Actor Shriya Saran’s newly opened spa in Lokhandwala, called Shree Spa, promises to rejuvenate the mind and body through improved blood circulation, memory and sleep. It also offers relief from fatigue, depression, hangovers, jetlag, PMS and electromagnetic stress. There are also treatments for removal of toxins and boosting the immune system through hormone secretion.
But what really makes the spa unusual, is that these promises are being kept by highly trained therapists and masseurs who are visually challenged. “We have five people working with us, of whom two are totally blind, the other two have 10 to 15 per cent vision, the receptionist has 40 per cent vision,” says the Sivaji actor, who developed an empathy for the visually impaired while spending a lot of her childhood in the blind school opposite her own.
The children she used to watch playing cricket have since grown up and so has Shriya. What really bothers her is that India is not a handicap-friendly country. Her mother, Neerja, quickly realised, through her visits to city blind schools and NGOs, that there was a lack of employment opportunities for the visually impaired. Even those who had training and qualifications had trouble getting jobs.
“Shriya has been wanting to invest 50 per cent of her earnings in something that would benefit these people. When it was pointed out to us that they have a super sense of touch and could give great massages, the idea of a spa where they would be paid at par with market rates sparked off,” says Neerja.
The spa opened just three weeks ago and has already got a loyal clientele for its foot, head and full-body massages. “Our masseurs are trained in reflexology,” asserts Shriya. If Shree Spa works, she plans to open more such spas to create job opportunities and give the visually impaired a life of economic independence and dignity.