Tooth-ache and the Village Vaidya

This evening I was waiting for the tum-tum to go to the hospital for an appointment with the doctor. The tum-tum was some 10 minutes late than usual in reaching H-12 — I lost patience, walked for some distance from hostel, stopped an auto-rickshaw and got into it. My irritation at the delay of the tum-tum was heightened by the fact of my being unwell. Anyway, reached hospital and got the treatment.

After coming out of the hospital, I decided to take a walk back to hostel. While I started walking, an incident from my past came to mind…. This was really long-long time ago when I was hardly three and half years of age. We lived in a small village in Odisha, far away from the mad rustle of city life. The village is more than 80 kms away from the National Highway and even the State Highway is around 10-12 kms away. It was unconnected to either the hospitals, post offices or bus stops. The nearest bust stop was around two km from my village. The only mode of communication then was by walk; those who were rich had a bicycle or a scooter.

One evening I was playing on our verandah while my mother was lighting the evening deeya (small light) in front of the deities and grandmother was sitting on one of the cots chanting her prayers. Suddenly, everyone was startled by my shriek. I cried out very loudly, mom ran to me from within the pooja room and so did grand ma. I was inconsolable and was so tiny that couldn’t even explain with enough words what was happening to me. Finally, mom understood from my non-verbal gestures that something was wrong with my tooth. Yes, I was having a painful toothache, in fact it was a tooth-decay and my gums were in a sensitive state. Though the pain was there before, it was under my control. Unfortunately, a small ball hit that area of my cheek and the pain went out of my control. My father was posted in a far off town of Odisha. He lived far from our village and would come once in three months to meet us, so even he couldn’t be called. There were neither electricity, nor telephones, nor Internet. The only way to reach people was through letters and telegrams.

A doctor or a dispensary was an unachievable dream in that place and at that time. The district medical was 20kms away. Going there at night was just to next to impossible. People mostly depended on Ayurvedic medicines from some local vaidya (village doctor) or some time on the tantriks for treatment. We did not have any vaidya in our village. My grand ma knew some one who lived in another village some four kms from our place. Seeing my pain, everyone in the family got distraught. Neighbours ran to our place with whatever they had, some with milk, some with chalk, but to no avail. I cried, shrieked and became paler. They tried all home made remedies for the pain and tooth-decay but nothing seemed to help.

Finally, as evening started to turn into night, my condition too started to worsen. So much of tears and the pain made me weak and pale. Grand-ma decided to take me to the vaidya living in the other village. She was in her mid-seventies, old and stooped. But she was a determined and courageous lady. We had to wait through the night. In the early morning (around 4 am) grand ma asked my mother to dress me up and comb my hair, explained to me that she may not be able to carry me all the distance and asked if I was willing to walk to get my pain cured? The prospect of getting the pain healed was enough to make me compromise on any other condition and luxury. We quickly got ready for the journey and me and grand-ma started off.

Some of the distance she had to carry me on her back and some I walked. The pain in my gums was not reducing. I just kept mum. Grand-ma kept reciting her prayers, told me stories on the way — the jungle, the king of Nayagarh, fairies, Gods and so on. We finally reached the vaidya’s place in the other village. He made me sit on a bamboo foot stool, used his dawat (medicine) to make some paste out of ingredients that he got from his wooden almirah and applied that to my decayed tooth. He then fanned me with his bamboo leafed-fan for sometime. After, around half an hour the pain receded and I was normal again. He went inside, came out with a platter and on it a big “worm” ๐Ÿ™‚ — told me that this was inside my tooth and made me a fool. I panicked seeing the worm, but was overjoyed that it had come out. I requested him to give it to me so that I will carry it home to show my mother. He gave the worm to me. Grand-ma had a smile on her face was relieved to see me happy, we paid the vaidya his fees and started back on our way home.

While returning, as the pain had subsided I literally sprinted and jumped through the way. The 4kms which had earlier seemed like a never-ending distance to me, now seemed like nothing. With grand-ma walking beside me, I sprinted through the way and requested her to keep telling me stories of how Krishna helped the young school boy lost in jungle, how the Hanuman jumped on trees, demons and so on. We reached home in no time…

I showed the big “worm” to my mother and all neighbours on reaching. They exclaimed ๐Ÿ™‚ at the size of the worm and thanked the vaidya to have cured me. After that, I never had any pain in my tooth, did not even need to go to the hospital to get that tooth removed — my tooth decay just vanished with the Ayurvedic medicine (and of course that idiot worm had come out ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ™‚ ). Time has changed, but the love, affection and the care of my old grand-ma and mom have not changed.

While writing this, two important points came into my mind –

  1. The village vaidyas are no more controlling the health care in the villages. That system has vanished now and along with them some well understood Ayurvedic studies too have vanished. Bare minimum efforts could have saved and documented the village Ayurvedic studies, but alas, that did not happen. Ayurvedic studies are just one among many such ancient studies, which India had at one point of time and which have sadly become almost extinct.Like village Ayurvedic studies, the rich cultures of Paika Nritya (warrior dance), engineering sciences that built temples like the Sun Temple at Konark, etc., are in a dying stage. We understand every aspect of the Universe in terms of Western Sciences and if something doesn’t abide by the western system that is considered “unscientific”. Not that western sciences are not advanced or incorrect — but we also have to preserve our own heritage, albeit after a certain analysis. Unless we wake up and take some corrective measures, all these rich heritage of India will be wiped out. May be it is late, but still we can preserve some parts of our heritage.
  2. With the changing time and technology, the way of life and health care too have changed. We have now access to world class hospitals, doctors, medicines and so on in India. But, all these facilities are only available in the big cities and affordable to a select class of people. More than 40-50% of India is still not connected to the main stream, especially in health care – no doctors, no hospitals, no medicines, no sanitization, no awareness. People are simply left to die there!! Every day we come across with heart braking stories… Is this the progress we are talking about to become super power? I sincerely doubt!!

Aamjunta… what do you say?

12 Responses

  1. Kitne baar hospital jaoge dada? Was this also in the month of Feb?

  2. Sorry, don’t remember :(, was too small to differentiate between Jan/Feb/Mar….

  3. Well written and explained. Very touchy ๐Ÿ™‚ Enjoyed reading.

  4. Enjoyed this post much…As i too very lucky to get some of the warm love from your mother and grand maa… Quite happy to remember those childhood days at your village..

  5. Hello aamjunta ,

    I am gathering informaion of Traditional medicine Practioners throughout Bharat (India), it would be kind enough , if you post or mail me the address of the Vaidya, MANY CAN BENIFIT FROM IT.



  6. Exactly hitting at the right point.

    After reading the story of Ayyappan, who walked 40km through forests with pregnant wife in shoulder, I really doubt about our ability for a sustainable growth.

    Ironically, these days our political analysts are saying that India is becoming a super power!!! May be the term “super power” has some other meaning in India and for them.

  7. Heart touching story.

    Health care in India!! Big hole in the system. Like our education system, it is only near and dear to affluent class of people. Long way to go.

  8. Ayurvaidya is the oldest medicine in the world. With the speed which we are modernizing we are loosing our age old science.

  9. Yes.. Ayurveda uses natural ingredients which can cure many ailments.. But I thought there was a degree to specialize in it.. isnt it so?

  10. ๐Ÿ™‚ nice story.

  11. Nice story. I miss my grandmom very much and I am sure you are missing your grand mom now!!

    Health care in India is just a affluent class’s reach. Neither the government nor the people are taking it seriously.

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