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Relax, take it easy

Team OD  | Updated: September 10, 2011, 06:22 PM IST

Now everybody knows that Germany and Kerala have nothing in common. But ever since the launch of the new Audi A8, the similarity has become almost uncanny! At least as far as massages go. Audi's A8 with the relaxation seats have become the next big thing in super luxury automobiles. When we got our hands on the A8, in true OVERDRIVE tradition, we were thinking about a competitor to the Audi in terms of comfort and relaxation. However, we just couldn't think of any car to pitch it against. In the end, we decided the A8's rear seats are so good that it should be pitched against the 'baap' of all relaxation therapies - the traditional ayurvedic full body massage. And what better place to do this at than the Queen of the Arabian sea - Kochi.

The way the Germans do it

You must have read in our previous issues how magnificently luxurious the A8's rear seats are. With its heating, ventilation and massage functions, the A8 has actually redefined the term rear seat luxury. What makes the A8's massage seats stand out from amongst competitors is the fact that it uses separate air chambers to massage the occupant's back as opposed to the single lumbar air bag used in other cars. This allows the seat to offer four different kinds of massages to its occupant â€" pulse, wave, stretch and lumbar, with variable speed and intensity.

From the outside of course, the A8 L looks like any other A8, except longer. Open the rear door, sit inside and the first thing you see is the massive 10 inch LCD screen on which you can play DVDs. There is also an option which allows you to adjust the temperature in your corner of the car individually. Seat being enveloped in luxury by the Valcona leather seats that gently cools or warms your bum as the occasion calls for. For most people this would be luxury enough. But then there are the spoilt ones who demand more. These specimens can press a button on the side of their seat to recline the rear seat completely. No more non adjustable rear seats in this sedan!

Now Audi hopes to cater to every kind of customer that would buy the A8, so they had to think of the golden-spoon-in-the-mouth kind of people too. And keeping this in mind Audi put another little button in the A8. Now the car already has enough legroom and could accommodate Shaq if he chose to take a ride in it. But press this next button and even the Hulk wouldn't complain about legroom. Really. The button moves the front passenger seat forward and lowers a foot rest behind this seat so that you can actually stretch your legs out as far as they can go and seat yourself in a rear seat that would give La-Z-boys a run for their money.

Now that I was all cosy and comfortable with my legs stretched out, it was time to bring on the massage. We at OVERDRIVE take our jobs very seriously. So here I was sitting with a notepad in hand, ready to write down everything that was going through my head while reviewing this seat. But the problem was the moment the massage function was turned on, all other things took a back seat. Taking notes did not seem so important anymore. Enter relaxation.

And that's not all, combine this with the excellent Bang & Olufsen sound system and a refrigerator for your fizzy French drink and I had a massage experience like no other. What's more, I could do all this while being driven to or from work. The Audi then has made a really strong case for itself.

In the land of coconuts

Ayurveda has been around for centuries but it has grabbed international attention only in the recent decade. Hordes of tourists flock to India every year to experience the healing powers of ayurveda. And most of them, more likely than not, end up in Kerala. Of course there are different kinds of ayurvedic massages meant for different purposes. With so much to choose from, we ended up spending close to an hour of our time in the vaidyashala staring at a piece of paper with words such as Sirodhara, Netra Tarpana, Padabhyanga, Talapodhichil and Janu Basti trying to decipher what on earth these things meant. After a round of incessant questioning we decided Abhyanga was the way to go.

Abhyanga is a kind of full body massage that improves tissue strength and blood circulation thus helping to rejuvenate the body. Abhyanga is supposed to get rid of tiredness, body aches and insomnia. It takes two persons to administer this massage which uses medicated herbal oils. The entire process takes close to one hour.

The masseurs started off by reciting a small prayer. Since the oil used can stain clothes I was forced to wear a langota that did not leave much to imagination. On top of that I had two grown men rubbing oil all over me. Now, I'm all for gender equality, but there are just some things that I would rather have a woman do. Anyway, once I got over the initial trauma of being almost naked and lying down on a wooden massage table with oil all over myself, I started to relax. Because say what you may, the massage these guys give is pretty darn good. I mean, I could actually feel my muscles relax and loosen up. But just when I started drifting away into blissfulness I was brought crashing back to reality by a loud slap on my lower back. And these guys didn't seem to stop at just one. They kept going. At first I thought I had done something wrong. But then when they fell into a rhythm I figured it had to be part of the massage.

Once they had finished rolling me around like playdoh they said it was time for my steam bath. Like all other kids from my generation who grew up watching TV, I had pictures of a sauna with men dressed in towels sitting on wooden benches sweating away to glory in my mind. Imagine my shock when I was led to a small box in the corner. The box opened in half to reveal a bench inside which would be my perch. On top of the box was a hole where my head would go. So here I was sitting inside a box with my head sticking out. In a minute the entire box started filling up with steam. Even though I did feel like a vegetable being prepared to be eaten the whole experience was pretty enjoyable. After about fifteen minutes of being baked like this it was time to get out. As soon as I got out I was rushed off to the shower with some kind of urgency. I was then provided with soap and some herbal shampoo and asked not to wash off too much of the oil. According to my masseurs, once the shower was done I would be rejuvenated and detoxified. All I could say was, "if you say so."

And the winner is

I'm not one to diss several years of tradition. But I think that while both massages were very very relaxing, my personal favourite would be the A8's back seat massage. I have my reasons for this. First off, unlike its ayurvedic counterpart the A8 did not require me to be almost naked in front of strangers. Secondly, the A8 did not have the same strangers rubbing oil on my body. On top of that, the A8 did not need me to get an appointment and keep time aside for a massage. And finally, the A8 did not put me inside a box with my head sticking out. Seriously though, as a matter of personal opinion I did feel the A8's massage seats did a really good job especially with my lower back. Now the ayurvedic massage might have been proven to be more effective by several people over the several years that it has been around. But I seriously doubt many people would be comfortable getting a massage dressed in just a loincloth. Then again you know what they say â€" to each his own.

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