It is ironical, I tell myself, to turn up for a spa appointment hours before a flight to Kerala, the land of lulling Ayurvedic massages.
Well, stranger things have happened, I shrug, and step into Rewa Escape’s bungalow. I am greeted by some good views of the Arabian Sea and squishy but vacant chairs (it is late evening). I settle for the Sampurna Abhishek as the brochure holds out the promise of the procedure being inspired by the royal bathing rituals.
Leanne, my therapist for the evening, is slender, quite unlike those whom my friends and mother swear by for their unparalleled strength and capacity to knead the body into complete relaxation. I am not complaining — a painful reminder of just how deep my body’s knots go isn’t what I have in mind.
Leanne leads me into a dimly-lit room. I lie prone on the spa bed and soon feel the Cedar Wood Blend Oil trickling down my right leg. My therapist begins massaging it in gentle, circular strokes and gradually builds up pressure. Over the next few minutes, my legs and feet have been rhythmically, and surely, been released of the stress of all the running around done in the day (or was it weeks?).
But it is when the therapist moves upward to my back that I feel the bliss. Leanne may be petite, but she has the strength of two, or three, depending on how you like your massage. With long, deep and acutely-timed strokes, she works on the lower back, and moves upward with slight variations in pressure.
What is remarkable is the intuition involved here — my shoulders have been hopelessly knotted since years, which had led to frustrating, painful and often futile massages wherein the massuesse has taken it upon herself to inflict maximum discomfort, but this session is different. Without a word being exchanged between us, or even grunts on my part to express pain, my therapist gauges the extent of the soreness of my shoulder muscles, begins with a light hand, and gradually works her way around them until a considerable amount of force and pressure is involved without me grimacing in pain.
This massage barely extends to the face, but my therapist does press some points on mine. Most of it is pleasurable, except when she deeply presses down on my cheek bones, which is bittersweet. However, I let my therapist go on just for an experience of a new sensation.
In both prone and supine positions, the massage often develops a cadence so fine that I could forget that it is human hands working across my body, which must soon step away. And truly — when my therapist steps back and leaves the room to fetch a scrub, the tempo of the massage on my body lingers on.
Leanne returns and scrubs the body vigourously with an aromatic Rose and Almond Scrub, giving extra attention to the soles of my feet, the elbows, the back of my knees and the neck. She then directs me to take a hot bath of milk diluted with water. I feel pampered, and my mental to-do lists are washed down the drain with the earth-coloured scrub. After I return, my body is smeared with Prithvi Alepa (black mud) for 20 minutes, which I again wash off with a hot bath.
I emerge from the two-hour treatment feeling like it began only minutes ago, which is just how a good session must feel. The most startling effect is on my face — the puffiness has vanished and it now has a glow and suppleness no facial treatment or sleep marathon has achieved so far.
In effect, my body feels unmistakably lithe, but that I expect. What I didn’t foresee is the effect it has had on my mind — the indulgence and expertise of my therapist has left a welcome blank in the head. Sure, it might lift minutes after I step out into the real world, the times of turbulent local train travel.
But for now, all is well.
Sampurna Abhishek: Rs 5,000
Where: Rewa Escape, Rewa House bungalow, Bank of India lane, Opposite Cadbury House and National Garage, Bhulabhai Desai Road