This was it. My last chance at a good ayurvedic massage in Kerala. Three previous massage sessions resulted in mixed reviews and perplexed thoughts as to what the chatter was regarding India massage. This time would be different. While walking the roads of Kumily/Thekkady, South India, after exhausting the tourist things to do from my list, I noticed a bright green building. A red sign in the most compelling shade of red for Arya Ayurvedic Centre drew me closer.
Up the steps to the second level offices, guests are quickly asked to leave their shoes outside. An instant plus. Once inside the reception area, gorgeous wall colors mixed with dark woods, plants and a multitude of pictures present a very welcoming feeling. Foreign travelers crowded the chairs as they waited like herded cattle for the next available masseuse. There was an opening later in that afternoon, the price was right. I agreed to come back.
The process repeated itself; up the stairs, remove the shoes, sit and wait. Still humming with activity, Arya was alive with tourists exchanging money with the cashier like water through a sieve. Fortunately my masseur was ready for our preset appointment. With the door closed I was told to strip everything off. No mood lighting, no music. In fact, the walls were 3/4 high leaving a large gap between them and the ceiling. Black painted cement walls, harsh fleurescent lighting mixed with high pitched conversation between two South Indian women had me rethinking this decision. A thin white paper strip reminiscent of a diaper, meant for sanitary reasons, was tied around my waist. My sixty minutes had started. The reception hall swooped me in but now I felt as if I was behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. This is where the sausage was made and I was the main ingredient.
Arya sits right along the busy outer rim road linking tourist buses, cabs, tuk tuks, cars and pedestrians from the hotels and cafes on one side of town, to the main bazaar and/or highway access leading out of town. Noise pervades every corner of the building as the construction is nothing more than high walled cubicles inside a cement shell. One benefit is the circulation of fresh air however that isn’t enough to quell the incessant conversation yelled between rooms. Employees at Arya apparently passed the ayurveda training course, albeit the shortest one possible given the amateurish techniques used, while failing at the crash course on courtesy. Let me rephrase that. The employees are experts at schmoozing the customer up front until they agree to services. How is one supposed to relax as your masseuse or masseur carries on a full length conversation in a foreign language as they grind your body through the motions of a full body massage? Instead of wishing the hour would pass slowly I found myself screaming at the clock to move faster. Am I missing the boat on massage in India?
My travel companion didn’t accompany me this time exclaiming she felt a bad vibe upon the initial visit. Next time I’ll listen to her while saving Rs 1200 and an hour of time.