Kerala, a narrow, fertile strip on the southwest coast of India, is sandwiched between the Lakshwadeep Sea and the impressive Western Ghats, whose dense forest and extensive ridges have sheltered Kerala from many mainland invaders. At the same time, the state’s long coastline has encouraged maritime contact with the outside world. Such contact has resulted in an intriguing blend of cultures.
With foreign influences as disparate as the Chinese, Portuguese, Arab and Dutch, Kerala’s multitude of faiths – Islam, Judaism, and a host of sects of Christianity and Hinduism – all coexist harmoniously in a state, which is popularly referred to as the Spice Coast of India.
Edged by a thread of unbroken beachline, amongst which the best beach is easily Kovalam. It consists of a number of small, palm-fringed bays separated by rocky headlands, white sand, good surf, plenty of accommodation options, and some of the choicest of seafood restaurants, many of which stand right at the edge of the beach.
However, Kovalam is one place that is very special for me and I have an emotional connection with this beach. It was here, in the summer of 2015 that I meet an Ayurvedic Massage expert – George Kutty, who changed my life, rather gave me a new lease of life.
A road accident on the Kalyani Expressway almost crippled me and my left leg, which bore the brunt of the collision somehow escaped being amputated. Doctors had given up hope and some of Kolkata’s best Orthopedic surgeons advised me to embrace the crutch while walking; the very idea of using a crutch was revolting and after 3 months of being bedridden, I needed an escape route.
The scorching summer heat was on and the recipe to escape the blazing heat was to head for the mountains – Darjeeling, Sikkim nearer home, or perhaps Shimla, Kulu Manali up north. However, given the precarious condition of my leg, visiting hill resorts was out of the question. So, the next best thing was to head to a beach and I choose Kovalam and what a wonderful time I had there!! That trip to Kovalam not only healed my leg, but it also healed my soul as well.
Most of the time I used to laze on the beach and read books. I had booked a moderate room that offered a breathtaking view of the sea and was located right on the edge of the beach over a rocky promontory.
On Day 3 at the Kovalam beach, an unpretentious man wearing the traditional Kerala “Lungi” above knee level approached me for a massage. Unimpressed by his approach, I just ignored him and he approached the next guy, a foreigner, who was lazing beside me. Once the rate was settled – Rs.500/- for an hour’s body massage, he was upon his knees and very excited, satisfied with the day’s first catch.
I observed very attentively the manner in which he was massaging his client. He seemed to be an expert in Ayurvedic massage and some of the oils he was using were specially prepared. The manner he was massaging, tossing his client, sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left and with his deft hands, he would apply the oil to lubricate the body. And after an hour’s invigorating session, I knew that the foreign beach bum was satisfied to the core, with happiness writ large on his face.
That night, I retired to bed early as a light thundershower spoilt my intention of spending some quality time on the beach. Early next morning, after a quick shower, I had breakfast at the beach shack and made up my mind that I would requisition the service of George Kutty – the massage expert if he happened to venture in my vicinity. Something inside me kept telling me to give the massage a try.
Around noontime, I saw George Kutty ambling leisurely toward the beach shack, probably to fill his belly. I called him and befriended him. In course of my animated conversation with him, I got to know that he had done his Master’s in Economics, but due to paucity of jobs, he was forced to take up the job of massaging.
George had learned the intricate art of traditional Kerala massage therapy from his uncle, who was an octogenarian. As I listened with rapt attention, George revealed that he uses the best oil available in Kerala and that most of them are herbally extracted after a meticulous churning process.
Once I got to know him up close, I lamented the wobbly condition of my left leg. The doctor in him then took over and after carefully observing the vital movements of my affected left leg, he was cocksure he could heal my leg and restore it. But, there was one condition – I had to be under his treatment for 45 days.
I thought for myself, forty-five days is a pretty long time to spend in Kovalam. But I had no options. I needed to give this a try, once and for all. I called up Mom and Dad with my intention of spending 1.5 months in Kovalam and undergoing massage therapy. Fortunately, they both agreed and I commenced my therapy under the watchful eyes of George Kutty, here in the serene and salubrious environs of Kerala.
By the 10th day itself, I knew I would be back on my toes and the therapy was going on very smoothly. I could climb heights, which I previously couldn’t and I was gradually able to walk for long stretches without resting my leg or without taking the help of a crutch or any other supporting devices.
I spent another ten days in Kovalam and after receiving routine therapy from the expert hands of George Kutty, he was sure I was back to normal and decided not to linger on. He prescribed a set of holistic exercises, some traditional oil/lotions to be applied on the leg and that was it.
Today, one year later, I am so bloody fit that I can very well go and compete in the London Marathon. I am in that good shape. Thanks to Kerala’s Ayurvedic Massage therapy, I can fully appreciate why the stressed-out Western tourists come to Kerala in search of rejuvenation.
Today, even after one full year had elapsed since I embraced that therapeutic massage at a nondescript Kovalam beach shack, I still keep in touch with George Kutty through telephone, E-mail, and online chatting reminiscing about that memorable time we spent at Kovalam.
Kovalam is mystifying and so be it!
Traveler’s Fact File
Kerala is a small state that is ideally located in the southwestern part of India. This south Indian state is renowned for its nature-based tourism products and is blessed with nature’s bounties. To the west is the Arabian Sea, and to the east is the impressive Western Ghats mountain range, which in a way separates the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu from Kerala.
Kerala is easily accessible by air. There are three international airports – Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, Cochin International Airport, and the Karipur or Calicut International Airport.
The state is easily accessible by both railway and road transport networks.
Useful Travel Information
Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala – www.keralatourism.org
India Tourism Development Corporation – www.theashokgroup.com/
Ministry of Tourism, Government of India – www.tourism.gov.in, http://www.incredibleindia.org/en/