May 29, 2009

Quick lessons in spa etiquette

Last year, on a trip to Sri Lanka, we took a leisurely tour of a lush green spice garden. With the aroma of spices wafting generously in the air, our host and his colleague decided to give us a complimentary massage. Now that was really kind of them but right in the middle of just a thick green cover, on a rickety old bench, a massage just didn’t seem right. I backed out, opting for a neck massage instead while my companion got some blood flowing in his arms, back and neck. I didn’t mind taking in the pleasures of the ambience, the sound of birds and leaves rustling leisurely in acres and acres of land while sipping on some wonderful spice tea with a drop of vanilla essence.
And then the phone rang. Just when everything was going right, the mobile rang and a pop song by INXS disturbed everything. It was blasphemous and I was disgusted that I hadn’t remembered to keep it on a silent mode. The host, who had been courteous with us till then, glowered while my companion cursed. And that was my first lesson in spa manners, especially when someone with me was enjoying his massage so thoroughly.
If you’re the sort of person who insists on mixing business calls with the pleasures of a great spa experience, read on. And if you thought there’s no term like “spa etiquette,” definitely read this piece closely. Rule number one, put your phone either on silent or switched off mode but don’t even think of taking or making any calls.
And this should happen before or after you’ve arrived at the spa. You should take it for granted that you have to be there at least 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment and not 30 minutes later. Well-known beautician Ambika Pillai, for instance, used to (I’m sure she still does) pass a complete list to clients who booked her for their makeup schedule. I don’t recall exactly but the gist of it all was this: “Wax your legs and arms, bleach your face and get a good facial at least three days before your scheduled appointment with us. Arrive 30 minutes before the scheduled time.”
One might argue that makeup is a different story and spa treatment another. Unfortunately, no, it isn’t that different. Remember how hairstylists often insist on a good hair wash on the day of a haircut session? The same rule applies here. Ladies, wax your legs before heading for that dream spa session. Let the aromatic oils flow and breathe directly into the skin and not shine on unwanted hair. Men, you’re lucky but it wouldn’t hurt to scrub your feet, right? A lot of spas will advice you not to wear deodorants. That’s because they’d rather let you enjoy the natural oils that they apply generously. But that doesn’t mean you carry that body odour with you. Instead take a shower just before you’re headed towards your destination and dab a hint of talcum powder if you really sweat.
While spa treatment options are aplenty, you need to figure out, well in advance, what suits your skin type. So quit squealing the minute a gentle staff member starts giving you a scrub with sea salt that you suddenly realise you’re allergic to. Most spas have dermatologists who advice you on what treatment can work for you.
The reason why one presumes you’ll head to a spa is for an unforgettable, relaxing experience. And to put that simply, it may require you to shed some clothes. Most people know this thumb rule but in case you’re uncomfortable and would still like to enjoy yourself, choose treatments appropriately. At Ayush Ayurvedic Centre, where I’d been recently, the receptionist narrated an episode of a lady who, after walking into a massage room, immediately rushed out to complain that her masseur asked her to remove clothes. Be clear about these things so that you aren’t running away from the centre but walking out confidently after a relaxing experience.
Some spas allow a couple to experience a massage in the same room. Now this is obviously very convenient but please don’t even dream about yapping incessantly while your masseur requests you to remain quiet. That’s a given even if you’re alone in the room. And please don’t bother about requesting your music at the spa, especially if your favourites include Eminem. There’s another kind of music which most spas don’t allow; children wailing and howling, “Mummmmy.” You cannot reach with your children and their nanny in tow to a spa. And you definitely cannot complain if the receptionist politely asks either you, or your children, or all of you to leave.
Have fun at the spa.
• A spa isn’t a call centre where you’ll shout into your mobile phone
• Children can have fun at an amusement park. Spa’s anything but that
• Clothes are usually shed for spa treatments. No one’s playing dirty here
• Quit shouting at the top of your voice here. There are others at the spa too. Even if your masseur needs to be told something, be firm but polite.
• You know what treatment can suit you best. If you’re prone to skin allergic make sure you speak with your doc well in advance
• Sure you’re paying a lot of money to have someone else pamper you. But scrubbing your feet and getting rid of body odour and unwanted hair wouldn’t really hurt, would it?
• Don’t insist on loud music and latest chartbusters. A spa isn’t your regular discotheque.

Picture courtesy Kanatal Spa

May 22, 2009

Quick announcement

Spa launch
Mumbai's launching Guy Kremer Eyecatchers and Thai Spa in Mumbai on May 25, 2009 at Skyzone, High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel.
Watch this space for more updates on the brand.

May 18, 2009

An Eden in the foothills: Guest blog by Jai Arjun Singh

Please welcome SPAlendor's first guest blogger. Since charity has to begin at home, my husband dearest (Jabberwock in blogosphere) has very graciously agreed to contribute this post. He had written it for Outlook Traveller's Wellness series and I was mad at him when he'd gone to Ananda all by himself. We weren't married then but I'm hoping to visit Ananda sometime in the near future. BTW, has announced a new summer package for Ananda. At Rs 13,628 (inclusive of all applicable hotel taxes), per person, you can get a room for three days, with inclusions of meals (daily morning tea, breakfast and dinner). Apart from this, you also get scheduled yoga, meditation, Pranayama and Vedanta classes and hydrotherapy facilities including the use of jacuzzi, steam, sauna, plunge pool and Hydro foot bath too. Log on: log on for other details.

Having given you readers some news on deals, please read and enjoy Jai's piece.
It's 7 in the morning when I reach the gates of Ananda – in the Himalayas. It's been a nearly hour-long drive up from Rishikesh and I didn't get much sleep the previous night, but everything about the environment is instantly invigorating – starting with the efficiency of the staff and their non-intrusive politeness. After checking in at the front desk, I'm taken (by a quaint, battery-operated cart) down a long road that leads to the spa area and the accommodation quarters. Peacocks dart across the path, to the left is Ananda's seven-hole golf course and for some reason I can't stop thinking of William Wordsworth taking long, placid walks through the verdure of the Lake District.

As it happens, walking is one of the things I avowedly do during my two-day stay at Ananda, but there are plenty of other options.

In my room, after a long and stimulating shower, I change into the special white kurta-pyjama provided for guests to wear on the premises. These aren't mandatory but they are so comfortable and so apposite to the general serenity of the surroundings that nearly everyone opts for them over their regular wear (unless, of course, you're planning to work out in the gym).

As part of the spa orientation, I'm shown around the hydrotherapy division of the men's spa. In the centre is a little footbath divided into four quarters, with round pebbles of different shapes and sizes at the bottom, and the water temperature in each quarter varying subtly. Walking in the pool in a 360-degree arc is recommended since it helps moderate your body temperature and stimulates the pressure points on the soles of your feet. "This exercise is a form of self-therapy," I'm told. "You become aware of the pressure points and the way the pebbles are acting on them." Incidentally, the stones have been collected from the Ganga bed.

To be honest, this isn't the most comfortable of exercises, so I'm perfectly happy to slip into my pampered city-slicker avatar and try the other facilities – namely the sauna, the Jacuzzi and the steam room – and follow it up with a quick dip in the open-air pool just beyond. A brief shower is required between any two activities (you can't, for instance, move directly from the sauna into the Jacuzzi) and the upshot is that in just two hours I've come into contact with more water (in different forms) than I usually do over a week of normal living. It probably helps soften me up for the main course.

The two-hour spa treatment lined up for me in the afternoon is preceded by a dose of traditional hospitality, Ananda-style. As I immerse my feet in rose-water, the lady masseuse performs an elaborate aarti, complete with a small plate, a diya and kusum. To poor nihilistic me, this is like a scene out of Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, but what follows certainly isn't: a 45-minute full body scrub done with natural sea salt infused with pure rose essential oil. The idea, I'm told, is to exfoliate my skin – "to remove the dead skin cells" – and it seems to have worked. After an intense 10-minute-long shower to wash all the granules off, I find my skin is smoother than I've ever known it to be: "like a ripe fruit", as the masseuse puts it.

The scrub is followed by a long and relaxing Swedish massage, which involves the manipulation of the superficial layers of the muscles against the bone. Since such massages involve much tweaking and pinching of muscles, I'm asked beforehand if I have any "sensitive spots" that need to be treated with care. My calves tend to be stiff and cramp-prone, I tell my therapist, so she's extra careful with them.

It's late evening by the time I'm done, and darkness has descended on Ananda. It has an unanticipated effect on me: being a lover of greenery, I had figured that the place must necessarily look its best during the day. But it turns out to be just as beautiful, in a different way, in the dark. The key buildings – the accommodation quarters, the spa and the palace in the far distance – are lit up, not ostentatiously but with tasteful restraint; a dim light falls on the pathway where people, clad in their white kurta-pyjamas, are taking long walks; staff members, waiting for their car drive down to Rishikesh (where some of them stay), are whispering quietly to each other. There's a wonderful sense of quietude everywhere, and tired though I am, it's almost a pity to have to return to my room. The spirit yearns for a long night walk, but the carefully kneaded flesh protests.

After a very relaxed night's sleep and a refreshing ginger-lemon morning drink, I head straight for the gymnasium to attend a session called "Full Moon Stretches" – a series of Thai exercises – wherein an instructor twists my limbs into numerous outlandish positions until I can't feel them anymore. It's fun, but it is a one-off session after all, so I decide to do something more productive while I'm at it: 20 minutes each on the cross-trainer and the treadmill, followed by a series of abdomen exercises – all with the Beatles's Abbey Road playing in the background, and John Lennon singling eerily resonant lines such as "He got feet down below his knee". After which, it's back to the wet spa…and the swimming pool.

Come noon it's time for my second treatment, this time an Ayurveda one: a synchronized massage called the Abhyanga followed by the famed Shirodhara treatment where a regular flow of warm herbal oil is poured on the forehead.

A personal aside here: I'm not the sort of person who relaxes easily during his waking hours; my mind is always ticking over with something or the other. But the two hours spent during this treatment are the most soothing I've experienced outside of actual sleep. The massage – with hot oil being rubbed into my skin by two pairs of hands simultaneously – is wonderful, gentler and more soothing than the Swedish massage the previous day. But it's overshadowed by the Shirodhara treatment, during which I enter a sublime phase where I'm incapable of thinking about anything other than the soothing effect of the oil pouring onto my forehead. No worrying about train tickets, about packing luggage and getting back to Delhi on time; I exist purely in the moment, drifting in and out of consciousness. It's a fitting way to end the trip.

When you're leaving a place you've become attached to, there's often a moment of epiphany, a moment that brings the experience and everything it stood for in clear focus. For me, that time comes as I prepare to check out. Practically the last thing I do before leaving the room is to doff the white kurta-pyjama (I've delayed this till the last possible moment) and put on my regular clothes. What were, just two days ago, my most comfortable T-shirt and jeans now feel like a suit of armour. It's like I'm being expelled from a modern garden of Eden.

Contact details
Address: The Palace Estate, Narendra Nagar, Tehri-Garhwal, Uttaranchal-249175, India
Tel: 91-1378-227500
Fax: 91-1378-227550/227555
STD code: 01378

Caution: A medical questionnaire has to be filled prior to all spa treatments. The spa consultant must be notified if a guest suffers from any physical ailments, or is pregnant.


Ayurvedic therapies

Abhyanga (synchronized full body massage performed by two therapists, with herbal oils): Rs 3,500 (duration 60 minutes)

Udwarthana (a deep, dry massage using herbal powders to stimulate hair follicles and tissue. Helps in slimming): Rs 2,100 (45 minutes)

Shirodhara (lukewarm herbal oil poured in a continuous stream on the forehead. Relieves stress and improves memory): Rs 4,400 (60 minutes)

Massage therapies

Aromatherapy massage (full-body aromatic energy therapy): Rs 4,300 (90 minutes)

Swedish massage (helps in loosening and soothing tight muscles and increases blood circulation): Rs 3,600 (90 minutes)

Thai massage (combines assisted Yoga postures, gentle rocking and rhythmic compressions with targeted pressure point massage): Rs 4,800 (120 minutes)


Hydro jet body blitz (a high-pressure shower blitz directed at the body to activate circulation): Rs 2,500 (60 minutes)

Ananda body therapies

Wild rose salt glow (exfoliation with vigorous rose oil and dead sea salt cleansing scrub): Rs 1,800 (45 minutes)

Ancient Indian body mask (dry exfoliation with therapeutic clay application): Rs 2,300 (45 minutes)

Aroma cocoon (after each part of the body has been massaged, fresh rose petals are dropped onto the skin and the body is wrapped in a heated blanket, followed by a head and scalp pressure point massage): Rs 2,900 (90 minutes)

Picture courtesy: Ananda

May 14, 2009

Sampling Dal Moradabadi at Ignis, New Delhi

While this isn’t a food blog, we’ll make a concession and still write about a meal that I thoroughly enjoyed at Ignis, which is a multi-cuisine restaurant in Delhi’s Connaught Place (or Rajiv Chowk) area. It’s above the good ol’ Volga restaurant and, according to a friend, offers the most spectacular view of the market area especially at night time. That the restaurant faces the Central Park only makes the view better.
Ignis still awaits its liquor license but since my husband and I are not too high on the booze quotient, it made for a good choice. Though I was tempted to try mushroom cappuccino (a soup), we settled on what my husband called “nouveau Indian” food. My eyes did veer towards some interesting salmon dishes, a promising starter of chicken and olive parcels and what have you. But what we ordered finally was also an extension of the scrumptious fare offered at Ignis. And though we went totally desi in our order, opting for olive and parmesan naan (one of my favourite Indian breads) along with regular butter naans, we took thick tomato gravy with fenugreek chicken fare and a simple daal. In fact, I loved the way we got our Dal Moradabadi. It reminded me of how the delectable Khowsuey is served at The Kitchen, another favourite haunt at New Delhi’s Khan Market. (Address: 75, Khan Market, New Delhi. Contact: 011 - 41757960/1)

Since we’re a wellness blog, I knew instantly that this is one dish that will make it to SPAlendor. It’s a good idea to replicate the serving style at home too. What we ate was a simple arhar dal served with seven accompaniments including roasted garlic, freshly chopped coriander leaves, amchoor (dried mango powder), ginger juliennes, squeezed juice of half a lemon, a tangy coriander chutney and a dry red chilli.
It’s something we could do at home too. Cook a pan of lentils with salt to taste (salt should never be added after dishes are prepared, it should be added during the process of cooking) and let everyone add their desired flavor. While I’m not too fond of intensifying my dals with too many flavours (unless it’s very badly cooked and bland) it was a nice feeling to keep adding the accompaniments that we got at Ignis.
So, then, bon app├ętit!

Where: Ignis, B Block, Inner Circle, Connaught Place, Above Volga restaurant, New Delhi
How much: Meal for two (without starters or drinks) with just the main course: Rs 826including taxes

May 13, 2009

Shiivaz Spa: menu for summer 2009

Mumbai's Shiivaz Spa recently sent its summer 2009 spa menu. Do take a look and take your pick. Don't miss the interesting body wraps and scrubs.
Location: Shiiva’z Spa, Mohammedbhai Mansion, Kemps Corner, Cumballa Hill Hospital Lane, Mumbai – 400 036

Shiiva’z spiritual body treatment [90 mins] Rs 4,500 plus taxes
Soothing sandalwood, turmeric scrub in cold milk is followed by a traditional Indian de stress massage, this rhythmic and artistic technique help open blocked energy channel and relaxes the body.

Shiiva’z detox body treatment [90 mins] Rs 4, 500 plus taxes
A gentle scrubbing mixture of sea salt, ginger powder, lemon, juice, thoroughly blended with relaxing lavender, aromatic sandalwood and strengthening sweet almond oils to eliminate accumulated toxins, and soothe the deeper layers of your body. Followed by firm massage of intermittent pressure techniques to compress and stretch muscle tissues and naturally detoxify the body

Shiiva’z rejuvenation body treatment [90 mins] Rs 4,500 plus taxes
A nourishing and moisturizing paste of cinnamon and powered rice blended in honey and milk to rejuvenate and reverse sun damaged skin, followed by a gentle ‘kalari’ and Indian massage technique specially designed to stimulate new healing energies in the body.

Shiiva’z annalepam [50 mins] Rs 3,300 plus taxes
This ancient therapy starts with a light Kerala massage followed by a specially prepared scrub of toning medicinal rise, milk and healing herbal power for strained muscles and nerves.

Shiva’z sharer [50mins] Rs 3,300 plus taxes
A unique treatment designed, from a combination of the best healing and rejuvenating massage strokes of the Tibetan Himalayan , Javanese, ancient thalassic and traditional Indian ‘champi’ to balance energy flow and repairing damaged tissues whilst completely relaxing stiff muscles.

Shiiva’z Ananda [50 mins] Rs 3,300 plus taxes
A treatment where the therapist uses his forearms in the ancient Polynesian method, and create increased pressure on the back to loosen stiff muscles, finished with gentle soothing Garhwali massage strokes leaving you feeling re energized.
Shiiva’z sushumna [50 mins] Rs 3,300 plus taxes
A unique balancing massage from the left foot finishing on the right foot, in the direction the ancient Indians used for clearing blocked channel of energy in the physical and emotional body

Lomi Lomi [50 mins ] Rs 3,000 plus taxes
This ancient Polynesian style massage restores balance to the body, mind and soul, with flowing movements across the entire body, healing on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.

Signature body scrub Rs. 2,000 plus taxes

Tropical fruit body scrub [50mins ]
The perfect blend from nature’s beauty….a pineapple, honeydew, grapes and banana scrub. The bromeliad in pineapples, a protein enzyme, helps remove the dead skin and dirt off your body, honeydew’s mild astringent soothes and hydrates dry skin, anti-oxidant rich grapes, protect you from the harmful UV rays and the banana’s essential nutrients keep the skin soft and smooth.

Brown sugar body scrub [50 mins]
A warm and gentle exfoliating treatment of brown sugar, white oats, honey, aloe vera gel, lemon juice and almond oil, which easily sloughs off dead skin cells, leaving it feeling smooth and luscious.

Herbal body polish [50 mins]
An aromatic exfoliating treatment power, clove, turmeric, ginger, power, white clay, lemongrass oil and warm milk, leaves your body feeling as smooth as silk.

Bali lulur [50 mins]
This highly medicinal scrub energizes the system, alleviating fatigue. An excellent skin enlivening and nourishing scrub of sea salt, black pepper powder, almond power, holy basil oil, and black pepper essential oil, it gently warms the body on cool, winter days.

Coconut and ginger shred [50 mins]
This very gentle and aromatic scrub of coconut flakes, finely, grated fresh ginger and olive oil, leaves the skin clean smooth and vitalized.

Classic coffee scrub [50 mins]
This stimulating scrub of ground aromatic coffee beans, cooling camphor, cinnamon powder, cinnamon powder, grated carrot and rice flour leaves your skin soft, clear and smooth.

Sugar scrub [50 mins]
This very popular spa treatment of sugar and spice, almond oil, lemon juice, and jasmine oil, removes dead cells and leaves your skin soft and radiant.

Lemon salt glow [50 mins]
Sea salt, almond oil, sweet almond oil mixed with finely grated lemon zest, brings a healthy glow to dull, dry skin.

Body wraps [Rs 2,000 plus taxes]

Aloe and cucumber soother [50 mins]
A soothing combination of cucumber and aloe vera, both strong hydrating elements, makes this a suitable wrap for dry and sun burnt skin. It helps to encourage new cell growth, soothe skin irritation and moisture to thirsty skin.

Sensitive skin cucumber masks [50 mins.]
This chilled cucumber, brewers yeast, ground oatmeal, honey and yogurt mask is a perfect soothe for sensitive skin.

Luscious orange warp [50 mins.]
This freshly prepared wrap of vitamin rice dried orange peel, olive oil, honey, and almond powder; build collagens to smoothen fine lines, another one of nature’s elixir to beautiful, healthy, soft skin.

Indian spice wraps [50 mins.]
Ancient Uptan, a purifying and healing treatment of almond powder, oatmeal powder, sandalwood oil, ginger oil, cinnamon oil, and patchouli oil, cleans and rejuvenates the skin.

May 12, 2009

Spa break at Kerala: women only

Spa vacation at Punnamada resort

I absolutely adore Sumitra Senapati. A former journalist, she chucked her job to do something more enriching, more fulfilling. Since travelling was -- and continues to be -- her passion, Sengupta started a travel club. No, not just another travel club but one created especially for women.
I first spoke to her for a story that was published in Business Standard Newspaper and needless to say, since then I've been getting regular updates on Women on Wanderlust
The club has just announced its new vacation schedule (most of them have already been sold out) and I thought it was necessary to mention WOW's spa break in Kerala. Here are the details

Spa & Monsoon Break in God’s Own Country for 3 nights & 4 days
6th June to 9th June
Day 1: Cochin Airport/Punnamada Resort (6th June Saturday)
· Make your own travel arrangements till Cochin by train or flight
· Pick up from Cochin airport and proceed Punnamada Resorts
· Welcome drinks on arrival.
· Check in at Punnamada Resort by lunch time.
· At leisure after lunch to pamper yourself with a body massage and facial/pedicure/manicure.
· Follow it up with a swim in the pool or try out one of the indoor games available at the resort.
· Build up your appetite as you see a demonstration of some exotic specialties of Kerela.
· Cultural program of one of the best known classical dance forms, “Kathakali”.
· Dinner and Over night stay in the Punnamada Resort

Day 2: House Boat (7th June Sunday)
· After Breakfast in resort try your hand at paddle boat & canoe.
· We proceed to House Boat at 12.noon. Check into AC House Boat.
· Lunch in House Boat.
· Fishing while on House Boat.
Dinner and overnight stay in House Boat.

Day 3: House Boat /Turtle Beach Resort (8th June Monday)
· Breakfast in the House Boat. Disembark
· Thereafter proceed to Turtle beach resort on Marari beach to enjoy the monsoon sights and sounds by the sea.
· Lunch
· Today is the day to relax and just let the day go by as we sit on the patio and chat or take long walk on the beach..
· Dinner & Overnight stay at the Turtle Beach Resort.

Day 4: Turtle Beach Resort/Sightseeing/Railway Station or Airport (9th June Tuesday)
· After breakfast we checkout and proceed to Cochin for local sight seeing- Jews street, Synagogue, Dutch castle, Chinese fishing net and much more before taking flight/ train home.

A/c Accommodation on twin share basis.
Sightseeing and surface transfers by Ac coach Cochin to Cochin.
Meals as per itinerary
Treatment & Massage mentioned in the itinerary
House Boat Stay in AC comfort
Cultural Programme and activities mentioned in the itinerary.
All Applicable Taxes.

· Laundry/Medicines/Doctor/Telephone
· Travel arrangements till Cochin and from Cochin
· Soft Drinks/Mineral water Meals/tea/coffee/drinks other than stated
· Tips & any other thing not mentioned in the itinerary.

Package details
Cost per person on twin sharing basis Rs.19, 500/
Single Occupancy Rs.7, 000/- extra.
EARLY BIRD OFFER: Pay the full amount by 15th May and get Rs 2,000 off!!!!
To reserve your place, courier Rs 7,500 and your signed WRF that is attached. Please note that all balance payments should come in by 31st May, 2009.
Please see payment options below:
· Send us an at par Cheque at the below address or
· Simply deposit the money in Axis Bank in your area .Account no. 296010200002684 (Axis Bank) or
· An online transfer with bank details given below :
Mayur Vihar, LSC, Phase 2, ND 91
Current ac no: 296010200002684.
IFS Code: UTIB 0000296
· If you want to pay in cash, this is possible in Delhi, Mumbai & Bangalore.
Sumitra Senapaty
D 703 Anandlok CGHS, Mayur Vihar, Phase 1
New Delhi 91

May 6, 2009

Just another trip to the salon

In my previous blog entry that I had written on Kim Robinson, I'd mentioned about why I hate visiting beauty salons. The experts there will take a look at your face, sulk and wonder why you were created in the first place. "What's with the pimples, ma'am?" "Your hair sucks", "You should come regularly", "Oh, your face, so dull"... these are just some of the many comments that I've encountered each time a salon expert has looked at my face. They've wanted to sell me their products, they've punctured my thoughts of being a fairly presentable person, they've cribbed about my sun tan and they've "tsk-ed tsk-ed" about how terrible I'll be when I grow older than I already am.
This article was published as part of our Mystery Guest column in Business Standard

You need two things when you hit a beauty salon: money (lots of it) and patience (in abundance). After spending three hours at a beauty salon, I realise I lack patience, and whatever money I had has been spent on a face that is “dry, dull with fine lines and prone to pimples, white heads, black heads...”

But let’s go back to the beginning. Perturbed by some recent remarks made by a friend (“Pamper yourself. What are you earning for?”) and an elderly family member (“Why do you work? Sit at home and work, and pamper yourself”), I trudge to Limelite, a unisex beauty salon in the NCR. It’s a spectacularly clean salon, very spacious, with an excellent staff who greet me with wide smiles and a glass of water.

They proceed to show me a “rate card” with different treatments including a chocolate facial. But the one for me is skin lightening facial treatment, because, “your face is too tanned”.

“Your face is very dark, madam. You don’t take care at all?” asks beautician No. 2. “I don’t get the time,” I say coldly, to which she adds, “Looking at your face, no one will believe you earn so much money. You should find the time to take care of your skin.”

Sometime later, a hairdresser, holding a clump of my hair, tells me my hairstyle, “is hopeless” and can be saved only if I get hair colour, followed by a quick wash, a special conditioner and hair serum.

“The shampoo and conditioner,” I’m told, “are available at the salon”. With my hair in a “colouring” mess, I find a five-year-old kid quietly staring at me, as if he’s found an alien sitting on a throne.

Is there anything right about me? “Oh, no. Why are your fingernails not shaped?” whines another girl, who’s getting ready to give me a manicure. By now the word “patience” has vanished from my dictionary and I’m wondering why people refer to a salon trip as a “relaxing experience”?

Having wiped off one-third of my salary in three hours, and finding out that, genetically speaking, my skin loves to burst into pimples, I head home with a new hairstyle, a “lightened” face and neatly painted fingernails. At home, my mother opens the door, looks at me lovingly and says, “Hi, bad day at work?”

May 2, 2009

Hair spa review: Aman, New Delhi

"Who'll style my hair?" Rod quipped while giving me a hair spa treatment

What is hair spa, I thought aloud, looking at Rod Anker, who was busy studying my scalp at Kim Robinson, the brand new salon that opened its doors recently at New Delhi’s Aman. While I relished my cappuccino with cookies, sinking comfortably into the plush chair, surrendering my scalp and mane in the able hands of Rod, I found myself struggling to keep awake thanks to the soothing music that played in the background and Rod’s firm yet comforting head massage. But Rod began: “Hair spa is all about studying your scalp, knowing which treatment to give for a lustrous, shiny mane and really, doing justice to your hair that should be well maintained.”
I suppose, he would know better. As creative director of Kim Robinson at the deliciously serene Aman, the world class hospitality chain that opened its magnificent gates to the junta (audience) just a month ago, Rod is working overtime to ensure that everyone who walks into Kim Robinson walk out feeling confident, feeling wonderful.
So, what was the best part or the one defining moment about my spa treatment? It would be unfair to pin it down to just one, for the joys of being treated at Kim Robinson are aplenty. Number one: No one will tell you, “Madam, your hair, very bad. And miss, what is this thinning of hair? You should put oil in the head madam, see how bad you look. You should use our volume enhancing cream madam, only with that can your hair look better, or else, tsk tsk tsk.” I hate this about salons and the manner in which people cluck their tongues in disgust after carelessly holding a clump of my hair and feeling sorry for my existence. So it’s surprising when Rod looks at my hair (even taking pictures of my scalp from a complicated looking gadget) and pronounces, “So, your hair’s very clean. Nice.” He’s convincing too, immediately giving my hair a good rub and then proceeding to cut my hair.
“Wait! You won’t spray my hair with water?” No, exclaimed Rod stunned at the suggestion. At Kim Robinson they use what’s called a dry technique. Instead of wetting hair and then snipping it away, the promoters believe that hair should be treated in as natural a way as possible. It means hard work for the hairstylist but Rod says it’s worth it. A regular haircut at any other salon would mean the hairstylist spraying jets of water all over the name, helping it to concentrate in one area which makes it easier for them to snip it away. After that is a quick blow dry, a yummy hairstyle which draws everyone’s attention. But what happens the next morning? Don’t you invariably sulk looking at your hair which is back to its usual look with no volume, no bounce and absolutely no convincing haircut.
Surprisingly, that’s where Kim Robinson haircut with its dry technique works. After snipping away with his scissors, Rod gently rubs and massages orange essential oil by parting my hair in different sections and soon after, I’m ushered into a room where his assistant Akram diligently gives my hair a smart wash. This is done after he’s parted my hair in sections and applied a cooling hair mask that’s then treated to a “micro mist” steam. This is clearly the best part of the treatment and I find myself snoozing for 20 minutes before Akram wakes me up by lathering my hair in shampoo. I feel like I’m floating on clouds what with the steam mist rising gently over my face. Akram proceeds to apply a quick conditioner followed by scented linseed oil which is mild but gives my hair a soft, feathery touch.
I look into the mirror with dreamy eyes [still sleepy, you see] and by now, Rod’s done a swell job of setting my hair. “It’ll stay like this,” he reassures while I walk out of the experience, glad that Rod touched my hair and created magic. But that’s what a creator does, no?

Spa Notes
· The overall experience of a hair spa treatment at Kim Robinson, Aman, New Delhi, is wonderful. I just wish they’d give at least five-10 minutes of a power nap to clients who, after such a great experience, have to walk out to the usual stress of the city.
The cost of a hair spa treatment: Rs 9,700 ($194) + taxes
Contact Rod on (91) 11 43633475 at Aman, Lodhi Road, New Delhi
  • Overheard that Ms Shobhana Bhartiya, chairperson and editorial director of the Hindustan Times group, walks into Kim Robinson twice a week with her shampoo, conditioner and hair spray for hair wash and blow dry.
  • Actor Karishma Kapoor and her cousin Riddhima Kapoor Sahni are ditching their previous haunt Salon de Ravissant for Aman