Well, eight actually, because Sunday 15th was a holiday at the Ayurveda Kendra where I was scheduled to 'enjoy' seven sessions of therapeutic oil massage. This morning was the last one. I believe I can state clearly that I am not suited to being massaged. This is NOT a critique of the Kendra: I think they're doing a great job. It's me. I've got the wrong temperament for being attended to by three women, while I lie in a shallow trough of warm oil.
All seven days, even though the ladies were highly competent and energetic, I was tense with the desire to be relaxed. I couldn't be relaxed because I really don't like feeling the absolute helplessness that is the natural corollary of lying in a shallow trough, with my eyes covered, and my body entirely (except for the head) squirmy with oil. The interior of my head was filled with endless videos taken from various angles around the room, showing views of me looking like a pale brown whale on a black rectangular slab, with three blue-sari-clad midgets variously pounding on me. I was not really so much bigger than the massage-ladies, but I FELT as if I were, just on account of the context.
Aside from these videos was the sensation of discomfort bordering on pain that was the result of being kneaded like a huge lump of dough. I don't know how one is supposed to respond to a massage, but my body's overwhelming attitude was "Hey, we DON'T LIKE THIS!!" while my mind kept up a steady repetition of: "But we have paid for it and so we must endure it."
There were other worries: every day, when it came time to switch from lying supine to lying prone, I was terrified that I would slither off the platform like a fish that has just been landed on the deck of a trawler. When one is completely covered in oil, lying in an oil-filled trough, it is completely normal to have these apprehensions. There was no traction at all, so I had to manouevre myself like those astronauts you see pirouetting outside the ship in 2001: A Space Odyssey: slowly rotating first one limb, then another, then my hips, then my torso and finally my head, only to feel the first set of limbs setting off again on a second rotation, so that I was in grave danger of turning into a human corkscrew. And a severely oily one at that.
The ladies did try to help, by lightly nudging my arms or feet as I spun about, horizontally, feeling that peculiar zero G sensation that I never seriously expected to feel on earth. I feared that if I actually slid off the table, they would certainly not have been able to halt my progress. I had visions of shooting straight out into the corridor, down the hall, through the reception area and out into the parking lot, all in the gleaming altogether, with three female midgets clinging to my toes, objecting weakly in Malayalam.
It wasn't fun at all knowing that the corridor, inhabited by male voices whose owners tramped industriously up and down for most of the hour and half of the massage, was only one door-width away. I realize that I am revealing how hopelessly self-conscious and un-cool I am to feel uncomfortable with the idea that unknown male strangers MIGHT be able snatch glimpses of me every time the door was opened or closed, but ... the sad fact is, I really am that un-cool, and I really did feel rather peculiar to know that this same door was being opened and closed all through the massage, as the ladies went in and out in pursuit of yet more oil, or rubber tubes, or hot cloths or steam or summer tourists or whatever.
As for those rubber tubes, they were the cause of a very different kind of anxiety. Out of consideration for the young and uncorrupted eyes that may visit this blog, I will once more restrain myself from revealing precisely what function they served except to say that they involved a procedure whose name starts with 'e' and is five letters long. It is not fun at all, believe me, to administered one, when a thirty-minute journey by car remains between one visit to the bathroom and the next. Nope. I had to use up a whole month's quota of psychic-traffic-relocation-and-matter-transference power just to ensure that my taxi bridged the distance between Safdarjung Enclave and Friends Colony with no mishaps.
However, seven sessions have now passed and I am returned to my own self with no real trauma to report. My left shoulder, which has been trying very hard to convince itself that it would really prefer to freeze up and die, is now once more swinging loosely in its joint. I now have functioning neck muscles and my cough, which was the inspiration for the therapy to begin with, is much improved -- but it is STILL THERE. *sigh* I am continuing with pills, potions and positive thoughts. Nothing lasts forever, not even a cough.