Folk Tales from Kashmir

Table of Contents

  About the Author
  The Precious Present
  The Devil Outwitted
  Just a Nickname
  The Son-in-Law
  Eh! Oh!
  The Inauspicious Bride
  Himal and Nagrai
  The Haunted Mosque
  The Intruder
  The Burglar's Gift
  The Two Thugs
  The Patwari and the ...
  The Upstart
  Two Brothers
  The Merciful Burglar
  The Clever Lawyer ...
  Counting Ripples
  The Fugitive Fawn
  The Mortal Utensils
  The Hydra-Headed
  The Physician's Son
  The Professional Wedding ...
  The Village Teacher
  The Opium Smokers
  The Drone
  Telltale Narration
  Download Book

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Chapter 23

The Physician's Son

Every 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.

Nowadays latest 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 one 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. got round.

On another 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."

"Pretty bad," 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 affected.

"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.

The butcher 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 immediately.

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?"

"Yes, father," 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.



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Kashmiri Overseas Association, Inc. (KOA) is a 501c(3) non-profit, tax-exempt socio-cultural organization registered in Maryland, USA. Its purpose is to protect, preserve, and promote Kashmiri ethnic and socio-cultural heritage, to promote and celebrate festivals, and to provide financial assistance to the needy and deserving.

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