age has its Christ in the person of the physician or surgeon who is able
to cure ailments wonderfully, nay, miraculously. In fact, in every country
people always confer the title "the Messiah of the age" on somebody. The
valley of Kashmir has been no exception to this general rule.
developments or researches in the art of healing become internationalized
in a few weeks. People can, besides, personally approach the greatest authorities
in Moscow or New York, Vienna or London. In the past every district or
group of villages had to be self-contained and self-sufficient in the matter
of healing, consultation with an authority from outside the unit being
unthinkable. This was true in a stricter sense of a country like Kashmir
girded all round with high mountains leading to still higher ranges. Masters
of the art of healing had, therefore, to draw on their own resources, intellectually
or intuitively, though nature came to their assistance by providing them
with a unique wealth of medicinal plants and herbs.
In this country
there was once an eminent physician. He had not taken to the profession
for making any sordid gains but because the art of healing had come to
him in his heritage from his forefathers. He had thus the advantage of
the experiments and researches bf several generations, and his books were
enriched with formulae of specifics for ailments in forms peculiar to this
country. These formulae were the choicest possession of his family, the
fruit of the brain-racking of his father and grandfather, which he would
never be prepared to alienate for any price. Every day he came to his consultation
room at a fixed hour to find it packed with patients, coughing or moaning
with pain, shivering or burning with fever. In a few minutes they would
start going to the apothecary with their prescriptions. The physician charged
no fees. Most the patients would, however, place at his feet a few coins
out of gratitude for the pains he took to heal them. Some would make this
payment in kind: a fruiterer presenting him a case of fine apples or a
fisherman a good mahseer fish. Wherever he went people offered him
a seat of honour.
On his part
he was no ordinary physician. People suffering from grave ailments also
came to him and very few of them failed to secure relief. Once they got
to his presence a young man who was reported to have lost sanity all of
a sudden. He had been under the treatment of several physicians but no
could cure him of his malady. Even amulets from the adepts and sacrifices
to the saints had proved of no avail. Eventually they had come to seek
his advice. After a careful examination of the patient and consultation
of the treatment he accompanied the patient to his residence and got him
held at a certain spot on the ground with the help of pegs and ropes. Then
he got a few pitchers of water dropped on his head in a continuous stream
from the third storey of his house. a height of about thirty feet. This
treatment was repeated every day for a week or so and ultimately the patient.
occasion a patient came to him complaining of an intense itch all over
his trunk. He was tired of scratching his skin over and over again. "Even
an ass could not stand all that scratching" he said. Of course, he had
taken pitchers of decoctions which take heat off the blood and purificatory
drugs based on sulphur. Every Tuesday he offered libations to propitiate
Mars. But nothing gave him relief and he grew pale and anaemic. So. at
last. he came to the "Messiah of the age." The latter confessed that he
had never come across a patient of his type. Itch was the symptom of several
ailments but they were entirely different. He consulted his books and examined
the patient once again. He prescribed a combination of oils for massage
as an interim measure but asked the patient to report after two days.
When the patient
called on the physician again, he prescribed a remedy that was startlingly
odd even for those comparatively primitive times. He asked the patient
to go to the slaughter-house early in the morning and get the warm skin
of a goat freshly flayed. The patient was to wear the warm skin on his
bare back and bask in the sun for an hour or so. Though the patient had
grown somewhat disillusioned about the capacity of physicians to heal him,
he was drawn by the novelty of the remedy suggested, to give it a trial.
The physician actually found him basking in the sun with a fresh goatskin
on his bare back. After an hour or so when the goatskin was removed from
his back it was found covered with hundreds of lice rejoicing in the taste
of goat's blood. The patient found relief at long last.
Once a prosperous
butcher came to the physician and complained to him of some unaccountable
pain in one of his eyes. The physician examined both his eyes and prescribed
fomentations. The butcher left his presence with the satisfaction that
his eyes would be all right in a couple of days at the utmost. He, however,
made the present of a pound of sheep's kidneys to the physician.
After a couple
of days the butcher came to report his condition to the physician again.
"How are you
feeling now?" asked the physician. "I trust your pain is assuaged."
replied the butcher, "there is hardly any improvement." He gave the physician
to understand that he was finding it difficult to attend to his trade and
if no definite improvement set in immediately, his livelihood would be
"Have no fears,
my friend, you will soon get well. I can assure you that your eye will
be purged of the affectation as surely as a fly is thrown out of milk,"
replied the physician. The butcher presented him a couple of pounds of
sheep's brains before taking his leave.
continued to come to the physician daily for fresh instructions and every
time he got for him a present. He did feel some improvement but not quite.
He felt pain off and on but had the confidence that he would be cured completely
in a few days. He had a feeling that the affliction had been caused by
some chronic imbalance between humours and would ultimately disappear.
However, he continued his visits to the physician with appropriate presents
ranging from a sizable quantity of bone marrow to finest mutton embedded
in layers of fat.
One day the
butcher was busy at his shop longer than usual and the physician had been
called to attend to an emergency case some distance from his residence.
The butcher was, therefore, disappointed not to find him in the consultation
room. Instead, he found the physician's son who was his father's assistant.
Though unwilling to entrust his case to the comparatively less experienced
hands of the junior, the butcher ultimately approached the younger physician
on the plea that half-a-loaf is better than none. The young man examined
the eyes of the butcher carefully and detected the presence of a particle
of bone under the eyelid. He removed it and the butcher found relief almost
The next day
the physician found the dinner rather uninviting. It consisted of the sag and
rice of the average Kashmiri. It made his mouth water to think of the savoury
meat delicacies he had been enjoying for the few days immediately preceding.
'I say" said
he, "did that butcher with a swollen eye come to you?"
replied the son, "I got out a fine particle of bone from under his eyelid
and he has no more pain now."
"Is that so?"
said the elder, "a fine physician you are indeed! Did I not know that there
was a particle of bone under the eyelid? You deserve that diet of coarse
hard-fibred vegetables for your skill as physician and you will regret
you had not enjoyed those savoury delicacies a little longer!"
Thus was the
hydra-headed monster exorcised away.