The desi way to mend broken bodies.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Good morning and…Brrrinng! Nas char gayi. Neck cramp is painful. Drive towards Indian Spinal Injuries Center at Vasant Kunj, south Delhi. Don’t stop there. Keep going straight to Mahipalpur, the urban village towards Indira Gandhi International Airport. Keep driving. Can you now see the hoarding of a wrestler with fractured arm? That’s Chowdhury Pehelwan. Pehelwan is the Hindi for wrestler.
Four such stalls stand here; all run by men called Chowdhury Pehelwans; all claiming to heal fractures, sprains, cramps and blisters; all storing herbal oils, creams and clean cotton bandages; all from the same village in Meerut, a nearby town in Uttar Pradesh. Step into the one sandwiched between a phone booth and a halaal meat shop. That is the original (opened 7 years ago). The rest are copycats. The pehelwan here is not a hefty wrestler but a 35-year-old slim man – Ershad Khan. He studied only till 8th standard. Even then you are, perhaps, in safe hands. After all, a large poster of human skeleton system decorates the wall. The man knows his bones.
Mr Khan will massage your hapless neck with a concoction called Ershad oil (made by mother and sisters back home, stored in whiskey bottles, and fragrant with kapoor and ratanjog), apply a desi balm (vaseline mixed with olive and seasame seed oil), and warm the neck with ‘heat lamp’. Now he will gently start massaging it and…Brrrinng! He jerks the neck sharply to the left. Intense pain. Then relief. Now to the other side…Brrrinng! And relief.
Pain will start receding. You are happy. But Mr Khan may not be happy. The neighboring clinics opened by his “chachas and mamas” have been bad for business. (Other distant relatives run same sort of healing stalls in Palam Phatak, Dharuhera and Bijwasan also). Worse, some patients, once the pain disappears, discover they are not carrying the wallet…Brrrinng!
Where Mahipalpur Contact Ershad Khan (9899-442448)