Friday, 21 September 2012


His name was Shiv Kumar. He lived in Madras, the capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu. His friends called him SK; but everyone else called him Doctor. He was not a doctor in the true sense of the word for he was neither a doctor of medicine nor a doctor of letters. He was a medicine man and was a practitioner of what is now called alternative medicine.

SK possessed a rather dubious certificate provided by a dubious association of Indian practitioners that certified him as an R.I.M.P - Registered Indian Medicine Practitioner. Such certificates were usually provided to working professionals or in this case practitioners of Indian medicine upon payment of a stipulated fee to the dubious association.

SK had his own private practice and treated patients in a small one room clinic cum dispensary. SK was a very simple man who lived a frugal life without any desire for the luxuries that others craved for. He had married a like minded woman called Valli and they had two children. Their first born was a girl named Vani and the second was their Son Kumaravel. They lived in a very small rented house on the outskirts of the city and SK used to commute to his small one-room so called clinic on his bicycle which was much older than his first born daughter.

SK was a doctor of a different kind. A specimen that you don’t get to see in today’s competitive world of medical science. SK had dedicated his entire life to a holistic study of the human body, its structure, function, internal appearance and the disorders therein. His study had resulted in him discovering that the human body was not what it seemed to be and that modern medical science was not treating the cause of the illness but only the effects of the illness which it mistook to be the cause of the illness. However, no one would listen to SK for he was a small time medical practitioner.

SK had a regular clientele who depended upon his skills to treat all ailments that arose within their family. SK’s practice had extended to the second generation as sons or daughters of patients had continued to use his services for their own spouses and children.

Having started his medical career at the age of 12 as an understudy to his father who was also a medicine man, SK had found a Yogi as a Guru at the age of 21 and had learnt the nuances of Sidhha and Ayurveda from him. Since then SK had been treating patients for twenty five years and SK was now nearing the age of fifty.

Over the course of his practice SK had stumbled across certain outstanding relationships amongst cause and effects that made him realise that diseases like cancer and AIDS were treatable and could be completely cured. SK wanted to experiment further to verify if his hypothesis was true but there was no patient with such a serious disease who would want to risk experimentation rather than seek conventional methods of treatment to prolong the disease and extend their life span.

It was at this moment that a friend of SK brought a young lady or should we say girl known to his family for treatment. The lady who was hardly twenty years of age was experiencing a deterioration in health for no known reason and constant fatigue and dizzy spells seemed frequent as her beautiful body wasted away. The young lady’s parents were villagers for whom approaching the government health care system was unthinkable; for no external illness could be deciphered on the lady.

Upon examining her pulse SK realized that the lady suffered from a serious illness and asked her parents to immediately get the girl tested for cancer. Though the girl’s parents were initially hesitant SK’s friend who had brought them to SK had forced them to get the testing done. As fate would have it the lady tested positive for cancer of the blood. The parents of the young girl were shocked. However they did not return to SK but preferred to adopt the conventional method of treatment inspite of SK’s friend’s warning them that it would be a waste of money. Indeed treatment for blood cancer is an expensive option in modern medicine which yields only limited results. Finally after draining all their resources without any improvement in their daughter’s condition they decided to permit SK to treat their girl.

SK began his treatment with a secret concoction of bitter herbs that he would personally administer to the girl three times a day. After about ten days the girl showed signs of improvement and within thirty days was up and about on her feet. At the end of ninety days the girl had completely regained her original good health. It was then that SK asked the girl’s parents to check their daughter once again for cancer. The parents dutifully did as he told them and to their surprise found that the cancer had completely vanished without a trace. The doctors who tested the girl initially and tested her again after SK’s treatment were simply astounded. They could not accept the fact that a medicine man had done what science had hitherto been unable to. They just attributed it to one of the quirks of nature.

Meanwhile, word of SK’s prowess spread rapidly and terminally ill cancer patients began to approach SK for treatment. All it took SK was 90 days of the herbal concoction to cure those patients. Meanwhile SK also had the opportunity to work with AIDS patients and found similar success with them though the herbal concoction he used for them was different. SK’s fame soon spread far and wide. Many patients from overseas began to throng his clinic which remained the same small room. SK charged fifty rupees for every administration of his herbal preparation and a day’s treatment cost a patient only a hundred and fifty rupees.

SK became so popular that even the local media began covering his achievements. In one such interview SK was asked why he did not patent his concoction and market it wholesale. To this SK replied that his treatment also included pranic healing and it was therefore necessary for him to personally administer the medicine.

SK’s fame did not seem to affect him or his family in anyway. SK still used his old bicycle to commute and many rich patients who had been successfully cured had offered him gifts including houses and cars but SK had politely declined them all.

The effects of SK’s successful practice was soon experienced by all the cancer specialists of allopathic medicine. They witnessed a decline in patients approaching them for treatment and thereby a fall in revenue. The only institutions that were having no problems were the diagnostic centres that still provided testing services to those with cancer and then testing again to observe the cure.

Meanwhile SK’s first cancer patient, the young lady, had now got married and had produced two healthy babies that proved that she was completely cured and SK’s medicine had no side effects whatsoever.
                                         * * * *

It was a bright spring morning at the office of the South Indian Chapter of the Medical Practitioners Association of India (MEPAI), in Madras. An emergency meeting of the general body was in progress wherein doctors of all sorts were expressing their displeasure at the falling revenues in their profession and the cause of the same- the practice of SK. The debate was heated and the topic of the debate was the stand that the MEPAI would have to take to deal with the situation and restore their profession to its lost glory.

The most vocal of them was Dr. Sickle Cell who ran a cancer hospital in South Madras and who was one of those whose business was directly hit because of SK. Dr. Sickle Cell was of the view that the best way to put SK out of business was to bribe the local health officials and inspectors to seal down his clinic and ban SK from practicing. Dr. Heartless, the heart surgeon did not endorse this view. He considered it unethical and unworthy of the medical profession. He believed that hiring an agency to do PR work for the association would be a good move as only PR could negate the influence of SK.

Dr. Rivet the orthopedic did not believe that all these soft options would work. He believed that hiring a few mercenary goons to break SK’s bones would help. If worse came to worst, the goons could murder SK and his family and finish the problem in one go. 

Dr. Cerebral the brain surgeon was shocked on hearing Dr. Rivet’s suggestions. He believed that lobbying with the government would be the best solution. In fact the medical fraternity could seek concessions and exemptions due to the weakening of the industry. More over, the lobbying MPs could also try to buy out other MPs and help to ban all alternative medical practice from the country. To top it all the Cabinet Health Minister who was from Tamil Nadu was himself a doctor and would understand the problems of the sector as well as provide the necessary concessions.

Dr. Digest the gastroenterologist seriously assimilated the solution and agreed that this was the best way to go about the solution. However Dr. Digest also believed that hiring a PR agency to undertake a PR campaign would also help in preparing the ground for lobbying and aid in the lobbying effort itself.

After considerable hemming and hawing the members finally decided that Dr. Cerebral’s suggestion of lobbying with the government would be ideal while also incorporating Dr. Heartless and Dr. Digest’s suggestion of undertaking a PR campaign which would also be implemented with the services of a PR agency. The meeting then wound up with cocktails and lunch which the doctors set into with gusto.

                                       * * * *

It was a cold morning in the capital city of Delhi. The harsh winter was over but the cold was yet to flee. It was in one of the administrative warrens of a garish building that was also termed a Bhavan that the cabinet secretaries and other administrative officials of the IAS cadre were meeting to discuss the SK phenomenon.

The health secretary who had convened the meeting explained to all those gathered about the problems of the practicing medical fraternity. While all the other officials gathered there had their own share of complaints about how the SK phenomenon was affecting them it was only the home secretary of the government of Tamil Nadu who had no complaints. The SK phenomenon had boosted medical tourism to his state from neighbouring states and countries and the additional revenue from such sources was only boosting the economy and benefiting the common man.

The Principal Secretary from the Prime Minister’s Office had also lent his august presence to the meeting and he now gently murmured that the Prime Minister was planning to pilot a bill in parliament that would not only curb unethical practices of alternative medicine men but also standardise all medicines used by them through making them disclose their formulas and secret potions and placing them in the public domain.

There was general agreement among all gathered that they would help the PMO’s office in drafting a flawless bill. As the meeting concluded a bevy of beetle shaped white ambassador cars with red lights flashing and white curtains drawn across windows left the Bhavan on important missions across the capital. They had more important things to do than consider the plight of the helpless Indian medicine men.

                                     * * * *

A few days later on a chilly evening in early spring in Delhi, the banquet hall of the PM’s residence was brightly decked and lit. The occasion was an informal get-together for all the illustrious Members of Parliament and even the President of India had joined the gathering.

Though the atmosphere was cordial and informal the main objective of the dinner exercise was to obtain a consensus on the “Alternative Medicine Regulation Bill” that was to be presented during the coming session of Parliament. The PM could be found moving from group to group welcoming all the MPs and gently nudging them to think about the proposed bill.

Finally the PM reached the group of MPs surrounding the Health Minister. As he welcomed all these MPs the PM remarked to the Health Minister about the benefits of standardising Indian medicines and bringing about a uniform code of conduct for all medicine men. The Health Minister was an elected MP from Tamil Nadu. The Health minister seriously pondered the issue and then gently and respectfully addressed the P.M. “Sir! I am sorry but I cannot agree with you on this. The quack in question named S.K. is a member of my community and his clientele is largely made up of members of my community who support him in a big way. Therefore, it would be political suicide on my part to promote this bill, since no one would vote for me during the forthcoming elections”. The P.M was taken aback on hearing this.

Meanwhile the MPs from South India mainly the M.Ps in and around Madras also voiced their opinion that alternative medicine was doing good for the economy in these times of recession and alternative medical tourism must be promoted. They therefore were against any bill that would affect their vote banks. The P.M. wore a grim look on hearing this news for in these days of coalition politics no one could be ignored and no party’s feathers ruffled. Finally, by the end of the dinner the P.M’s efforts were praised by all concerned who left with burping bellies, satiated by the wholesome meal.

As fate would have it the regulation of alternative medicine bill was a non starter. The bill took nine months in the making and when it was finally ready to be presented in Parliament, the Government was faced with something more important and the politicians were more concerned about their own survival that they had no time to think about this inconsequential bill as it were. Moreover a few of the M.P’s themselves whose constituencies primarily made a living out of Ayurveda, Siddha or any other alternative medicine were dead against the standardisation of alternative medicines and rallied in support of alternative medicines.

As a result of the delay in piloting the bill the medical associations around the country realized the futility of political lobbying and went into PR mode. They tried to load the media with information facts and figures to show that modern allopathic medicine was the panacea for all ills. 

Initially the campaign was a bit successful. But as more and more stories started trickling in from various parts of the country about the miraculous cures from the deathbed that were executed by SK, The media was then all agog with positive stories on alternative medicines and India’s ancient heritage of alternative or rather mainstream medicine of the past that had now turned into alternative medicine. 

In fact one of SK’s patients who was a celebrity himself and was cured from a severe form of AIDS published his auto biography titled “Back from the Grave”. This book became an instant best seller and made international audiences sit up and take a look at how a promiscuous celebrity had been cured from certain death.

Meanwhile, all this did not seem to affect SK in the least. SK went about his usual business on his cycle. He continued to cure people of all illnesses within ninety days and continued to charge the same fees as he had done earlier. While SK’s revenue had been initially meager; the huge volume of patients resulted in SK earning almost three thousand rupees per day.

The Medical Practitioners Association of India (MEPAI) was perplexed. It did not know what to do since they seemed powerless to stop the SK juggernaut, as it were. Dr. Sickle Cell rang up Dr. Heartless and Dr.Rivet. He invited them over for dinner that day. 

As soon as Dr. Heartless and Dr. Rivet reached Dr. Sickle Cell’s house for dinner Dr. Sickle Cell made it clear that he had called them over to decide how best to deal with SK since the association seemed powerless to tackle the issue. Dr. Sickle Cell poured the other two doctors a round of drinks. After ensuring that there was sufficient snacks and starters for his guests Dr. Sickle Cell recollected the discussions during the earlier meeting when he had wanted to use officials of the municipal corporation to shut down SK’s practice and Dr. Rivet had wanted to break the bones of SK.

Once his guests had warmed up with a couple of drinks inside their bellies, Dr. Sickle Cell asked Dr. Rivet to identify senior officials of the municipal corporation who could help them in sealing up SK’s practice, for a consideration of course. Dr. Rivet readily agreed to this plan and told Dr. Sickle Cell that his Co- brother or his sister- in- law’s husband was an I.A.S officer serving in the Municipal Corporation of the City. Dr. Sickle Cell agreed to finance the endeavour and said he would dedicate half a million rupees towards the necessary expenditure of greasing palms. Dr. Rivet mumbled about the recession and the lack of patients before agreeing to shell out rupees two lakhs and fifty thousand for the same. Not to be out done Dr. Heartless also agreed to pay up another two and a half lakhs of rupees for the cause.

Now armed with a capital of one million rupees the doctors began planning the manoeuvres against SK. The medical inspectors of the Municipal Corporation visited SK’s clinic the very next day and sealed up the clinic citing insanitary and unhygienic conditions and also with possession of sub standard and contaminated medicine. The visiting patients were in shock while SK remained unruffled. He contacted a lawyer through one of his former patients and asked him to obtain a stay on banning him from practice. The lawyer had a real problem since the RIMP certificate awarded by the so called professional body was unrecognized and SK was merely a hereditary medicine man. Meanwhile the owner of the clinic that SK had rented approached SK and asked him to vacate since the M.C authorities had made it clear to him that the sealed premises could be unsealed only if SK vacated.

The next day as the high court was moved for a stay by SK’s lawyer, SK went around looking for premises from which he could operate. While all the landowners were happy to meet SK, who had become a celebrity in his own right; they were not prepared to rent out their building to him since they knew that they would immediately have the local administration breathing fire down upon them like a dragon. The only option left was buying his own property to set up a clinic but the very thought of buying real estate in Madras was daunting due to the sky rocketing prices of land in and around the city. While SK had made some money due to his cancer and AIDS cure in the recent past he had invested the money in buying his family a modest residence and therefore did not have enough money left over to buy premises for a clinic.

Meanwhile, by the end of that evening the Madras High Court had granted an interim stay on banning SK and SK heaved a sigh of relief. The HC had not been clear as to the grounds for banning SK and had requested the authorities to study SK’s case further and then present within three months the findings for review of the court. The court had literally ordered the concerned departments of Government to apply their minds before imposing a ban on a traditional product which was the outcome of an ancient knowledge and art form that deserved and needed to be studied further.

To solve the impasse of not finding any suitable premises to run his clinic, SK decided to use his own residence as a clinic. He was immediately served notices by various concerned agencies regarding misuse of residential building for commercial purposes. His electricity and water was cut off citing the same reasons but SK moved on undeterred by such trivialities and focused on the business of curing people who came to him with all kinds and forms of ailments.

Meanwhile, SK had a part of his residential premises notified as commercial and separated the electricity and water for these two sections. It was back to business as usual for SK. After three months the Government lawyers returned to the bench and reported that three months had been inadequate to document and study the treatment carried out by SK and requested his honour to grant them additional time of another three months. The case meandered on while SK’s practice increased manifold.

Frustrated by the lack of progress in shutting up SK’s practice Dr. Sickle Cell again convened a business dinner at his residence; he also invited Dr. Heartless and Dr. Rivet. The doctors who attended the dinner that night were shifty eyed and appeared disturbed. SK’s practice had really become bad for business in the Madras region and guests were silently whispering and sharing stories of allopathetic doctors; MDs’ and MS’ who had shut up their practice, wound up their assets in Madras and fled to far away places where they could restore their practice in peace.

The general mood at the dinner was one of apprehension, fear and worry. Dr. Sickle cell used the mood to whip up the assembled into a frenzy by delivering a welcome toast in which he talked about protecting the Hippocratic oath by preventing and destroying the living threat to their profession. He also used the occasion to request all those gathered to donate liberally for the cause; that being the destruction of SK. Everyone contributed their mite to the SK Destruction Fund but no strategy or method of destruction was discussed; neither did the assembled want to discuss the matter, either. For, they all knew what the money was to be utilised for and how.

It was about a week later when in the middle of night SK woke up to a banging noise as if some one was breaking down the door. Even before he could clear himself of the sleepiness that engulfed him, SK was surrounded by atleast a dozen dirty looking goons with pistols drawn in their hands. While the others watched on; one of the goons raised his pistol, as he straightened out his hand aiming dead center at SK’s forehead.

Before anyone could realize what was happening SK’s wife who had been sleeping on the bed beside SK suddenly pounced up shrieking and tried to shield SK. The sudden noise and movement made the goon aiming the pistol to jerk the trigger in an involuntary reaction. The darkness of the bedroom made it difficult for clear vision and as the shot rang out a moan could be heard and then pandemonium broke loose.

The neighbours who had been aroused by the noise of the door being broken open had gathered together and shouted “Thief! Thief!”; outside the house. SK’s two children who had been woken up by now added to the confusion as they rushed out of their rooms to check out the noise. As feet pattered and thundered around, the goons retreated from SK’s room and vanished into the dark of the night through SK’s backyard. Meanwhile SK’s son had rushed into his father’s room and switched on the electric lights to find his mother injured on her left shoulder and SK holding his wife in his arms.

As always, the local police reached the spot an hour later but were refused entry by SK who informed them that nothing was wrong and that they could leave. The local inspector examined the broken door and commented that it did not look like nothing was wrong. However he could not do anything as SK refused to lodge a criminal complaint. SK as always remained calm. Even before the police had arrived SK had examined his wife’s bullet wound and found that it was nothing serious. The bullet had just grazed her left shoulder and SK performed the necessary first aid and treatment. That night none of the inmates of SK’s house could sleep. The next morning’s sun rays found a big lock hanging on SK’s door.

The Epilogue:

SK stood staring at the green paddy fields stretching endlessly forward. The gentle breeze waltzed the paddy stalks in a graceful dance that was enchanting to the eye. His thoughts were far away as he thought of his small clinic and his bicycle in Madras. It was five years now since SK and his family had left Madras; nay vanished I could say. The house remains locked till this day. SK had resolved that night to never use his medical skills ever for profit or as a service. SK who was always cool and collected had become nervous that night after the attack by the mercenary goons. He made his decision without hesitation. He realised that the world was not yet prepared for his cancer cure and that it was wrong on his part to deploy his skills among unprepared and greedy individuals.

SK and his family had returned to his native hamlet in Southern Tamil Nadu where the world had stopped still and time and technology had made no impact. SK had bought some land near the village with the little money he had been able to raise while leaving Madras and had decided to become a farmer. SK and his Son began cultivating paddy and banana in the land he had purchased. Five years later SK & Son had the best paddy and banana crop standing in the whole district.

SK had developed a new mix of organic manure with some dried herbs and plants added to the normal organic compost and lo and behold his fields became fertile than ever before and he was able to cultivate five times the same as that of the fellow farmers of that district. SK was contented with the village way of life but knew the peace and quiet could not last for long. He knew that the neighbouring farmers were jealous of his yield and were keen to know the secret behind his miraculous yield. He knew the kites and vultures would start circling him once again.

He squinted his eyes as he looked up into the sun. Indeed a few kites were circling above; drifting in the warm air currents above his field.