The heat changes the daily routine and brings in lethargy. Summer in southern India often feels like an endurance test in getting through the day with the least amount of exposure to the sun. Kind of brings back to mind the stories of how the Brits escaped to the hill stations once the seriously hot summer arrived. Anything that requires physical effort best be done before 8 a.m. in the morning.
With the onset of the +35C daily heat, it is much harder to exercise, at least out in the open air. A perfect time to try out a naturopath-prescribed diet to keep the weight in check as even the thought of going to a gym for a workout is tough to muster. Part of my seasonal routine is to drop in early Saturday morning at a local naturopath clinic. To have my blood pressure checked and get weighed to monitor whether cutting out the meat, dairy, and sugar is making a difference.
No need to lament about the diet since no diet is any fun, let’s face it! I just look forward to being treated by Rani, the world’s most amazing masseuse at the clinic. Don’t think there’s really a “genre” or an apt description for what Rani does other than to say that it’s best just to think of myself as a slab of meat – steak perhaps works well as a simile – tenderized and prepared for the BBQ. Rani is a short, stocky, powerful woman – and not just in body but in spirit.
Rani, the shortened version of her name Estrani, means a queen. And when I’m on her massage table, this “queen” treats me like all others lucky to have her royally well. Not only does my dry skin get oiled all over but every muscle, tendon and joint in my body knows I’ve been “ranified” at the end of the treatment. While I’m groaning when she works out the tensions and knots in the muscles caused by too long hours at the computer, Rani breaks into a Tollywood movie song to make me forget the pain. Once she’s finished, she slaps me on the bum and helps me get ready for the 5 min steam room and the heavenly shower to follow.
Not surprising I dare say that I’ve noticed I’m the ONLY white western woman in the clinic on Saturdays. At first I wasn’t so sure how I felt about coming to the plain but fairly clean old building in Jubilee Hills, a suburb of Hyderabad. Now, I just know I’ll get to chat with the Indian women well oiled and wrapped up in their towels, all of us in line to get to the steam room. The expats I suspect would not come to a place that doesn’t look like a 5-star hotel spa with a quiet ambience and muzak piping into the super air-conditioned salon atmosphere. That is what I suspect makes their half-body massage cost 10 times the fee compared with the royal one-hour full body deal in the community clinic.
I reckon many of my compatriots wouldn’t know either what to do or how to feel under the expert hands of a masseuse like Rani. As I’ve discovered having gone to one of these high-end spas, I was only stroked and prodded, whereas on Rani’s table, my body sure as hell knows what’s happening. The queen does not shy away from telling which part feels like it might need more work -“you’re tense in the shoulders, what’s happening” – is just a rhetorical retort from Rani, but strangely so much more comforting than no talk at all.