So in December 2009, I joined a naturopathy center in a famous temple town in Karnataka. I was assured by people who had been there before that I’d have a great time and come out a new person. I’d somehow miraculously be rid of my arthritis, my skin would glow, and I’d even lose weight! It seemed too good to be true.
And since this was immediately after my San Francisco ordeal (and knowing I’d survived it) I was in the happiest frame of mind. I went.
The place was beautiful. Plants, trees, a little stream and birds going crazy over morning, it was all too beautiful at 5.00 am and I was really enthusiastic. I was just talking to the receptionist about my booking when this huge, fat, frisky gecko landed from the wall and onto the receptionist’s table. As anyone who knows me can imagine, I lost my faculty for speech for around three minutes. And while the receptionist explained things, the gecko stared at us. The receptionist asked me to stay in the general ward, and since I wasn’t able to think I nodded.
He took me to the general ward. I saw lizards of all sizes and ages happily crawling along the walls and resting on window sills. I was sick to my stomach. I asked them where the loo was and headed there to puke my fear away. In the bathroom/toilet, there were three geckos staring at me.
I was a perfect ass, I admit now. That would’ve been my cue to get the fuck out of that place. But I was San Francisco returned and I thought if I survived that trip with fingers the size of really thick sausages, I could survive anything. I saw this as an opportunity to overcome my fear of this particular breed of creepies. So I stayed.
I had an appointment with the doctor who put me on a fruit diet (this after explaining losing weight was not my priority) and some assorted juices to be consumed through the day. She also asked me to meet the physiotherapist later in the day.
Then I was asked to go to the sauna. It was dark and dingy. I did not open my eyes fearing that one or more geckos might possibly be sharing the sauna with me.
Sauna was followed by a cold water bed. I had to get semi-naked with some twenty other semi-naked ladies and pretend that I was relaxed. I’m not usually shy about my body. But there was something downright dirty in the way the women were checking each other out.
The entire ordeal had given me a blazing headache. I returned to the general ward and pretended to fall asleep. And that’s when I overheard neighbouring bed Aunties’ conversation in Kannada – That girl, the one with the yellow towel, she’s getting married next month. That’s why she is here. Have you seen her breasts? Sagging already. I told her to get a massage done here. That shapes it up, you know.
Yes, now see my daughter, she is the one in the pink and white towel, she doesn’t have breasts. She feels very upset. But I told her it’s okay. May be I’ll ask them to give her a breast massage to make it grow. Look at my breasts, still in shape. This after three children.
Very nice your breasts are. You know that red towel girl, did you see her stomach? She’s having sex with her boyfriend it seems. That’s why her ass is so big. I don’t like this sort of thing, you know.
Yes, all this will just end up with them all coming on TV on that show.
Oh that show? My own brother-in-law was on it. He has two wives. One has very large breasts.
I just got the hell out of that place.
By then it was time for lunch. I happily went expecting to eat a bowl of nice fruits. Imagine my shock when they served me a huge plate full of a mix of raw vegetables and fruits. Cucumber, tomato, raddish, carrot, cabbage, peanuts (yes, raw peanuts) and knol-kol (yuck) were shredded/cut and mixed with apple, pineapple, and dirtily mashed up over-ripe papaya cubes. Even the plate was dirty. And we couldn’t use salt or pepper. We had to down our delicious meal with lime juice stored in a dirty beaker.
The attenders served our food without wearing gloves and often just using their hands. I found a small, very curly strand of hair in my plate and prayed mightily that it wasn’t from someone’s pubic area. And while I was wondering how not to gag, the people I was lunching with said how good the food was and how clean the place was, and how hopeful they were of returning home looking beautiful and svelte.
I thought of the pills I had to take, and with great difficulty, I swallowed the meal.
Next was the physiotherapy session. I met a young doctor in the the physiotherapy room. He asked to see my reports. I showed him. He declared that I do not have rheumatoid arthritis. I just kept quiet. I thought in that lizzie land this was probably some sort of positivity treatment. He asked to see my pills. I showed them.
He looked at my favourite blue pill that my gynec has prescribed for me to take during those days when I die. He turned it around this way and that. Then he looked me in the eye and said – Why do you take this?
I replied that my gynec had prescribed it for me because I have severe pain during my periods and no other medication works.
He turned the strip of blue this way and that again. Then – This is given to cows. It’s that strong. Stop taking this immediately. Learn to live with pain. That’s your problem you cannot tolerate even a little pain, that’s why you are saying you have arthritis and then you are taking these blue pills and all.
I had had enough by then. I just asked him – Have you ever had a period?
His eyes bulged out of their sockets.
His female assistant giggled.
I smiled at him and said – Sweetie, unless you have had at least a really painful period in your life, don’t talk to me about pain, no?
He stopped talking to me and asked the attendants to give me the wax therapy for my hands.
Then they asked us to walk on the grounds. Everyone paired up with someone and walked the grounds. It would have been pleasant exercise if it weren’t for the way people were checking each other out. I wanted out by then. But there was no where to go. By then, I had developed a fever and a migraine. I was in a mad lizard jungle and I still thought I must overcome my fear. So I stayed the night.
Dinner was the same mash of raw vegetables and fruits.
Night was a nightmare. The lizards and geckos that stayed silent and at a distance in the day went berserk at night. They crawled all over the place, jumped onto beds and window sills and even suitcases.
A big fat gecko crawled on the ceiling right above me. An Aunty had boasted previously that she can never sleep without the fan on. Yes, boasted. In places like that, statements such as I cannot sleep without AC/fan is a boast. Since the ceiling fan and the gecko were right above my bed, I decided Aunty must have her comfort. I went and woke her up. I told her I was feeling feverish and the ceiling fan above me was making it worse.
Obviously, telling her I was trading beds because of a gecko would’ve probably earned me a tight slap. I tried to fall asleep. But the migraine was killing me. I went and puked the horrible dinner and all my pills. I hadn’t felt so sick in my life. Not even in San Francisco. I spent the entire night running away from the lizards and the geckos and puking intermittently in the bathroom.
Next morning I learnt I was to have no breakfast. I was asked to drink water. So I could lose weight. I went and saw the doctor again. I told her how my priority was not to lose weight. I told her that I was very sick and that I had to take all my pills and that I had puked everything I’d eaten (which was that dirty salad on a filthy plate). She said drink some lime juice and take your pills. That was it. I decided that if I stayed there any longer, I would indeed be changed – I would be dead. And fuck it, I decided, I was entitled to a bloody phobia.
But they wouldn’t discharge me. They wouldn’t let me get out of the place. It felt like I was living my own Hotel California. Throughout this I’d been polite and well-behaved (except for being a smart-ass in that physiotherapy room). But when she repeatedly told me I couldn’t be discharged and I had to be treated for the next fifteen days, I gave her my Queen-to-prisoner-about-to-be-guillotined routine. And uttered what will always be known as my best line of last year. I declared – I refuse your treatment. Now let me bloody go home. Or you will all be bloody sorry.
At that, they finally let me go. Sitting in the bus on my way back home, I messaged my friends and summed up naturotherapy – Nature cure, my ass!