Spa: Because I am worth it!
by Preeti Verma Lal
The Mehras of Ranjit's Svaasa Spa
in Amritsar are great hosts, they pamper you to distraction and the food they
serve is utterly sumptuous. All this when you haven't actually heard about the
great spa experience, the relaxing massages with Dead Sea minerals, rose, geranium,
milk - thought only Cleopatra was blessed? - the dhara for insomnia, the Swiss
yoga teacher, the organic food and the generous smiles from the staff and the
masseurs. And yes, they bring a lily with the morning tea. L
et the facts wait. Let the eulogies come first - for they
deserve precedence. The Mehras of Ranjit's Svaasa Spa in Amritsar are great hosts,
they pamper you to distraction and the food they serve is utterly sumptuous. All
this when you haven't actually heard about the great spa experience, the relaxing
massages with Dead Sea minerals, rose, geranium, milk - thought only Cleopatra
was blessed? - the dhara for insomnia, the Swiss yoga teacher, the organic food
and the generous smiles from the staff and the masseurs. And yes, they bring a
lily with the morning tea.
C'mon, who does that? Get
the reason for the eulogies?
For Rama Mehra, Svaasa stemmed
from belief - belief that there has to be an alternative lifestyle, where there
are no pesticides in your hearty meal, no plastic paint on your walls and wellness
all around you.
But this belief was not mere coincidence,
it was born out of pain. "Within a brief spell of two days both my husband
and I were diagnosed with cancer. And I knew I had to do something about it,"
says Rama Mehra. While her cancer receded after a quick surgery, her husband was
not so lucky. He battled it with medicine, with chemotherapy, a stay at Sloan-Kettering
and finally succumbed to it. While Ranjit Mehra wrangled pain and the malignant
cells, Rama spent hours reading books on alternative healing, meeting nutritionists
and reconfirming her belief that alternative medicine can work.
her husband's death, the 18th century ancestral colonial building fell into Rama's
lap and much before the ink had tried on the deed, Rama knew she did not want
to convert the ancestral property into just another hotel or an inn. It was her
chance to fulfill her idea of an "ideal lifestyle".
the only spa in the northern plains, with its red façade, Nanak Shahi bricks
and large windows without grills, is nestled in the heart of Amritsar's prestigious
Mall Road. With ten suites, one ayurveda doctor, three masseurs and a retinue
of dedicated staff, the Spa offers a variety of massage, yoga lessons, hand and
foot therapies, head and hair regimens, facials and hydrotherapy.
nomenclature for most of the therapies might sound alien but they do work. Like
Pichu for the head. A piece of cloth is dipped in medicated oil and kept at the
top of the head. Pichu takes about 50 minutes, but it prevents hair loss, itching,
cracking of the skin and even facial paralysis. Or, the Kneipp foot therapy that
involves dipping your legs in calf-deep cold flowing water over a bed of stones
and submerged pressure jets for insomnia, low blood pressure, to name just a few.
massages range from Kizhi (herbal leaves, medicated rice mix or powder applied
on the body in warm boluses), Pizhichil (pouring lukewarm medicated oil on the
body accompanied with a light body massage), Kativasti (three-day treatment in
which warm medicated oil is kept over the lower back within a circle of herbal
paste) to Siroseka (pouring a continuous stream of medicated oil, ghee, butter
milk or a specified decoction on the forehead).
is administered by a trained team, Dr Shashank who has an advanced degree in Ayurveda
and the masseurs, including the gentle, dark-haired Indira, trained in Trichur.
Initially, you answer a set of questions which helps the doctor decide whether
your constitution is vata, pitta or kapha and the entire therapy is determined
accordingly. Not for everyone the same regimen.
Kapoor, vouches for this customized treatment. Down with a bad back and a worse
stomach, Kapoor, combined yoga and spa therapies at Svaasa and within a month
he is a changed, healthier man.
You can buy a one night two-day or a two
night three-day royal suite Svaasa packages, the tariff ranging from Rs 6,800
to Rs 15, 500. The packages include pick-up and transfers from Amritsar railway
station/airport, all meals, laundry, Internet facility, daily yoga, half-day sight-seeing,
visit to the Wagah border and a stopover at the historic Khalsa College. Ayurveda
massages are thrown in free.
At the spa you can also buy
organic food and toiletries from Forest Essentials, dal and red rice from Navdanya's
warehouse, some great puffed wheat kernels and ginger biscuits, handmade cards,
breakfast cereals, cold-press mustard oil, among other things. All organic, of
Content with the response to her spa in Amritsar, Rama is planning
a much larger but more eco-friendly spa in Gurgaon, where the walls would be entirely
clay, the food completely organic and the treatment holistic.
Rama does not have to fret around for help and experts. She finds them at home
- in her three sons. Iqbal, her first born, with a degree from Wharton Business
School, does exactly what he has been trained for - managing the business; Vishal,
with a degree in art and design from London comes up with interesting designs
and paintings, while his twin, Abhimanyu with an under-grad degree from London
School of Economics and hotel management diploma from Switzerland, returned to
India after a stint in Hyatt, Chicago, to carry forward the family tradition of
The word spa might have taken its name from
the tiny town of Spa in east Belgium, noted for its minerals springs and baths,
but at Svaasa you don't need to know the trivia. The Mehras show you what it is
to be in a spa.
Published in Discover
India magazine, August 2004.