In October I spent three weeks in the southwestern region of India, I visited the states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. I went to India for a multitude of reasons, which will become apparent in this blog. I signed up for a five day yoga synthesis followed by a ten day yatra, I arrived a day before the trip and stayed an extra day. There was thirty of us on this adventure from all around the world, China, Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, and of course the United States. Although, I did not know anyone on this trip and traveled to India alone.
I went with the expectation to gain more knowledge on yoga, Ayurveda, and to experience the beautiful temples for the Hindu deities. I wanted to go with as little expectations as possible. I didn’t want to build up my expectations to high and be disappointed, I did my research on customs, culture, but did not research the places I was going because I wanted to be surprised and take in the full experience as organically as possible. Some may say this was foolish of me; but no matter how much or how little a person prepares for such a journey there is no saying how one is going to react to the culture shock.
For the first six days of my trip I stayed in an Ashram in Kasaragod. The first night I thought, “What the hell did I sign up for?” I was already overwhelmed by the smells, sights, and jet lag. For the first few days I felt as if I was swaying or floating, as if in a dream. It is that feeling you get once you spend time on a ship and then come back to land, the ground was moving and swaying.
Besides the waves in my motion I was overwhelmed by how people drive in India, there is no words to describe the craziness and organized chaos of the traffic. People driving down the middle of the road ignoring the lanes, communicating with other drives by the honking of their horn and flashing of the lights. After a week I got used to it and began to understand the communication system, but after a 42-hour flight, I was to exhausted and drained to deal with such bizarre driving.
As each day passed, I became more comfortable, my body was slowing adapting after the jet lag, my stomach was adjusting to the delicious food, and I was quickly making new friends. Life in the ashram was pure bliss, I was diving deep into my studies on yoga, Ayurveda, meditation, and chanting. Each day was an adventure that started at 5:40am and ended about 9:30pm. During our stay we did have a few hours of free time each day to do what we wanted. Luckily there was some interesting attractions near us, there was a temple about 30 minutes away (by walking) and a town about 20 minutes (by driving) near the ashram.
The most exciting place was the Ayurvedic Center next door to the ashram. At the treatment center they offer all sorts of services for the body; from Abhyanga (full body oil massage), steam baths, and Sirodhara (oil drip on the head). They also sold skin and hair tonics, oils, and treatments that help with all sorts of conditions. I purchased some hair products to help with hair growth called Neelibhrungadi Kera Thailam, unfortunately when flying back to the States it got damaged and is unusable now (no product reviews for this gem). I did take advantage of the center by getting an Abhyanga treatment which was heavenly! It’s a full body massage where you lay naked on a wooden bed, the service provider drenches and I mean drenches! your body in medicated oil and rubs down your entire body for an hour. After the massage they take you to a steam room where you sit for 15 minutes letting the steam and oil seep into the body and all that medication goes deep into the body. After the steam they take you to a shower and assist in bathing you and get all the oils off your body. Which having someone bath me was as wonderful as the massage!
The benefits of Abhyanga are fruitful, it’s great for relaxation and rejuvenation, helps promote healthy skin, eliminates body aches and pains, assists in healthy hair and hair growth (they use an oil that is medicated for the scalp and they massage your head for a fair amount if time). A great service I would recommend if you can find it in the States.
After our time in the ashram with amazing food, lots of education, hours of yoga practice, meditation, pujas, kirtan, and great Ayurvedic services we began our yatra.
A Yatra is a pilgrimage, this pilgrimage consisted of going to different Hindu temples to see and be seen by the Deva's and Devi’s (God’s and Goddess’s). We traveled up and down the western coast of India to visit these temples. Traditionally a yatra is done by foot, now since we only had ten days to complete this trip and had three states to visit, we traveled by train and bus.
The yatra itself was very powerful and very personal, so for the sake of respect for my pilgrimage and beliefs I will not be going into full detail of this portion of my trip. Also, this is a blog about the geography of hair, so I will keep it to that.
Day two out of the ashram we stayed in a town called Udupi, here I received a straight razor shave from New Diana Hair Dressers. I heard so much about how they shave in India and give a face massage and scalp massage, now because of time (and language barrier) I only received a shave. The shave took about 15 minutes and was what you would expect. They cleaned my face, lathered it with cream, shaved away, and put on an after shave. It was a quick service, but this was the best shave I have ever had! The barber was incredibly meticulous and gave me the closest shave that lasted days, the best part was it cost me 70 rupees, tip included, which is about $1.00.
Salons and barber shops are similar to what you would see in America, the main difference is that they specify on their doors or hang signs stating if they service men, women, or both. Which would make sense because they have a Muslim population in India. Muslim women are not allowed to show their hair to men (expect for their husband and children), so they need a salon where no men are allowed in. Other than that, I saw professional brands you’d find in America like L’Oreal and Matrix and store brands like Head & Shoulders and Pantene.
In India you don’t see a lot of blonde hair, yet again makes sense. Indian men and women have such dark hair it would destroy their hair if they tried to bleach it out. If there was blonde hair it looked orange and I mean orange! or yellow. In our group there was a couple of blonde women and they brought on attention by this. Women and children wanted photos with these blonde, white women because it is exotic and so foreign to the locals. Of course, the women in my group were happy to get their photos taken, it was part of the traveler’s experience. I was asked a bit to have my photo taken, it seems they were also wanting my photo because I am white with unique tattoos, although I was not as popular as the women.
There was so much to explore in India in regards to hair and skin-care, unfortunately I was unable to explore it all in the three weeks I was there. I am grateful to have had the chance to explore and experience as much as I did. I will definitely be returning to India again to explore more of this beautiful land full of experiences, adventures, and knowledge.
To sum it all up, I recommend anyone with a slight interest in India to go! It will not disappoint. If you ever come across an Ayurvedic doctor or practitioner I highly recommend getting some services done, whether its for the body, scalp, hair, or skin. Even though I perform the Champissage (Indian head massage) I do not have access to all the medicated oils they use. Treat yourself and heal your body through Ayurveda services.
On a final note, don’t let fear ever stop you from exploring your passions. I was terrified to go to India alone, I almost backed out of the trip multiple time because of that nagging voice of fear in my head. I’m so glad that voice lost it’s argument. Don’t let fear stop you from exploring your interests, life, and your dreams.
Follow your heart, explore the journey of life like it’s a river and let it take you to the depths of the ocean.
THE GEOGRAPHY OF HAIR
The Geography of Hair is devoted to share experiences and stories in cosmetology and how it has affected people, myself, or us as a society.