A few meters from Doon University (which is also my residence at present), a tent was pitched with a very familiar banner “Ayurvedic Khandani Dawakhana” claiming to diagnose any disease which our bodies may be carrying just by reading our pulses and heal them permanently with the blessings of Ayurveda. The tent looked dark, mysterious and also a little bit scary. The roadisde Khandani Dawakhana (Family clinic) is one of the most common sights in various cities of India. I have always wondered how the medicines kept inside these little tents work. What kinds of patients do they receive and how do they manage their business… This time I got a chance to have a closer look at these nomads and learn more about the challenging life they live.
Pretending to be a prospective customer, I went to talk to the guy sitting inside the tent. I got my pulse taken and tongue examined. I started looking around while he gathered the ingredients for the medicine he said I need for getting rid of Anemia. I noticed that they lived a typical nomadic life where the most important struggle was for water, food, shelter and livelihood. There was a van parked carefully nearby giving nice shelter to three smaller tents in which I could see some women in traditional gharga-choli cooking food on the earthen stove and children playing. The peculiar style of living which they were practicing infused more curiosity in me and I started questioning him a little bit about his experiences and their life style. He was hesitant to answer and asked me what use was all the questioning? I told him that I am looking for a more reliable treatment and so my questions are nothing but out of curiosity which is of no harm to him in any way
“Generations of my family have been into this business”, said Rajpal, the junior Vaid (doctor). “My father and forefathers have travelled almost every part of India serving the people and now my elder brother and I along with five cousins are carrying the tradition ahead”, he continued. On asking if they have received any formal education in Ayurveda or medicine, he said, “We grew watching our elders preparing the medicines, testing the formulas, gathering the herbs and have learnt the art of traditional healing from our elders. Our children will do the same”. He told me that he was still under the training period and has never gone to any actual school. I asked him about the various herbs kept inside numerous jars lined up on the wooden racks inside the tents but he was reluctant to tell the details. He mentioned to me very proudly that they had prescription for every disease and are specialized in healing digestive and sex related disorders.
I looked through some of the recipe books kept inside the tent. All of them contained complex formulae for various medicines and also had detailed description of how the human body works. He told me about the Panchamahabuthas (Five elements of life such as earth, air, fire, water and space) and said that for living a healthy life it is important to maintain a proper balance of these panchamahabuthas as the human body is made of these five elements of nature. I also tried to gain some knowledge about the Naadi (pulse) and got to know that there are 72,000 naadis (subtle channels) which determine various actions taking place inside our body. He also told me about the energy centers of our body called as Kudalini Shakti and the seven main Chakras. He was very proud and happy to tell me that his great grandfather, Shri Hari Prasad who lived for 128 years was an ardent follower of Ayurveda and Yoga and spent his whole life serving the humanity with the gift of knowledge he possessed along with the gift of medicinal plants and herbs our mother nature has given to us.
Although they charged very low for diagnosing, I never saw any customer visiting the dawakhana and so I can assume that the business was not running properly. He told me that the clinics rarely remain at one pace for more than six months. The duration of their stay depends on the amount of earnings and the number of customers visiting per day. One fine day when I came out of my University campus I saw the familiar tents were not there anymore. The traditional wandering doctors were gone…by the time you read this, they must have built a new habitat in some different part of India. Looking for a new habitat after every few months, travelling around the country in van and following the age-old tradition of selling Ayurvedic medicines to earn a living is surely a challenge which they have accepted and would like to pass on to the generations to come. I read somewhere, “What never changes is the change itself” and the way they have accepted 'change' in their lives I can very strongly say that theirs’ is the life which has made this statement true!