop beside it and thats the place!!!

He sometimes draws these maps out for me. If he cheats on me and I get mad – I shall remember these maps and love him again.

But I digress.

Google maps though is sadly nothing like my partner.

So today my friends decide to meet up at the new Pizza Hut in town. I don’t ask anyone for directions. There is this supreme confidence that only comes from complete ignorance.

Just type it into Google maps.

It calculates the shortest possible route and I follow it blindly. I do not stop to think if this is a sensible route – would the longer route actually be more practical? Do I know this road? Does it look familiar?

No. Type. Search. Follow.

No questions. No doubts.

I would make an excellent disciple of some flaky religious leader.

Of course, I find out belatedly, when it calculates a route apparently it does not take into account how wide or narrow the road is or rather it assumes (wrongly) that all roads in India are of a standard acceptable width. As I entered the street I could see it was rather narrow to begin with but I pushed on stubbornly ahead. I think I actually believed Google god would come down from heaven and do what the Municipal corporation hasn’t been able to – widen the road.

As I kept going the road kept getting narrower and narrower. I began to show the first signs of a mild panic attack in that I started whispering to myself – ‘You stupid mad woman! Turn back – turn back now. It is still possible. No no keep going – it cannot get worse than this. Turn back – keep going – turn back – keep going.’ You get the picture.

The problem of the narrowness of the road was compounded by two wheelers parked left and right. And since no other car ever ventured down those roads ( Because NO ONE else follows Google maps in my city)the two wheelers were like kings of the jungle. As my car inched on ahead I could almost feel each vehicle snarl and growl and bare their teeth, snapping at my heels.

Now I drive a very small car. In fact if my car lost an inch more it could run on 2 wheels instead of four without skipping a heartbeat. That’s how small it is. So when I say this road was narrow – I mean NARROW. Any narrower and the shops on either side would be kissing each other.

People began coming out of shops and homes salivating in the hope of a spectacle.

And I made sure they were not disappointed.

Bam. Crash. Casualty one. I knock off a cycle.

Bam. Crash. Casualty two. A motorbike bike goes down.

Crunch. Wheels of car go over something I do not care to identify.

Screech. Either car has scratched something or someone has run their nails down its side.

Then people start to give advice and someone volunteers to provide a non stop commentary to the onlookers.

Aao aao.. aage bado aage bado ( come on come on – move ahead)

why did you take this road?

Help her.

Stupid woman.

Tsk Tsk Tsk.

Nowadays anybody wants to drive without even knowing how.

You know how men suck in their paunches when a beautiful woman is around? This time men AND women were doing that. However not because they were trying to impress me  – Just to avoid getting squashed into a wafer.

Finally I reached a point where I HAD to stop.

Can’t go ahead.

Can’t go back.

Can’t go up.

Can’t go down.

Can’t pick up skirts and flee.

Can’t stay put and die.

(Oh there is a song here.. Note to self: work on this later)

How I wished at this point my car was a batmobile.

An especially courageous and optimistic man whose scooter (with his 5 year old perched on it) was blocking my way – says don’t worry you can come through- just keep going. His son’s expression told a different story. I decided if the man isn’t worried then well.. who am I to object? I pressed down on the accelerator. My car actually sucked in her belly and with the grace of a sailor-man-doing-ballet movements pirouetted ahead.  The boy jumped off the scooter to safety but I think I scarred him for life. The scooter got dinged a bit. I lifted my shoulders and stuck out my tongue at the annoyed man. Seems to work in such situations.

Finally I was in the clear. Leaving behind in my wake a tsunami like mess of overturned bikes and cycles, scarred children and incredulous adults – I could almost hear the thunderous applause as I raced to the finish line.

I came out on the biggest road of the area. A street I was so familiar with I could reach it in my sleep. A road wide enough to fit 4 or 5 models of my car side by side. A road I could have reached in 10  min instead of the 25 I took.

Sigh.

Google. You evil evil man. You are sniggering somewhere aren’t you?

Love Shove

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Everyone is in love on Facebook. Everyone. No kidding.

In fact – if you are in a bad, boring relationship – Mark Zuckerberg sends you a copy of ‘Relationship for Dummies’ with a note – ” Pull up your socks. Study and reappear for eligibility test. “

After you have surfed through the book and obtain a temporary membership of the ‘I am in LOve forever and ever and ever after ‘ Club – your actual initiation begins.

You will suddenly feel compelled to post pictures of red balloons and bouquets of roses and say things like “To the love of my life…Happy 26th minute anniversary” (Just for the sake of clarity – Not talking about the good kind of 26 minutes)

Thank you for being with me in all the good times and bad.. I look back to 19 days ago when we first held hands and since then our love has only grown stronger conquering all odds. ” Here is where we all tear up.

I love you XYZ… Miss you soooooo much sweetie pie… (Even though you are sleeping right beside me even as I type this on Facebook) I hope we continue to be this much in love forever ( Pause to dig sweetie pie in the ribs – Stop snoring stupid. I can barely hear myself think as I write this note of undying love to you) #loveisforever#jglfkdajglj#iloveyou#l;skflsk;f#dljfkldgkl#becausehashtagsarecool #becauseeveryonedoesit #becauseifinallylocateditonmykeyboard

I am telling you – relationship counsellors be warned. Facebook is putting you out of business. It takes bad couples and ordinary couples and good couples and perfect couples and stupid couples and abusive couples and irritating couples and any and every kind couple – and puts them in a big room painted with hearts,feeds them ruby red strawberries, makes them read chetan bhagatesque romance novels and paints them with Facebook Viagra for Love.

Then everyone exits the room and heads straight for the computer and logs in on Facebook and declares eternal undying love. Sometimes twice in the same day.

And God forbid that despite the constant tutoring by Facebook – you turn out to be a bad student and realize that your relationship is less than perfect and that 1-2 minutes of togetherness is nothing to shout out about from rooftops then you have condemned yourself to a lifetime of watching other people’s photographs and status updates complete with ‘feeling loved emoticons’ and pursing your lips with envy.

Of course plan B would be to spend all your time telling people every detail of every day. That’s always so entertaining. And also it shows that even though you are not in a perfect perfect Brangelina relationship – you have a rocking life.  Eating Anda Poha at the station… yehhhhhh #F$£k#jbkfdhjglkadjkhg

Hopefully you never have to resort to Plan B.

So straight after the morning cup of tea you log in and then look at your husband with irritation and say – See Mr and Mrs Cant-keep-their-hands-off-each-other – why can’t you be more like him? They are so in love even after 365 days.

And he will say nothing and just to annoy the hell out of you will go click ‘like’ on that picture.

Sigh.

Damn him. Forget it.

Let me go bake a heart shaped gooey chocolate cake so that I can click a Selfie with it and post it with the caption “On Valentine’s for my Shona…”(Because your cholesterol is only 10000 and his blood glucose level is only a million and a chocolate cake is definitely the best way to ensure I love you forever – because forever ain’t going to last long at this rate)

P.S.  Don’t get me wrong. This post is not intended to hurt the sentiments of anyone. And – I am all for love. In all its forms. This is just in jest. Please go ahead and ooze sappiness. It intrigues me no end.