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.
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