The Eco Cafe, my sanctuary from the dust and grime of the Chennai streets….
yoga school is over and now my India adventure really begins…I will travel, solo, for two weeks, taking trains and buses, going to Madurai, Kodaikanal, Rameswaram, and Tiruvannamallai — all temple cities, except for Kodai….
I am back at the hotel where I stayed last year and I leave Monday night for my first stop, Madurai, the town with the famous temple to Meenakshi (Meenakski means “Fish-Eyed”), Shiva’s consort, otherwise known as Parvati or Uma — Shakti power, without whom Shiva would be half a man….
today I had an authentic ayurvedic oil massage with shiro dhara. shiro dhara is where sesame oil is dripped onto your forehead — it was heaven! In fact, the whole experience was heaven.
I did not go to a spa or a fancy retreat — it was an authentic Indian ayurvedic place (but the owner lives in New Jersey, figure that one out!). Definitely nothing fancy, the real deal. Massage done by a little Indian woman. I won’t go into the details, but imagine being on a table that looked like a doctor’s exam table from the 1950s with a thick plastic “sheet” on top and me n#ked as the day I was born, all greased up with sesame oil like a Thanksgiving turkey. Instead of a fancy brass funnel for shiro dhara like they have in spas, she dripped the oil from a clay pot held up by a rope attached to the ceiling. Might not be a pretty picture but I assure you it was authentic and more than wonderful. forget the fancy Shiva Rea yoga retreats at an ayurvedic spa, I’ll take this anytime!
After the 90 minute oil massage, with acupressure, she did the shiro dhara, then I had a 10 minute steam, then a shower — actually an “Indian shower” which is out of a bucket. I sat on a stool as Vesanthi washed off all the oil and shampooed my hair. I was incredibly nurtured by this little Indian woman who barely spoke English, and I felt like a rubber chicken when I left. A two hour ayurvedic massage for 1000Rs, about $23.00. I gave her 200Rs for a tip, almost $5– nothing to an American, to Vesanthi, it means a lot. She had told me that she works because her husband drinks, he’s not a reliable wage-earner. When I gave her the tip, she kissed her fingers and touched her forehead…then we hugged each other….
I scheduled another massage for the day I leave. She said I had hair “like an Indian”, which I took as a compliment because Indian women have beautiful hair…
I spent the weekend after yoga school in Chennai, just hanging out, shopping, and one of my favorite places to chill is the Eco Cafe, located on an “upscale” street. It’s a place for Westerners and Indian yuppies to hang out. I love the “Indian” places, but I can relax here with my tea and read the international version of the New York Times, away from the cacaphony of the Chennai traffic. It’s green and peaceful, and I can spend hours there. They even have a mean basil pesto that’s not bad…
on to Madurai soon…nine hours on the overnight train…