Some therapy for the ears

TRADITION RULES

ENT specialists are aplenty and ear buds too have been around for quite some time, but many Delhiites still love to get their ears cleaned by the traditional ear-cleaners.

Unusual job : A boy gets his ear cleaned up.

Ear cleaning is one of the oldest professions on the streets of Delhi. It is a skill handed down from father to son through generations.

Ask any ear-cleaner and he will say all his ancestors have followed the same profession. “I learnt the art from my father, and my father from his.

We have done nothing else. This has always been our family business,” says 30-year-old Mohammed Anas, who offers his unique service in Connaught Place.

Most traditional ear-cleaners in Delhi come from Moradabad. Like their forefathers, they come to the bigger cities looking for clients. In Delhi, the ear-cleaners find their patrons in Chandni Chowk, Connaught Place, G B Road, in office areas as well as in cinema halls and railway stations. They have not entirely lost favour with the educated elite either.

It is rather easy to spot the ear-cleaners, thanks to their peculiar red headgear and the small shoulder bags that hold their ear-cleaning paraphernalia. They solicit by sidling close to passersby and announcing their trade. If anyone agrees, the ear-cleaners take him or her to a quiet spot and get down to work.

“It is an intricate job and not everyone can do it. We can do it as it is in our blood,” says Sheikh Raza , a 45-year-old ear-cleaner who has been cleaning ears since he was 18.

All ear cleaners have five basic cleaning tools which they make on their own. They are thin and spindly and made of steel. One end of the instrument is wrapped in a small wad of cotton and inserted into the ear. The ear-cleaner rotates his instrument in the ear for a while and removes the wax.

His next task is oiling the ears with mustard oil and then the job is done. In more complicated cases, for instance when a foreign body has to be extricated from the ear, the cleaner has a special tool with a tiny hook at one end. And it is in such cases that the ear cleaners' services are most sought.

“Doctors can never take out objects from ears as successfully as we can,”  says Sheikh. He narrates an incident when doctors failed to remove a grain of wheat from a patient's ear. “The doctors only managed to push the grain further into the ear. It took me only a minute to take it out,” he claims.

The doctors on the other hand warn people against accepting the services of ear-cleaners. Rajiv Puri, a senior consultant at Apollo Hospital, says that ears have a self-cleaning process and there is no need to clean them.

“Inserting objects can pose a risk to the eardrum, and other delicate parts of the ear,” he says. But those who love to get their ears cleaned turn a deaf ear to the doctor’s advice to savour the pleasure of traditional ear cleaning.

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