A rural doctor's panacea

When we were young, during summer vacation, it was routine for us to visit our maternal grandfather’s house, who lived in a far off village on the banks of river Shimsha. Here, Nanjachari, who belonged to the now extinct species of goldsmiths, was also a pandit practicing the local health tradition.

Though he was neither institutionally trained nor a registered practitioner, with several years of experience behind him, he had undocumented knowledge on bone setting, herbal healing and had built reputation of his own. He rendered yeoman service to humanity at a time when practitioners of medicine were hard to come by. He had learned the ropes of the job by observation and it soon acquired a healing touch. The lehyams and churnams he handed over cured people with minor ailments and also acquired credibility.

One day, a small landholder Rame­gowda, while yawning dislocated his jaw joint, could not close his mouth and started writhing in pain. His wife concluded that this had happened by the malefic effect of the planets and hence approached the village priest.

The priest, to assuage the fear of Ramegowda’s wife, advised her to break the ‘thade’ (a ritual of breaking coconut and lemon kept on an earthen pot, with a machete) to ward off the eclipse effect. But despite following his suggestions, the dislodged jaw couldn’t be set back in position!

Since the pandit Nanjachari was not available in the village, the villagers took him to the Government Hospital at Maddur. The doctor examined the patient and advised that he be taken to the ‘dodda aspatre’ (big hospital) at Bangalore, as he did not possess the required facility to treat him.

Without further ado, the perplexed villagers shifted him to ‘dodda aspatre,’ where the doctors declared that the patient had to undergo an operation! The naïve villagers preferred to take him back to the village, instead of allowing him to die in the hospital of operation.

By then, Nanjachari had returned to the village. When the villagers explained the whole episode to him, Nanjachari shrugged his shoulder and said with a tone of despair, “A small problem you aggravated! Do not worry. I will solve the problem within no time. Allow him to sit in front of me.”

Nanjachari sat in front of the oven and placed an iron rod inside it, consoling Ramegowda, boosting his confidence and diverting his attention. When the iron rod kept on the ember turned red hot, Nanjachari took it out suddenly and directed it towards Ramegowda, as if to brand him with red hot iron rod. Rame­gowda, shocked by this act, screamed loudly, mustering all his hidden energy.

The petrified scream applied a sudden pressure on the dislodged joint, and Ramegowda’s jaw snapped closed. Pandit Nanjachari fixed the dislodged jaw without any surgery and gave a lesson to the modern doctors — that by just using one’s common sense, a minor ailment could be cured. Nostalgic reminiscence of Nanjachari’s holistic treatment in the good old days haunts in my mind whenever I see orthopaedic patients.

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