Down and out in Dharamsala

My calves were stuck to the mat and my back felt broken beyond repair. Rivulets of sweat gathered in the wrinkles of my forehead and my cheeks shivered with the strain. I focussed on the window but the view of the Himalayas did nothing to numb the pain. If this was Indian spirituality they could keep it.
"Right," said the instructor, "Touch your toes."
I lunged forwards and grabbed my feet.
"Not with your hands, with your head!"
He stepped behind me to push my shoulders towards my legs. My hip joint gave a thoughtful throb, then erupted with pain.
The instructor stared down at my writhing body, "Don't worry," he grinned, "I know a good Masseuse."
Three hours later I was lying on the floor with a towel around my waist. I had been hoping for a beautiful Masseuse with a golden touch, instead I was being manhandled by a Masseur with a malicious streak.
"They're all in it together," I thought to myself, "The receptionist who recommended the yoga class takes commission from the instructor, then he injures his clients and takes commission from the Masseur."
The Masseur stood up and cracked his knuckles, "Is that any better?"
"Oh dear. In that case, I am sorry but I can't fix it."
"Well that's no good is it, now what am I going to do?"
"I know a doctor who can help."
"How much does he charge?"
"No cost."
"Well that's something."
"You give him donation."
"Brilliant," I sighed, without bothering to disguise the sarcasm.
The next morning I followed the Masseur through a garden of rice plants towards a dishevelled house. Outside the front-door a Farmer sat on a bench staring into space. He had a grizzled face and crusty lips, in his mouth just one gnarled tooth remained, his dirty clothes concealed his skin but not the contours of his bones.
"Meet your doctor," said the Masseur.
"You're kidding, right?"
Before I had a chance to protest the Farmer grabbed my elbow and twisted the joint. His hands were small but deceptively strong, I heard a loud snap, then the blood surged in my veins. The pain was unbearable - had he dislocated my elbow? I was about to burst into tears when he released me.
"Walk," said the Masseur.
"Where to?"
"It doesn't matter, just walk in a circle a few times."
"Is this enough of a circle?" I asked as I walked in a circle.
"Yes, that's a good circle."
"My arm isn't the problem, does he know I'm here because of my hip?"
"Of course. You're very lucky. At weekends the poor people travel for miles to see him. The queue is hundreds of metres long."
"In that case, can he look at my back as well, because that aches a bit too."
The Farmer flicked my back with his fingers, then he grabbed my ribs and pushed his knee into my spine. I stumbled onto the forecourt where I was told to walk in a circle again.
"Okay," said the Masseur, "We can go now."
He dropped to his knees to touch the farmers feet. I walked to a small shrine, where I opened my depleting wallet and dropped a donation onto the pile.
Moments later we were back in the taxi - the "operation" had taken less than five minutes.
"He asked me to give you a message," said the Masseur, "He said you are cured, but if you lie to anyone the pain will return."
"How is your hip now?"
This wasn't a lie, it felt a little better, but that was probably because my elbow hurt, splitting the focus of the pain.
"The doctor is a brilliant man," the Masseur continued, "I wish he would teach me his healing powers but he only teaches his son. Neither of them accept any money."
"Why not?"
"How can they charge for a gift from God?"
"Maybe that's true," I thought to myself, rubbing my aching hip, "Or maybe they know that if they charge they'll get sued."
"You'll feel better tomorrow," said the Masseur as he watched me limp into my hotel. I nodded back at him, wondering if I would ever be able to walk properly again. But I needn't have worried, because inexplicably, when I woke up the next morning I felt as fresh as a child, my head was clear and all of the pain was gone.

T Czaban

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