A couple of weeks ago, my wife had an attack of cold while on a trip to Baripada. What followed was a particularly severe and seemingly endless bout of dry cough. As usual, I rushed to the neighbourhood chemist who, as usual, gave three medicines to be taken for the next three days and asked, as usual, to ‘tell’ him about the ‘progress’ after two days. Unlike previous such occasions, however, the cough just refused to go even after three days, forcing me to rush to him again after three days. He gave me the same set of medicines to be taken for the next three days. While the frequency and severity of the cough did come down a notch, it never really went away completely.
Someone in her office noticed her coughing for days together and then suggested a desi remedy straight out of ‘dadi ke nuskhe’: a ‘kada’ (boiled liquid) made of water and particular quantities of misri (crystallized sugar lumps), panamadhuri (fennel), black pepper, ginger and tejapatra (bayleaf). Guess what? It did not take more than two helpings of the magic potion separated by a few hours before the dry cough that had troubled her for close to two weeks simply vanished into thin air!
Soon after this, I was narrating this incident to a friend who, in turn, had his story to tell. Around the turn of the century, he was suffering from severe piles leading to serious blood loss and acute pain in the rectum. “I felt so drained out I could barely walk,” the friend said. He consulted a doctor who advised him to undergo a surgery without any further delay and even volunteered to fix up an appointment with the surgeon in the Capital Hospital. The surgery was scheduled for the very next day. But my friend, like most Indians do on such occasions, developed cold feet at the mere thought of the surgeon’s scalpel running through the tender flesh in his rectum and started consulting other friends to find out of there was any cure available for it in alternative systems of medicine that would not require an operation. One of the friends suggested he met a man, who was a clerk in BJB College and lived in one of the quarters for staff inside the campus. Sure enough, the friend traced and reached his quarters on the morning of the day his surgery had been scheduled for. The man, who was watering the flower plants in his premises, advised him to return with two pieces of banana the next morning.
When he reached the next morning, the man asked him to hand over the two pieces of bananas and then went in with them. He returned after a while with the bananas chopped into neat slices with ‘something’ stuffed to each slice. He advised the friend to gulp down (not chew) the banana slices one by one. The friend did as advised and returned home. He hasn’t had a piles attack in the two decades since then!
The point I am trying to make with this rather lengthy build up is this: there are desi cures available for most common ailments that afflict humans. But in our pursuit of the ‘scientific spirit’, we tend to dismiss them as quackery. We would rather go to a ‘reputed’ doctor, pay him a hefty consultation fee - which could range from a modest Rs 100 to Rs. 500, depending on the ‘reputation’ of the doctor and the size of the crowd waiting in queue outside his clinic – and then fork out a few hundred/thousand rupees more to buy the medicines prescribed by the doctor than ask someone in the family or the neighbourhood about a possible home remedy that costs a fraction of what we spend on doctors and medicines.
Doctors and pharmaceutical companies would have their own, all-too-obvious and selfish reasons to dismiss ‘dadi ke nushkhe’ as bunkum. But why should we fall into their trap and not take advantage of our millennia old knowledge systems of medicines? After all, the finest doctor of the present times cannot hold a candle to the likes of Charaka and Sushruta, can they?
How about rediscovering our roots and going back to the good old ‘dadi ke nuskhe’ for a change?