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I have come on a pilgrimage to India to find out if it is possible to cure all my ailments (excess kilos/fluctuating but usually high blood pressure/high cholesterol and probably more) in two weeks.

I heard about Ayurvedic medicine and the great results that some people have experienced, so here I am at Sagara Resort at Kovalam Beach in Kerala, waiting for my consultation with the doctor.

The complex is intriguing in that it is a work in progress. Apparently it all started with a couple of rooms and then the owner built a few more and so on until here it is today, almost finished! In fact, a huge swimming pool has just been completed and only the tiling remains which is expected to be completed during our stay. The workers (well, the workers actually, as I don’t think there is a single female construction worker in all of India) are everywhere and apparently they are working twenty-four hour shifts. They run around with rolled towels on their heads, into which they place baskets of gravel to dump into the driveway that is under construction. Labor is cheap and machinery expensive, so it follows that this is the cheapest construction method. But surely not easy under the midday sun!

We often see the owner of the resort, a lovely, funny and cuddly man who lives nearby and who the staff tell me is humble enough to do whatever job needs to be done. If a maid is ill, she cheerfully enters and prepares the room by herself for the newcomers. Similarly, he is only too happy to act as a waiter or kitchen staff member in the hotel restaurant. He is an impressive man who surely deserves the great success of him.

They have given us a beautiful suite with a large bedroom, bathroom with bathtub, living room and balcony. Also included is a tv with cable connection which is as good as my understanding of malayalum (the local language) is nil. We have a fabulous view of Kovalam beach and the lighthouse that stands proudly above it.

Day two and I have my first appointment with the Ayurvedic doctor (Dr. Jayahari). He is young and very kind, and absolutely passionate about Ayurveda. He spends a considerable amount of time drawing diagrams on a piece of paper while he explains the history of Ayurvedic medicine to us.

He wins my heart immediately: he asks me about long-expired bodily processes. I ask him how old he thinks I am and he tells me twenty years younger than I really am. How good is that? If only my friends (and enemies) had been there to hear it! Damn!

He asks me about my dreams and the climate I prefer. This is to get my body type. It can be one of the three types or a combination of the three. Called doshas, ‚Äč‚Äčthese types are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. I am vata/kapha dosha. Since Kapha is fat, I have too much Kapha, to put it bluntly.

He weighs me and takes my blood pressure – it’s 130 above something and then he takes my pulse (at the wrist). He tells me that my excess cholesterol is due to excess fat on my body and that his first plan of attack will be a foot massage. This will be the first step to losing a lot of weight!

He tells me that the next day he will have a fourteen day treatment plan for me.

Hmm, a foot massage… how nice! This might not be so bad at all. I am totally intrigued by a weight-loss foot massage.

I return at 2 pm for my foot massage. I have a problem with massages as some masseurs have such a hard touch that I can almost fly through the roof with all their pressure and kneading. But a food massage should be quite bearable and I love how my feet feel afterward.

At the agreed time they take me to the treatment room. My first thought is that I am experiencing a live episode of “Wire in the Blood.” A rope hangs from the ceiling of the tiled room. I have visions of being hung up on, but I blink and look around. There is also a massage table with a brass pot on a stand.

The masseuse arrives and asks me to take off all my clothes. All? If all. Oh!

Now why do I have to be naked to get a foot massage? I only knew that there were deviant activities in this room. The rope was a dead giveaway.

Oh well, I have to let the world know about this and the more wicked the experience gets, the more I think everyone will love hearing about it, so I obediently undress, sit on a small stool and cross my legs.

Treatment begins with a head massage. She sprays oil on my head, shoulders, and knees and bangs for five minutes. I am totally lulled into a false state of security.

He then asks me to lie down on a gym mat that is placed under the rope. I lie on my stomach and she begins to massage (quite vigorously) my back and her arms. But what happened to my foot massage?

I look around and there she is, hanging from the rope with one hand and balancing against the wall with the other as she deftly massages my body with one foot. And what a powerful foot she has! I have to ask you to tone it down. She massages me from top to bottom, from back to front. I am totally smeared in thick yellow oil. So THAT is a foot massage!

Now he asks me to lie on the massage table. It’s not easy to negotiate the room when I’m oily, but somehow I manage. It’s also hard to climb into bed without being shot off the edge like a greased rocket. He then proceeds to give me another lengthy massage, this time by hand.

She cheerfully tells me that if I do this treatment every day my fat will melt away.

So this is how to change fat without lifting a finger! Oops, I mean without lifting a finger! I have often wondered if it is possible to lose weight with a massage. Apparently, it would have to be a very long and vigorous massage, every day of the week! But who can normally afford such a luxury?

Anyway, the treatment is not over yet. He drags the brass pot onto the stand and fills it with warm medicated oil. My head is placed under the pot and the oil slowly drips through a hole in the bottom of the pot. This is Shirodhara, a treatment known to open the third eye. He moves the pot around and the oil drips in a stream onto my forehead for twenty minutes. What a joy!

The entire exercise lasts two hours and, as you can imagine, I am completely drenched in oil.

In the meantime, I’ve been pondering a rather troubling problem that I see cropping up. Namely, that greasy as I am right now, I’ll have to put on my beautiful red caftan when I get back to my room. But he puts my caftan in a bag and hands me a green hospital gown. She tells me to wear it back and forth during the course of my treatments. Thank God for that.

The masseuse tells me to wait an hour before taking a shower and since my hair is dripping with thick oil, I have to wash my hair as well. This will become a daily ritual. I personally find daily hair washing a bit boring, so I am doubly upset to find that there is no complimentary shampoo or conditioner available in the bathroom. Fortunately, for once in our lives, we have brought with us a few hotel bottles that we have saved from previous holidays, but we find that there is no hotel (in our price range) in all of Kerala that supplies hair products. Biju (our driver) then tells us that this is because Kerala people only use coconut oil on their hair. (But would this also clean his hair, I wonder?)

I wondered if my mother would receive the same treatment as me. However, she did not receive the foot massage. Maybe this is reserved for the chubby ones. The doctor then tells us that due to my mother’s advanced age (80) he thought it was too tiring for her.

This is the first part of a three part article.

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