Monday, 23 January 2012

The best massage for me is the one which I only half experience

I understand that the word ‘parlour’ is derived from a French word which means ‘to speak’. But I do not visit a massage parlour to speak. I go there to sleep. And a massage which can’t lull me to sleep, or get me very nearly there, does not do it for me. Everybody has their quirks, and this is mine.

It is a basic requirement to have a place, even at first look and feel, that meets with my standards and sensibility. “How would the guys running the place know about that ?”, you might ask. “By thinking about what they would expect for themselves, and then setting the bar higher than those standards to be safe”, would be my reply. I love it when I am taken for a brief inspection tour of the facility even before I sign up for the massage. That’s because the folks there appear confident that they have been thoughtful and have set the bar well. I also love it when I see the masseur genuinely involved in getting the place ship-shape before my massage. That’s because he seems connected to my overall experience, and cares enough about his performance to know that he must.

It’s great to see the therapist and the masseur going over the form in which I declared the details about my medical history. Discussing and agreeing about what needs to be done and what doesn’t. I can sense when they are merely doing this to mitigate their own risk and when they are doing it for my sake as well.

It’s a relief to be handed the key to a locker to keep my clothes and other stuff in. Then I don't have to worry about my cash or cards. Anything, that keeps out the thoughts and feelings that potentially or actually distract me from my cherished sleep, is preferable.

Within the first few minutes alone with the masseur - in the way he introduces himself, mumbles instructions, and hands out the robe, towel and disposable briefs - I can figure out if he knows what it is to be non-intrusive in an intimate situation. I am pleased as punch to know that he is aware of the subtleties of behaviour that are central to his profession. And happily answer his questions about my preferred music, oil, temperature, and so on.

I thank my stars for being at the right place, when I am requested to take a warm shower before the massage. To be clean for handling by the masseur, sure; but to also unclog the pores of the skin to best allow for the oil to soak in. Then I know also, that I am very probably going to witness something that has an approach, a method, a technique, in the following minutes. I know I am going to submit myself to a fine student of his art when he provides me with a few pieces of evidence. Like doing justice to the soles of the feet, the palms, the small of the neck and the small of the back. Like using fuller strokes that are directed outside-in, from the head and the limbs towards the heart. Like the clockwise movements over the stomach and abdomen.

They say the soul of a good driver flows into and makes him one with his machine. So it is with a good masseur. He knows when, where and how much to knead, press, stroke, pinch, caress, roll and curl. He is attentive to the most fleeting of my body’s reactions and works to undo the knots. Unless he has good reason to do otherwise, he exhibits symmetry in his movements. And simplicity, unity, and balance. It’s usually around this time, about halfway into the massage, that I fall asleep. And experience the remaining massage in my dreams.

I love massages. Hence I have been less or more happy on several occassions when I've had them. But sleep during one ? And be completely thrilled ? Less than ten times out of a few hundred.

Why is it that the best massage for me is the one which I only half experience ? Because, true performance is about the journey. That guarantees the destination much before it is reached. Even you know that. When you’re getting the massage done.

How about when you’re the masseur ? Or the masseuse ?


  1. Somehow, you are totally in character for this post.

  2. I cannot think of a better example or case study for working towards customer satisfaction. In fact very recently one of the clients that I worked for has put Client Experience Index on their scorecard and the client experience is assessed and measured from the time they first visit the institute or the website. Very well written Parag.