I’ve watched chiropractor videos on YouTube, where the practitioner yanks the neck of the patient using a Y-strap and calls it spinal decompression or something else. Did you feel it all the way down? He asks, and the patient responds with a euphoric grunt, a throaty hallelujah symbolising release from years of pain. He groans and moans like he’s having a rough orgasm, breathes sharply, and replies, Yes, sir! I did. I’ve always wondered whether the entire business of cracking joints and twisting necks is dangerous—something a surgeon would condemn, saying with a heightened sigh or a high C# of concern, That could lead to paralysis! But I realised chiropractors are tame creatures like little floppy-eared bunnies, compared to Indian barbers. One cannot articulate the Indian barber’s massage with its neck, skin, jaw, eye, nose, and pelvic cracking. You must view it in all its grotesqueness, replete with the barber’s demon-possessed histrionics to understand it (if we can fathom it). It’s a rhythmic dance performed by two pockmarked faced, moustached dandies akin to some shamanistic ritual. The unsuspecting victim sits on a steel chair while these men with mean grins enact a macabre rite of disturbing hair pulling, kicking, arm raising, lower-back distorting, and implement using to ‘relax him.’ The poor, shirtless fellow soon finds himself with a reddened back and a chest with palm marks on it like the recipient of an ultra-hardcore BDSM pounding. He mewls and grunts while the barber-shamans slather an ugly, yellow oil all over him, mock him and beat him with sticks and other ‘massage accessories.’ The whole affair looks like a weird caricature of a soft horror movie (if such a thing exists) or the weird parodying itself in some meta way that makes the video game High on Life seem basic. The strangest part of it is that it’s tagged as ASMR and actually relaxes you, slowly hypnotising you with its armpit cracking, knee jerking, and eyebrow pulling. Perhaps the mildly grotesque on repeat has this effect of giving someone a brain massage. Now I’m not referring to gore or butchering. If that sort of thing relaxes you, then you should move out of your grandmother’s damp basement with its rusty tables, chainsaw, and cobwebbed refrigerator. I’m referring to a simulacrum of the grotesque, or better yet, a repetitive parody of the absurd or a post-Kafkaesque, self-aware, ironic retelling of the weird on repeat. A sequence of cracks and hair ruffling, strange sounds and weird expressions, putting you in a trance, slowly pushing you off insomnia’s cliff, and making you plunge into a deep sleep.
Photo by Benjamin Sow on Unsplash