You'd think I would have learned my lesson.
Not a month had passed since I'd given that strange little dilettante masseuse at the Sheraton a free X-rated show. And yet here I was, at an upscale spa in Panscheel Enclave, ready to be oiled up once again.
It was Aliyah and I's one-year anniversary (Now that we are no longer measured in months, I demand that you all take us far more seriously), and amusingly oily Indian massages (that I've been assured are authentic) were on the celebration menu.
It was a Saturday morning and we sat inside a small but delightfully-heated office while a mustachioed doctor from Kerala engaged us in a plodding pre-massage interview. This session had been pitched as a helpful introduction to the foreign treatments we were about to receive. It was no such thing.
"Where are you from?" the doctor asked gravely.
"I'm from California and Aliyah's from Ohio. We used to live in New York together. But we've been living in Delhi since the summer."
The doc thumbed his stethoscope and inhaled deeply.
"And what is the weather like in this Ohio?" he intoned seriously.
"Ummm, it's cold," said a clearly-confused Aliyah.
The doctor -- who at this point we'd both silently decided should probably be referred to as a "doctor" -- allowed the non-existent gravity of this irrelevant detail to sink in before moving on to his next question.
"Now, what do you take for dinner?" he said, holding up both hands, a gesture that implied all possible responses were held in his two open palms. "Rice or chapati?"
This is akin to asking someone in America what they eat for dinner -- crackers or breadsticks. Aliyah and I laughed through this and the rest of the "doctor"'s questions, which continued to focus on weather, diet, the popularity of Indian massages in Ohio, etc...
Eventually, we were escorted into separate massage rooms. Strange but authentic-looking wooden apparatuses hung from the ceiling. A long wooden table with a small raised lip stood in the room's center. Next to it were two small but very strong Indian men who wore matching shirts, aprons, mustaches and smiles. One of them told me to undress.
It was about here that I began to have a somewhat unnerving sense of deja vu.
I slowly stripped down to my boxer briefs while one of the Indian men stood no more than six inches away. I hesitantly moved toward the massage table. The masseuse shook his head. He pointed to my underwear. And then he held up an article of cotton clothing that looked like some sort of thin, diaper-like thong.
Sighing with resignation to the inevitable, I took off my underwear. And then this little Indian men dressed me in the skimpiest undergarments I ever have, and ever hope to, wear. I looked away from him while he tied tight bows with the bikini-like strings that dangled from my hips.
Ready for the prom, I was instructed to sit on the edge of the table. Both men started oiling me up. One worked on my back while the other rubbed (the contents of an industrial-sized bottle of) oil into my hair.
It was about here that I realized that two men would be massaging me, not one. And it is at this point in the retelling that I must admit that the four-manhand massage they gave was probably the best professional massage I've ever received.
The two men were powerful and in-sync -- like rowers on a professional crew team. A four-handed massage can be a lame novelty if two people are simply giving the recipient two separate but simultaneous massages. But not these guys. It was like they were sharing the same brain. What happened to my right arm happened to my left. The pressure and timing were in lockstep.
The massage was so good that I momentarily forgot I was wearing a thong diaper. I only remembered again when the flimsy undergarment became so soaked with oil that it flapped uselessly at my side and had to be retied.
("My thong kept falling off," I later told Aliyah. "Did yours?")
After the massage, there was an odd procedure where I laid still while a gold vessel dangling above my head dripped "medicated" oil onto my forehead. This must have gone on for 45 minutes, and was just about as strange as it sounds.
The massage resumed after this drizzling, and I was so caught up with the powerful synchronization with which the masseuses were beating the hell out of my tense and tired muscles that I almost completely forgot about the oil-soaked loincloth barely masking my nether regions.
When the massage ended, the lead masseuse led me to a large cabinet in the corner of the room. He instructed me to sit inside, and warned me not to touch a metal pipe running along one of the cabinet's interior walls. I sat down, my neck fitting comfortably into a groove carved in the cabinet's top. The masseuse then turned a nozzle, and shut the cabinet doors. My entire body was inside, with only my head and neck sticking up out of a hole in the top. And then the cabinet began to fill with steam.
Apparently, this spa could not afford a steam room. They've settled for a steam cabinet.
As excellent as this massage was in many ways, it was exceedingly strange in others. I've decided that for the rest of our time in India, I'll only be patronizing spas that have a BYOU policy -- Bring Your Own Underwear.