An Oily Experience
When we went to Mysore this weekend, we knew we would be looking for two of its treasures: silk and essential oils. I thought we would hop in an auto and whisk away to a market somewhere where we would haggle with various vendors and wonder whether the scarf was one hundred percent silk and what the oils were cut with. It would have been the usual bazaar shopping experience where you pretend to be an expert with a discerning eye asking to see the good stuff.
What my group and I got was so much more.
The autos out front of our hotel offered to take the eight of us to a place where they made incense and oil. We were skeptical, but when in Mysore…within minutes we arrived at a small blue house down a side street and were ushered through the wooden doors into the courtyard. On the ground before us were two women rolling thin wooden sticks in black clay and covering them in what looked like sawdust. The shop owner, Zubair, told us they were making incense sticks. The women he said could roll thousands of these per day, and once rolled they had to sit in the essential oil for forty days to gain the scent. We sat on the floor and watched for a moment before the women began asking our names and taking our hands to roll incense with them. Our skepticism quickly faded to enthusiasm for the experience.
After a few moments, Zubair invited us inside a room just past the courtyard to sit on couches and learn more about what he sold. The walls were covered in hundreds of different handwritings and languages, all praising the shop and the oils. He told us if we want to write on the wall, we will have to come back in the future once we’ve tried his products for ourselves.
There were jars and jars of oils sitting on a small table and stacks of scented incense. Zubair lifted the first glass jar and took off the lid. “Lotus,” he said. “Good for stress.” LoLo didn’t hesitate when he offered to rub some on her arm. One by one we got braver, and Zubair gave more of a show. He offered to give a head rub with the lotus oil, and Lolo leapt on the chance. She closed her eyes and got lost in the scent while he rubbed the oil onto her temples.
Sandalwood was next. Excellent for muscle relief and massages, not to mention a plant local to Mysore. Tristan took the lead getting a massage. Zubair had him sit in front of all of us…shirtless. We were laughing and going with it while he gave Tristan a neck and shoulder massage with the oil when Zubair asked if he would like to go to another planet. “Uhhh, yeah.” Zubair put his forearm next to Tristan’s neck, and placed his other hand on top of Tristan’s head. He told us he’s a professional chiropractor. Then he cracked Tristan’s neck to the side. Then the other side. I don’t think Tristan came back to earth that day. He spent the rest of the visit in utter bliss.
Zubair said he had two oils that could take us to another planet, too. That we have short lives and so we should have many experiences! The oils smelled fantastic, but we didn’t understand what he meant by “they would take us to another planet.” He was laughing and pointing to the reviews on the wall that agreed and, well, let’s just say these oils are for couples!
From oils that help with meditation via a demonstration with me and oils that clear the sinuses but made Shannon’s eyes water from the potency to Kevin and Suki getting neck cracking massages and Rob and Mike cracking jokes about the more tantalizing oils, this experience was more than we could have ever asked for. There’s a lot of auto drivers who might try to take you to a family member’s store, and perhaps this was the same, but I don’t think we could have ever guessed we would be rolling incense, getting massages, and laughing about the absurdity of it all with a very generous shop owner over amazing herbal tea. As Zubair said, “This isn’t the United States.”