Living in Rome
For my birthday this week, I thought I would treat myself with an Ayurveda massage. I didn’t want to go to a regular gym where they tend to offer this type of holistic massage at an inflated price, so I started searching online for an alternative here in Rome. It didn’t take me long to come across an ayurvedic centre offering all sorts of treatment by a certified practitioner from the Kerala region in India. In addition, the indicated price was very reasonable, so pleased with my little discovery, I booked a massage.
I turned up at the centre at 1pm as arranged on the said birthday. It was located inside an apartment on the second floor of a late 19th century building in the Prati area in central Rome. Everything inside was as expected: colourful walls of the Chakra colours (bright red, yellow, orange, green, etc…), incense burning, and pictures of Indian deities and symbols all over the walls. A young Italian woman opened the door and asked me to wait in the reception area. Next door, I could hear someone having an intense argument over the phone, half shouting in Italian. About 15 minutes later, as I was still sitting on the sofa waiting, a lady came out of the room to greet me. She introduced herself as the Ayurveda doctor, brought me into her room and started showing me all her certifications pinned on the wall. She was Indian but was wearing a tight Western dress of a pale orange colour and had dyed blond hair. An unusual sight for an ayurvedic centre. She said that she needed to examine me before, although I insisted I came for trying out a massage and not a full consultation. After complaining for about 10 minutes about the incompetence of her staff (and not consulting me at all), she took me to her shrine to pay respect to Shiva, her protecting god, she explained. There, she talked uninterruptedly for another 15 minutes looking at me straight in the eyes and using menacing words such as: ”you don’t know how long you have left on this earth, so what are you doing with your life?….Shiva knows, Shiva speaks through me…I need to go back to India and see my master, he is 93 years old, I was his best pupil, he cares for me, I need him….”
I hadn’t asked anything and all that erratic information was thrown at me. After nearly an hour of being there, I still wasn’t getting my massage. So I tried to turn the situation around by telling her that maybe she was the one in dire need of a massage. She agreed with me, and said that I would have a short treatment first (just for my shoulders), and she would follow. So I went into the massage room, where one of her staff, an Indian man she brought in from Kerala (she said) finally gave me my massage. As soon as it was finished (about 45 mns later), she stormed into the room in tears, telling me that they were there and asking for my protection since I was from the embassy of India. “Who is there?” I asked puzzled. “My husband and my daughter, they are here to take me”, she replied. She had mentioned her Italian husband and their 25 year-old daughter, but hadn’t said more about them, except for the fact that he was catholic and her daughter agnostic, so they didn’t share the same religious beliefs. Two minutes later, as I was still half-naked on the massage bed with only a towel to cover myself, her daughter came into the room to apologize for her mother. She explained to me that she was in the middle of a bi-polar crisis; they were trying to take her to a psychiatrist to treat her but she was resisting. “We want to avoid internment by force, but she doesn’t want to come to the doctor,” she explained. We talked a bit about the situation and eventually, I was able to put my clothes back on and leave the massage room. When I came out, the lady hung on to me asking me for protection again. “It’s ok, I said, Shiva sent them, you can go,” I said to her. On these words, she abandoned all resistance and started walking out. “Ok, if it’s Shiva, I go now. Are the guards from the embassy downstairs to protect me?” she asked. “Yes, they are, we can all go together,” I replied. I started moving towards the entrance door, when the bell rang. She opened and an Indian couple was standing there. It happened to be her sister and brother-in-law, who were coming to help as well. At this moment, I left the place not knowing whether I should still be there or not.
Once in the street, I felt bad for escaping when maybe the whole family needed more help from an outsider. I called the centre again to speak to her daughter, who explained the whole background to me and how it came to that point. I eventually left the place more nervous and drained than before …I wanted a special day for my birthday, I got one!