The real healers
N J Ravi Chander
We counted ourselves lucky to have caring doctors, ayurvedic practitioners and physicians in the old days. They upheld the dignity and honour of their noble profession by serving and caring and always had the patient’s best interests at heart. Their soothing words, calm demeanour and healing touch, would work like a charm and speed up the recovery process.
My first healer was surprisingly not a doctor but my maternal grandmother, Logambal. She was a repository of knowledge in ancient cures and effectively used the herbs, oils and leaves available in the kitchen/garden. She used a wet sponge or cloth to bring down the temperature of an ailing patient.
Coconut oil heated in the hollow of a dried red chilly would be introduced into the ear to fight away earaches. She would serve a warm glass of spicy crab soup to drive away coughs or colds. Infants would get their fill of vitamin D by being exposed to the early morning sunlight. Onion slices, turmeric powder, and salt served as a balm for various insect bites.
Our first ‘medicine man’ was a doctor who answered to the name Fernandez. He was the lone doctor in the area, and his residence was a home-cum-clinic. The stethoscope that hung from his ears held me in awe as a kid, and he would pull the children’s legs by claiming that he was a magician who could make their miseries disappear.
Talking of stethoscopes, a doctor at a rural centre, Periyapatna, sported one broken in half. Undeterred by the damaged instrument, he went about treating his patients. When I arrived to seek treatment for an upset tummy, the doctor unbelievably figured out the cause – devouring mangoes!
My late father, M N Jayaraman, was a firm believer in Ayurveda. We were regulars to the Devi Oushedalya on Seppings Road, Fraser Town, run by a famed family ayurvedic practitioner, Dr Janakiraman. Ever smiling and relaxed, his mere touch would make you feel better.
The famous ayurvedic centre always teemed with patients, many of whom came from distant places. The centre dispensed various powders, concoctions, syrups and oils and even claimed to treat bald pates and cancer. But, sadly, the healing centre faded out after the doctor’s demise.
Dr Uthappa was a famous paediatrician who treated our children. He was a pleasant personality and had the uncanny knack of putting tiny tots at ease. His pranks amused the kids and sent them into raptures. He also suggested time tested home remedies and never failed to inquire about the welfare of other family members. Last but not least, there was this portly healer called Dr Naidu. He was a good samaritan who charged a pittance and gave away free medicines to the deprived. An able cricketer in his younger days, he always played it straight, drawing many patients to his clinic.
Before concluding, it would be apt to recall the words of the late German-born American physician and author Martin Henry Fischer: “The great doctors all got their education off dirt pavements and poverty – not marble floors and foundations”.
(The author is a former banker who has taken to writing as a past time. He regularly contributes to ‘Kashmir Vision’)