Sunday, July 22, 2012

My earliest encounters with Naturopathy

|| You might not know about my father. He was a staunch Communist all his life, a Card Holder for over 55 years- he joined CPI with the struggle for 'Socialist India' and died with the same conviction. He was one of the organisers for the Party and a Peasantry leader of highest order in the country. He never occupied an office of profit, though extremely popular in a large area, everytime a proposal to forward his name for Assembly or Parliament came he persuaded his supporters that he be allowed to do the 'service' without taking a position.

He was a reader all his life. Apart from the books on Marxism- Leninism, Politics and Agrarian movements of which he was a great representative, he also had a large collection of books on Naturopathy and Indian Philosophy. He was also a regular subscriber of a monthly Naturopathy Journal 'Aarogya' - which still gets published in Hindi language by one of the oldest and most renowned Naturopathy Centers of Northern India, 'Aarogya Mandir, Gorakhpur', founded by Vittal Das Modi.

I was a different child. I was known as one of the most meritorious students of my Govt. Middle School in my village (this school was founded by my father and my mother was a senior teacher who died as headmistress in the last year of her service. This School is one of most performing govt. village schools of my state with over 1500 students and about 30 teachers). I got two Govt. Talent Scholarships- one in Class 4th- 6th and the second, Class 7th to 10th.

I mentioned this because as a child I did not play any game or sports (I did not have time for this!). The only thing I did other going to school and being the most obedient of 5 brothers; was to read books from my father's collection. Naturopathy Books became my interest and every month I started reading Aarogya, the Naturopathy Journal I mentioned earlier. These were my first encounters with Naturopathy.

My father wanted me to be an IAS. Like my teachers and everybody who knew me, this should have been their natural choice. But, thanks to the books I had developed my interests towards Life Sciences. After 10th, I specifically chose to study Science so I could become a Doctor.

I came to prepare for Medical entrance to Patna (Bihar being one of the top most populous states of the country has just a few hundred medical seats and you have to compete with thousands for one single seat). But, I had become a Student leader (also attended AISF National Conference as a delegate at 18 years) and Ideologue among the group during my stay in Patna and medical entrance exam was no longer my focus.

I had also thought of giving a try to consider Naturopathy as my career and enrolled as ND student of Aarogya Mandir, Gorakhpur. About the same time, I visited Gorakhpur to see the institute for the first time. But, I was not yet convinced about Naturopathy becoming a skill enough for my bread and butter. The Course had about 30 books on naturopathy to study and be a subscriber of their Journal for at least a year before going to stay in the Institute for two months for internship and take an exam for ND.

I had also enrolled myself for 'Certificate in Yoga Therapy' conducted by University health Center of Patna University. It was a year long program and classes were conducted every weekend mornings on Yoga and a few theory lessons by the Center's CMO Dr. Prabhakar Devaraj, MD.

One day, I was sitting with one of my friends turning pages of 'Employment News' when i saw an advertisement for the post of Director, National Institute of Naturopathy. The mere existence of National Institute of Naturopathy by Govt. of India interested me enough to note down their address in Pune. Next day, I wrote a letter to the Director, NIN for want of all Naturopathy Centers in the Country. Leena Mehndale, an IAS officer who used to be on deputation at NIN as Director replied to my letter with about 35 institutions in annexture.

I started looking for some long term course in Naturopathy, as the training I had as ND from Aarogya Mandir did not equip me enough to be confident as a Naturopathy Practitioner. So, I started visiting all the institutions given in the annexture. I was in Delhi for about a month for the purpose where among others I visited Bapu Nature Cure Hospital.

There, I met two young BNYS doctors for the first time. It was the year '96 and the Doctors I met were the first batches of BNYS! One was from Hyderabad College and the other from SDM was Dr Narendra Shetty. I had a long chat with Dr. Shetty where he advised me to go for BNYS at SDM.

I had my doubts. One was the financial situation of my family. SDM was charging fifty thousand donation besides regular fees and I simply thought spending about a lakh a year for five years will be too difficult for my family. The other College was a Govt. College but was open for only Andhra students.

But, he also suggested that a new College had started in Bangalore that year by Jindal Naturopathy Hospital where fees were less and they might also offer Scholarship to a few students. I took their address from him, thanked and shot off a letter to the Principal, ICNYS, Jindal Nagar.

In '97 I got admitted to Jindal, India's Premier Nature Cure Institution where I was promised one thousand Rs. scholarship a month and where annual fees were just 8500 Rs. plus 500 for mess. This for me was OK to try; even though I had to spend 5 years in a curriculum nobody ever was aware of in my whole state.

I was learning a new thing everyday about this profession. Employment opportunities available for the first few batches of BNYS were very limited. People worked in Jindal for 4500 Rs. a month. Those who had spent about 15 years in Jindal were still at about ten thousand a month. Within a year of my study at Jindal College we heard whispers about it closing down and we got shifted to SDM with some fees waiver arrangement and some scholarship promise by SJ Jindal foundation.

I made it a point to continue visiting Naturopathy and Yoga Institutions of the Country whenever I had an opportunity. In second year, I convinced my room mates and then Interns Dr Appu Bagath Gurudev and Dr Nalvazhu to take a trip with me to many parts of Maharastra.

In about ten days, we had visited Yoga Institute, Santacruz, Bombay; Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla; National Institute of Naturopathy, Rammani Iyengar Yoga Institute, Osho Ashram, Nisargopachar Ashram- all in Pune and a famous Health Resort in Karjat run by Osteopath Son of Vittal Das Modi, Dr. Krishna Murari Modi. This trip in particular was a very enriching experience for all of us. Everywhere we were given a red carpet welcome and we interacted with the highest functionaries of these Institutes first hand.

Third year in BNYS, I convinced many of my classmates to join me in the first ever camp by a group of BNYS students in Bangalore's Century Club much to the annoyance of our then Principal. 20 BNYS students participated in the camp. This opened new doors for many of us and opened our eyes for the opportunities available in the field. I had also started organizing workshops in the Pathanjali Hostel every Saturday evening. We also formed a group to learn basics of Internet and started visiting the only Cyber Cafe available, in Mangalore.

Fourth year in BNYS, I had conducted a camp first time in my village where some of Juniors in BNYS with me attended over 1200 patients for ten days period.

Fifth year in BNYS, I had got selected for NIN internship for six months. I had founded Body Mind Spirit Foundation with friends in College and covered Kasaragod, Kerala; Dhanbad, Jharkhand; Siwan, Bihar; Lucknow and Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh with huge success among other places, with our innovative Nature Cure Camps.

From second year onwards I kept myself abreast of all major developments in the field of Integrative medicine and personally visited Dr. Bijlani and Dr. K K Deepak when All India Institute of Medical Sciences started its 'Holistic Medicine' Center in Delhi.

I also kept in touch with Institutions of naturopathy in America and Europe and tried to study their books and methods. I also tried to know and was always interested in what our BNYS graduates- Seniors, Colleagues and Juniors are doing after the completion of their degree.

This was my own style of training of Naturopathy while I was not still a Naturopathic Doctor. ||

I have always believed that a proper training curriculum is essential for any professional to be equipped with right knowledge, resources and experience. BNYS does just that. However, one will have to learn many more things and learning first hand from others, other than what is available in a School, is very necessary to succeed personally.

Training environment also needs an improvement but, we can not focus too much on what is not in our hands. For example, any institution and its administration works to achieve it's own objectives and constraints of resources, including but not limited to human resources available with it.

It is the duty and responsibility of professionals to formulate their own goals and objectives. Once you are clear as a profession about what you want to achieve, any lobbying with Govt. regulatory bodies, People's representatives, Academic Institutions, Mass Media and General Public will be able to yield results.

We need new authors from amongst us who could translate all the inherited knowledge resources in the context of modern world. We need entrepreneurs who could establish Institutions of their Dream. We need Clinicians who would benefit their Patients. We will need Ideologues who would keep our objectives focused. None of that is less important.

Excerpts from my recent message to Dr. Shakthi Vijayan, BNYS; a young and dedicated Naturopath from Tamil Nadu.
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