Thursday, September 10, 2009


As a child I loved going with my mother (and brother) to Dr Saha’s clinic. In case you are wondering whether I was mad, let me clarify that Dr Saha (we used to call him Kakumoni – an endearment for ‘uncle’) was a qualified and practising homeopath.

I just loved to visit his small, cool-calm chamber with the green lime-washed walls, the scrubbed brown wooden benches for the patients in the outer waiting chamber, and the inner sanctum sanctorum, where the quiet, thin, reassuring-smiling doctor would sit, surrounded by glass-fronted cupboards full of thick-fat medical books and vials and glass bottles of homeopathic medicine.

Before Maa (mother) embarked on her journey through the entire family’s ailments, Bhai (my brother) and I would demand our share of ‘michhimichhi osudh’ (placebo medicine), which was basically a few dozen sugar globules that form the base (and conceal the sharpness) of most homeopathic medicines. Kakumoni always kept a bottle of these sugar globules in his desk drawer (to pacify pesky kids), and he would patiently and solemnly drop a generous dose of the sweet-nothings on our eager tongues before turning his attention to Maa.

As Maa usually came with a long list of patients (our entire family, and even long-distance patients like my aunt who lived in another city altogether) who had an even longer list of illnesses and symptoms (a very important term in homeopathy – an accurate description of symptoms can allow the doctor to treat the patient without having ever met him/her). As she began her detailed litany (with the patient doctor inserting a perceptive question at appropriate intervals), Bhai and I would wander around.

Sometimes, we went to the watch-repairing shop next door, and watched the painstaking minute craftsmanship of the watch-repairer. More often, we would go to visit the potter who had his potter’s wheel in a shed behind the doctor’s chamber. I loved to see how he would coax the clay into beautiful jars and pots on the fast-spinning wheel with his deft-gentle and always-muddy hands. His wife would take the newly-created vessels and dry them, and later put them in the oven. Some of the vessels would come out all fiery red, and some would darken further into near-black. Once the kindly potter gave Bhai and me a set of coloured clay birds (green parrots, grey pigeons, brown magpies), delighting us no end.

But we always hurried back to Dr Saha’s chamber when it was time for him to make the medicines. We would watch fascinated as he measured out different medicines from their dark glass bottles into small clear-glass phials (with cork stoppers) filled with the aforesaid sugar globules. Sometimes he would make puriyas – individual doses of medicine put in a sweet white powder (called sugar of milk - what a lovely name) and packed inside small square white papers. Each set of puriyas or phials would be carefully labeled with the name of the patient, with instructions as to when and how much medicine to take – all written in Kakumoni’s neat-minute handwriting.

And, buoyed by a final parting dose of medicine-less sugar of milk, we would happily wave goodbye to the good doctor, always looking forward to the next visit with a sweet anticipation.



Anonymous said...

I till-date 100% trust one doctor i.e., childhood doctor but he is retired now And his son is on job.
The doctor had only one question :
kya hua ?
And then the aala over chest And back. Thats all.
And prescription written.
No matter what we say he never reply And forward prescription. Thats all
And people including myself believe him 100% otherwise I do not trust doctor 100%.

Kavi said...

Seems like Dr.Saha was a great trusted doc. Homeopathy had its advantages.

For me, if i didnt have my food i was told, ' you will be taken to a doc and injection would be administered' ! that always made me fall in line.

So the doc was a monstrous figure. With injection and such other painful tool in hand !

Until ofcourse, a few friends studied and became docs !


Mustaf said...

Your post reminds of my childhood days. One of my maternal uncle was homeopath doc and he was practicing in Kolkata. Only on Sundays, he used to visit his ancestral home in the village and a long queue of patients will be waiting for him, after all he is doctor babu from Kolkata .

So, whenever I would be visiting my mama bari , I would be self appointed assistant for that uncle. He would just check the patient, prescribe and prepare the medicine. And I would be helping him getting those fat thik book from the shelves, or bringing some of those thin tube of medicines from the other shelves. Though there was no remuneration for me except an excuse to my grand father for why I am not studying on Sunday morning, when all the other kids will be seating surrounding him.Also, it was a proud feeling for me, a feeling being grown up, a feeling being called doctor babu's assistant :-)

Ugich Konitari said...

Actually, my mother's great friend from childhood , who subsequently became a leading gynaec was my family doctor. When I was born she was a senior med student, and they practiced ear-piercing by piercing my ears, soon after birth. She later on had her own surgical clinic. Her sister was an Ayurvedic doctor. And both practiced. We would go to her for just about any ailment, and along with medicines always returned with lots of fancy blotting papers for school (no ball points allowed ), which she would get from the pharma medical reps who came.

She is 83 now, but I still go to her. And still check out every other doctors diagnosis with her before I take the meds.

Gayathri said...

Aah homeopathy has its roots everywhere huh!! Here too,fever-homeopathy,loss of apetite-homeo,insomnia or too sleepy-homeo,diabetes,bp,for every goddamn thing homeo serves the if its the all in one solution..
and as a kid i enjoyed being taken to the homeo doc coz of the sugar globules..but as i grew up,it's stickler for timings made homeo a sickass for me :D

Aparna said...

Our family doctor in kolkata would drop in almost every day to check on my grandmother who refused to take her blood pressure medicines.
He looked solemn and serious and I used to be terrified of him. My first ever poem was an ode to him which my parents remember even till date. It said
"Doctor babu doctor babu koot(injection) diyo na;
Koot dile paliye jabo
Dhorte parbe na.
I was 3.

Nazish Rahman said...

Homeopathy is the best. I have experienced as i had a very bad tonsil problem that only homeopathy was able to solve.
Even as a kid i used to love eating those a matter of fact even!!

sukku said...

Well so memories or visits to Doctor is not very pleasant...if you read my latest blog...I am due for a surgery on 17.09.09 (Triple bypass)...thanks for sharing your article as it reminded me of the Homeo Doctor I had visited in Warangal...for the growth of my hair...and I know the small ball bearings that they would give...THANKS....

Chandrashila said...

Your blog brought back memories of child hood as they always do .. we used to visit his homeo doc near the kalighat firebrigade.. my mum used to stand in the queue from 4 in the morning to get an appointment wih him .. and me and my sis always loved going there for the sweet nothings just like u .. :) we loved it .. still remember we just had to fall and we would have an excuse to have Arnica ... yummm

♥ Braja said...

this was so lovely and reminiscent of so many visits I've made in India to similar places....I can smell it....

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Thanks for the medical memories.