The Pauper’s Sauna

1) Rent a cheap but clean room in a quiet part of town with a good shower and a ceiling fan.

Note: It is essential that you have roof access and the rooftop should be open to the elements. Also, this only works in hot humid climates, which should serve as encouragement to explore these verdant corners of the world.

2) Sweat out that clammy, grimy feeling after a morning of exploring your new tropical neighbourhood: wait until the day is at its very hottest, head on up to the roof, lay a clean towel on the searing hot concrete floor and add to it a couple of drops of Young Living Eucalyptus, or your personal favourite. Lay back with the mellifluous sounds of ‘Bush Society’ by Mark Barrott. At 10 mins 45 seconds it’s ideal for timing your turn from your front to your back or vice versa. It’s a perfect track in general but in this instance happens to compliment the surrounding coconut palms, the distant cry of monkeys and the general feeling that as a globetrotting expat you’re winning at life particularly well.

3) After two tracks worth on your front and back you should be positively dripping with sweat, pouring from areas you didn’t even know could perspire. Don’t stay out much longer or you’ll cook alive. Be sure to have some water in the shade with a dash of your preferred Young Living citrus essential oil to take the edge of the head spin when you stand up.

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4) Head downstairs, being careful not slip with sweaty feet and fall over the exposed stairwell four storeys up, to a cool shower. Drip dry under the fan with a handmade incense stick of sandalwood burning close by and the slightly more energetic sounds of ‘Afro Blue’, Harold Mabern feat. Gregory Porter version. You will feel revived and ready for the next phase of the day!

Ayurvedic masala coffee.

My India odyssey begins with a humble cup of Ayurvedic coffee as I ease my way into the subcontinent via très shanti ‪Varkala‬. A couple that I met in Sri Lanka, on the tourist-heavy beach of Hikkaduwa no less, said with that all too familiar air of someone who knows India better than you ever could, “you’re going to Kerala? Pfft, it’s not real India and Varkala isn’t even real Kerala, ha!”. I pointed them in the direction of this terrific Huffington Post article by David Sze and didn’t hear from them again. So, this extraordinary cuppa. Organic coffee from the Western Ghats (the proprietor was swift to remind me “we do not use Nescafe sir”) is blended with the cafe’s own organic sun-dried ‪masala‬ (or spice blend), consisting of cardamom, cinnamon, tulsi, ginger and mint. The result is, well I’ve never tasted anything like it. Initially the spiciness of the ginger engulfs you, then it’s slightly sweet as the cinnamon reveals itself, then savoury, earthy, not overpowering; a perfect balance of flavour. In Ayurvedic terms this is known as rasa, or harmony of flavours. It tastes to me like a journey, a cultural masala if you will.

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Ayurveda‬ is very much in vogue, which unfortunately means all and sundry are ‘into it’ but know very little about it. What I do know from my limited research over the last year is the fundamental principle of balance, an equilibrium of the three cosmic forces, or tridosha. Nutritionally speaking, coffee is considered one of the rajasic foods along with things like spices and tea, which stimulate and excite the body and mind. These aren’t outlawed, simply enjoyed in moderation, which makes perfect sense. For someone seeking balance at least. This first sip of ‪‎Kerala‬ reinforced my desire to learn as much as possible about the ancient tradition of Ayurveda through my own experiences, a world away from expensive ‘wellness retreats’ and Westernised cosmetics. Kerala and the Malayalam people may not be “full power shitting in the street India” as my Hikkaduwa friends put it but it is the heart of this fascinating life science, which is a pretty ‘authentic’ insight into this diverse continent. The world in that glass represents the purpose of this adventure, that is to say, The Story Beyond The Plate.