“Goodbye,” I called as I left the hut where I’d just received my ayurvedic treatment. The attendant had wrapped my short hair, now filled with residual health-filled oil, in a small hand towel. I wore the green floor-length dark green robe all the guests wore and cheap rubber thongs. The problem I faced was making it back to my own hut safely. I had to climb up several winding stone steps – not an easy task at all. I was slip-sliding over the stone walkway. My bare heels were still covered with a thin sheen of oil even after toweling it off.
I thought back to the first day of my treatment. I asked the young woman who gave me my first hot oil massage, “What’s in the oil?”
“Oh, it’s not just one oil. We use a combination of several oils—natural oils, body massage oils, herbal oils, aromatherapy oils. We mix them together. They have many medicinal properties, and, of course, the mixture depends on what a person is being treated for.”
“Hmm,” I’d said, eying a particularly dark, thick oil with a foul smell.
But now, my focus was on the walkway in front of me. I could hardly keep my feet from slipping out of the floppy thongs. I tried to clamp my toes onto the springy rubber. Suddenly, I felt a whoosh! The thong broke and flew off in one direction while my heel slid in the opposite. “Whoops-i-daisy!” My right leg flew forward into an involuntary split, made even more clumsy-looking done in my long robe. I then tripped over the cotton cloth caught between my legs as I tried to right myself. “Get up, Amy, before anyone sees you in this ridiculous state.” I looked around with a guilty expression on my face. “Well, I can’t pass that off as a cheerleader’s move today!” Of course, in seventh grade, I couldn’t do a split to save my life and I was actually a cheerleader back then! Sheesh! That was Little League. And you couldn’t handle most of the jumps…”Well, if I’d only had a little oil, I could’ve gone far,” I muttered with a giggle.
A sudden movement caught my eye. “Who is that handsome Indian man?” I asked out loud.
He looked to be about thirty-something, with thick dark hair parted down the middle. His eyes were covered with dark shades. The brightly-flowered shirt he wore, unbuttoned almost down to his belly button, revealed a muscular chest. Low on his hips, he wore dark blue jeans. The man was walking backwards and crooning into a microphone. I noticed a glint on the hand cradling the mic. Was that a gold ring? This was no normal patient receiving treatment. This man looked important.
I walked closer to get a better look at him. Oh wait! Another fellow was following him with a video recorder. The handsome man would stop and confer with the videographer, then they’d start up again. I tried to figure out what they were doing. Finally, I realized. He’s singing! This is some kind of singer. I wonder if he’s someone famous. A famous Indian singer. or singer/actor. But who? As if you’d ever know! Extremely curious, I stared at the two men. A third man came out from his spot under a nearby palm tree, and powdered the singer’s face. He must be famous! He began to sing again, holding the microphone with a swagger that comes from knowing one has charisma.
“Well, I gotta get back to my cottage.” I felt self-conscious with my oily hair wrapped up in a towel, wearing a green gown that was way too long, and carrying a broken shoe in my hand. “I can’t let him see me.” I made a ghastly face, imagining the horror that I presented. “They’re right in my way.” I groaned. In fact, the man was singing in the area just below the hammock in front of my cottage. How can I get past them without interrupting whatever they’re doing? I will just die if any of them sees me like this!
I contemplated for a few minutes, and finally came up with my plan. There was a second path to my cottage from the Ayurvedic Center, which I recalled ended up directly behind my cottage. I began to quickly walk in that direction. But to my shock, it led not behind my cottage but directly in front of it!
I was stumbling around, looking at the ground and when I looked up, I found myself between the singer and … was that his producer?! Filming stopped and so did I—abruptly! Bam! I would have fallen or pushed him over but I caught myself by grabbing onto his arm!
What could the poor man do?! He burst out laughing—and there I was, pitiful and embarrassed, clutching my baggy green robe to me, my tote bag hanging from the crook in my arm, and clutching onto my broken rubber flip-flop with the other hand. My hair was slick with oil and glued flat to my head. Worse, I reeked of a strange smell—a combination of ayurvedic oil, coconut, special herbs and papaya. I saw the powder-up man come out from under the palm tree again, lift the man’s arm and powder it! That’s when I realized that my oil had gotten on his arm, too. The oil from my hands. Ugh! Lord, let the earth swallow me up right now!
But then–I just couldn’t help it. I grinned. Then I laughed. Or giggled, anyway. I bit my lip trying to stop. The singer looked back at me in amusement and smiled in a friendly way. “Hello, Miss!” The man videotaping him did not smile at me. He threw up his arms. Maybe at the delay. The singing star refrained from shaking my hand, which was a very good thing since my hand was still covered in essence of oil.
A well-dressed woman came out from wherever she’d been perched when the filming stopped. She frowned at me in a look that clearly said, “Who is this woman and what is she doing with my hunk?” She tossed her black wavy hair and said something in … well, it would have had to have been in Hindi, Urdu or Malayalam. I didn’t have a clue which one. Whatever she said, she waved her sunglasses around very theatrically and in my direction.
“So sorry, I—uh—” I started to say, “I got lost” but then that would have sounded like the oldest trick in the book. It must have looked like I couldn’t wait to meet this famous, handsome singer who I’d never even seen before—and that I’d succeeded! I thought this only happened on zany episodes of slapstick comedies like I Love Lucy or LaVerne and Shirley. Here I was imitating them in real life!
The video man barked something and pointing to his watch, which brought the powder man back to gently tapping the powder on the singer once again. Break over. Time to get back to work.
“’Scuse me.” I half-bowed and nodded at the same time. Do you think you are in Japan or something? Well, how are you supposed to show penitence in India anyway? I scuttled up my stone steps, and fumbled in my tote bag for my key. Finally, I found the key, located the keyhole and swung the door open. Once inside, I tripped in the dark interior knocking over a large lamp on the desk. I didn’t dare open my shudders to peek out on the singer and his entourage. I could only hope the crash sounded much louder inside my cottage than outdoors in front of it.
“Let’s get this oil off now!” I headed for the shower. As I pulled the curtain, a huge moth flew into my face, which brought out an even huge-er shriek. I grabbed hold of the curtain, but with my body slick with oil, my hand slipped and I fell. Hard. I hit my leg on the low ledge built to keep the water in the shower. I clutched onto my robe to pull myself up. Rrrrrrippp! The hem on the green robe tore–at least five inches of it!
A moment later, I stood on my tiptoes and turned on the water. First, cold water squirted me in the face … read, EYES. But then, I adjusted it. Finally, the warm water sluiced off of me. I made a dive for a scratchy washcloth and scrubbed myself down. A thought struck me (I mean, my mind!) … Was this ayurvedic treatment actually curing my vision loss or were the oil mishaps leaving me bruised, naked and blinded first?
Clean and freshly-dressed, I made my way to the outdoor café for a healthy dish of jasmine rice and tree leaf soup (my name for the neem leaves swirling gently in hot broth). I called out to Lenry, our dignified guest relations coordinator, and described the singer I saw. “Yes, I know that man. He is a famous singer in Kerala. We get many stars here to film our beautiful scenery,” he added loftily.
I smiled. Wisely, I kept the story to myself. I don’t know which Indian singer he was but my brush with Indian fame was literal; I brushed the oil onto his arm, didn’t I? I felt kind of famous myself. Or infamous. For just a moment, I liked this slippery oil!