The doctor tells me to go vegetarian for the course of the treatment and this proves to be no hardship as the vegetable dishes in India are absolutely luscious. In particular, the Kerala people cook everything in coconut oil and throw in a huge blob of coconut to boot. Vegetables cooked in a delicious cashew paste are also irresistible. I am wondering about the calorific value of all these dishes. Servings are huge so I compromise by eating half (or mostly three-quarters!). Two 마사지 dishes that I find totally yummy are Thoran and Avial. However, Dr. Jayahari has already said not to have any coconut oil as I had an oily condition. This presents a problem. The hotel does not serve an Ayurvedic menu. I notice an advertisement for a restaurant nearby that claims to be the only restaurant at Kovalam Beach that serves Ayurvedic food, though I never visit it. This might be a problem – surely a hotel which has an Ayurvedic clinic attached to it should offer the appropriate food? So I can hardly feel guilty if I eat the coconutty dishes on offer. I am supposed to drink banana stem juice after each treatment. I never did find out what that was like as they never had any available. Apparently cucumber juice is a good substitute.
When you are brought up on sliced bread, it is easy to go crazy about the Indian breads. They are the best. Garlic naan, roti, fluffy parotta, stuffed breads, etc, the variety is endless. The breads are crunchy, fluffy, garlicky and spicy and absolutely luscious.
One of the best aspects of Kerala for a recovering sugar addict like myself, is that there is absolutely nowhere to get a pastry sugar fix. Overall I saw only one cake shop in the whole state. Generally, most meals end in fruit. Some of their favourite desserts are dishes made of vermicelli or red rice (Payasam) or carrot (Carrot Kheer). I think that pineapple is not a bad way to end a meal here.
I quickly become addicted to their wonderful spicy teas. Cardamon tea and masala tea are wonderful if you love spices. Masala tea is thick with spices including a liberal sprinkling of black pepper.
While I relish foreign food, my mother has a big problem. She is allergic to chilli so she suffers terribly. Even after intensive questioning and the waiters denial that there is any chilli in a dish, she would take a mouthful and have to spit it out. India is not the country for people with chilli allergies!
The next day I am given my treatment program for the next fourteen days plus an assortment of herbal pills and herbal liquid to be taken on either side of each meal.
The program comprises the foot massage, hand massage, Shirodhara, steam baths, oil and steam baths, massages with herbal powders, enemas, herbal purges, medicated ghee treatments and ear, nose and eye cleansing.
After four days of treatment my blood pressure has dropped to its best level in ten years – 120/80 and I am feeling very good. I am feeling supple, and can easily run my hands along the floor with unbent legs.
The doctor weighs me and I have only lost one third of a kilo! Not to worry, I must not go out on Sunday because that will be the big day when I have a purgative herbal medicine. I must not have breakfast and must stay in with heaps of toilet paper.
Day four introduces an interesting treatment. As per usual, I have an all over body (foot) massage, a head massage and a manual massage. Then a portable cooker and wok is brought bedside. The wok is heated and the masseuse places a tied up bulging bag in the wok until steam rises from it. Before I can argue, she pounds my back vigorously with the hot bag. As she bashes away she tells me that the contents are green leaves which ‘are good for losing weight’. She reheats the bag and sometimes it is a little too hot but what to do? It is after all, for my own good!
Afterwards, I decide to go down to Kovalam Beach and see what is happening down there. I have hitherto avoided it as I have to walk down about five flights of very steep stairs and then negotiate a narrow path that winds through the back of all the holiday resorts. Kovalam Beach is the most famous beach in Kerala, having been discovered by hippies years ago, but now it attracts travellers from all over the world. The water looks very inviting – but not so the unattractive black sand. I have been told that many overseas beaches have dark sand and here is a case in point. The surf looks very inviting but I notice no one sitting on the sand. The beach is littered with beach beds and umbrellas which are obviously for hire. Yes, a fellow sidles up to me and offers me use of a bed for 150 rupees. This would be open to negotiation but I just nod. Not today.
Immediately I am accosted by a host of beach vendors. Bongos are banged in my face – would I like to buy drums? No? But for my children? For a friend? No? But these are the best drums in India! Bang! Bang!
How about a pineapple? How much? 100 rupees.
“One hundred rupees!” I shriek. “That would be $2.50 in Australia and I just can’t believe that they would cost that much here!”
“But they are very sweet, very juicy, Indian pineapples!”