For me, massages have always been medicinal and never to be taken for fun. All through college I went to a gym which offered me complimentary massages and I never took them up on it. It never occurred to me that it would be relaxing and do wonders to my skin and temperament — both of which needed a lot of work back then.
But now, driving around on Indian roads for nearly a decade, I realised at one point that I could give it a shot. I set one up at a place I frequented about once in two months for sundry treatments. So about two days prior to the appointment for my first massage, I, almost pathologically, started collecting stress. I thought, what the heck.. am sure the massage will take care of it. Then, after a lot of ‘should i shouldn’t i’, I landed up at the place that was to give me the key to ultimate relaxation.
Unsure and trying not to look it, I was escorted into a room. Not seeing anything to change into I twiddled my thumbs and mentally hummed.. and in came my masseuse. She looked at me irritatedly and barked in hindi .. chaliye kapde nikaliye…and I was like eh? and cover myself with wot? She was like cover??? whatever for? Haven’t you set up a massage. I was saying .. yeah yeah but need a robe or something before we can begin it na?I was sure we were talking different things and certainly in different languages…
We finally got through each other. Turns out I was supposed to lie down on the massage table.. errm without anything on and well that was it. I very indignantly said nothing doing.. so she got me a hand towel (or something that felt as little) and started her massage. I had a lot of conditions no touching here, there and every other where.. By this time she had given up giggling and was outright laughing. She stopped long enough to tell me that I would still have to pay for it all.. touched and untouched areas included.
Somewhere halfway through this, she asked me “are you married?” No.. i ventured.. and she pounced on my reply. “isliye aap itni shy hai” Eh? No no I said, struggling to keep towel in place thinking sex cant have anything to do with this. She was satisfied with her conclusion and went on to describe to me.. how all the other women who came in there (married i hoped) just lay there while the massage happened.. she described stuff in graphic detail and me with my towel.. well enough to say that I came away with aching muscles because they were so stiff with tension. I swore to myself no massages for me. Had to find something to pummel for relaxation instead.
This, of course, was in Delhi…now that am back in Mumbai, thought would give it a shot here. I was getting the opportunity to review a spa treatment free of cost. Twas still just as stilted but in a really plush day spa..yup we are getting those here… but the only difference here was that she did not make a face while giving me something to cover myself with. Ok I was more relaxed this time.. but too much time goes entirely into just keeping track of this errant towel.
How is it that one gives up inhibitions? Whoever I spoke to about this piped in saying yes yes, its very difficult with the towel, the pressure (literal and figurative ) etc but everyone revels in saying how massages are great. Its best since they are all strangers pressing you in strange ways.
May be am looking at this entirely from the wrong angle…
PS on another note, at my workplace, we got an invite that said “You are invited for an exhibition titled ‘My life is my massage — A tribute to Mahatma Gandhi’