…And my heart sang.
Have you ever felt this way?
Just too “full?”
Of deadlines. Of ideas. Of messages and mails. Of Facebook. And crude forwards on Whatsapp(!). Of others. And moreover, your “self”. I think that is how I was feeling a month ago. Nothing to complain about – I love my life with all its beauty and challenges, but just felt this innate need to be in a place where I could empty myself… of myself. From the same old thoughts, feelings, and patterns. I needed a break, and a breakthrough – from life as it was.
And that’s when Kairali happened. Five days. Ten massages. Ten sessions of yoga and meditation. And fifteen odd organic, home-grown meals sounded exactly like what you just thought. “Mmm, heavenly!” I saw the website of Kairali as an existential answer, packed my bags, and left on a rainy Monday morning in Mumbai for Kochi which was about a two hour flight. I reached Kairali, the healing village, Pallakad District (from Kochi Airport) in less than two hours. The drive – complete with mountains, palm trees and a light mist, had already begun to ease my gadget-obsessed mind and wearied soul.
It was about three in the afternoon and I was greeted by a smiling receptionist, who put a small teeka (red spot using an Indian version of turmeric, common in Indian families as a marking of warmth and respect) on my forehead and draped a light Kerala shawl around me. The large homely reception area had a light fragrance of Frankincense – and I felt waves of relaxation take over me. A cool coconut water, along with a fruit plate consisting of fresh kiwis ensured my Monday morning blues quickly morphed into Monday morning greens. I sighed to myself. Five more days to bite into this slice of heaven…
I was shown to my room which was a visual delight. Pink and red, with a princess bed and a bath tub. If you are a pet lover and have a pup or cat – you know that look that they give when you rub their belly? One of pure contentment? A “purrrr” look? Well, that comes close to what I was feeling.
I received a call from the reception that told me I was to meet the Ayurvedic doctor in an hours’ time, and she would help decide my massage routines. I wanted to take a short nap, but somehow just ended up walking around Kairali – which was a beautiful mix of all the five elements. There was a rich smell of mud, little brooks and streams all over, sunshine filtering through the tall palm trees and air that seemed to have been freshly manufactured by God Himself.
The doctor I met was a wholesome, happy lady who seemed to be a walking and talking Ayurveda avatar to me. Whenever I go to a doctor – more than what they speak, I like to notice how they themselves abide by what they speak and their appearance sure gives a glimpse. Shining face, bright eyes, thick black hair – I was convinced, I was in the right hands. She gave me a massage chart which was a fine mix of abhyangam (a Sanskrit word which means application of oil), shirodhara (a form of Ayurveda treatment which consists of lightly pouring oil on forehead) and some more names which I could not pronounce, let alone reproduce here. They all sounded absolutely divine though.
What I loved about the massages at Kairali was – there wasn’t just one masseuse lady, but two who would consider it as their personal dharma to pamper you. If you are a regular massage goer you know just how relaxing it is to have someone pamper you right? Well, multiply the experience by two – and that is what I experienced. Each massage was a delightful blend of two loving “Chechis” (word for elder sister in Kerala used affectionately) who would oil my hair, do the massage and then pack me off with herbal powders into the steam box.
After my first massage, I remember walking back to my room at twilight feeling like my body was not my own. The tiny aches and pains, near the right side of my neck and shoulder blade, age old friends of mine, seemed to have finally abandoned me leaving me with a feeling of a newness that I hadn’t experienced for a while.
6.30 – 7.30 pm was the evening meditation time and as I headed there for my first session I was welcomed by a tall, slender astute looking yoga teacher who later told me he had learnt all he knew from Sivananda Asharam in Rishikesh. He also conducted the yoga sessions each morning for us. The yoga and meditation room was a circular, stone and mud structure which to me looked much like a womb. The sound of flute filled the room. It was the first time I saw all the guests. There were about twenty of us. The entire one hour I felt like I was alone, and yet so “together” – an inexplicably secure feeling.
Over the next five days, I got to know Dr Declan Curtis, a psychologist from Ireland, Christine Strobel, the animated animator from Germany who was living in Hyderabad, and Vivek and Roopa Kudwa the brilliant financers from IIM A who stayed in Mumbai itself, not very far from my home. The first few dinners, we all just looked at each other. Smiling shyly. Assessing if the other wishes to talk or prefers solitude But towards the third day, we had formed a small pack and ate our meals together and conversed about everything: from our interpretations of the Tiger in Life of Pi, to our passions and dreams. To say that I absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed the company, as much as I enjoyed my aloneness, would still be an understatement.
My last afternoon at Kairali Dr Declan and I were discussing some of our favourite books, and he looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Hey Megha (He pronounced it as Meega), when was the last time you had a conversation that made your heart sing?”
I smiled. I didn’t have to wonder too long, or think too hard.
Kairali. Five days of conversing – with nature by the poolside, with delightful kerala cuisine and the smiling servers, with raindrops that fell on my eyelashes and the sunshine that fought its way through ginormous palm trees, with the masseurs sharing their lives and kids photographs with me, with the three legged dog who followed us on our village walk around Palakkad, with the knowledgeable yoga teacher and the few friends I made there… and yes, above all, the conversations I had with myself.
Oh, my heart was singing. Ho ho, my heart was really singing.
The Buddha once said, “Sometimes you don’t end up finding that which you are looking for… sometimes you end up finding a lot more.”
How did He know?