Monday, September 30, 2013

The Tukang Urut’s (Masseur’s) Trust

The floor is slippery, making it a tad more challenging to get from one end to the other. A common scene in many Indonesian households, these floors are testament of one of the most common, yet bizaar, parts of life. A big chunk of surviving this concrete jungle is to relax, unwind, and drop a luggage full of stress, primarily associated with work. However, on this post, I would like to veer off the more obvious aspect of massage, which primarily focuses on the client, and instead walk towards the window to peek at the life of the masseuse.

Possible Occupational Hazard: Mutilation

Let me set the scene. On a Saturday evening, after a day of shopping for batik, a group of older friends and I came back to the hotel exhausted. I felt utterly humongous due to the speed I had consumed tonight's dinner, while my friends complained about some back pain and soreness. As we approached the hotel, we asked a friend of ours, who lived in the area, to arrange for a masseuse. Unlike most spa services in the U.S., most massages occur at the client’s residence. Within several minutes, a woman knocked on our door. Her husband had driven her to the hotel. A polite and modest woman, she entered without much hesitation and began massaging my friend.

Safety, I thought, came first. But this woman unknowingly walked into our room. She did not know how many people were inside, how long she would be in the room, or what would happen in the next few hours, and yet she still showed up. At first I, an overly paranoid and cautious human being, applauded her easygoingness. Of course, this isn’t the first time I saw a masseuse or masseur enter our own space, but I never fully realized the dangers until now.
She stayed in the room for an hour or two until she finished the massage session. Afterwards she asked to use the bathroom and took the money and left. It was as abrupt as she came. Nevertheless, it clearly left an impact on me. The dangers that we put ourselves into are, perhaps, motivated by deeper reasoning. The woman might have dealt with the possible risk by focusing on the reward. She might also be used to the scene. Unknowingly, she might already have experienced such a tragedy. Whatever the answer it, it still beguiles me how trusting people seem to be. The things that we do to be rewarded; the rationales that we make to justify our decisions; and ways we prepare ourselves for the unknown intrigues me.

Well hotel rooms aren't that bad

On the larger scope of things, the masseuse’s behavior, whether it is fully educated or lacks foreseeing and preparation, is reflective of how we lead our lives. “The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all,” one friend muttered. Each of our limits, which differ from each other, is formed based on past experiences, knowledge, and other factors. We recalibrate the scale every so often. We regularly weigh benefits against risks. We learn that life is not made of just smooth sailing and tiptoeing around eggshells. And sometimes we do become the masseuse, entering an unknown place to be rewarded for our deeds. We grab the opportunity although the stakes are high. 

*Author owns rights to all of the photos above

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