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Proud Nepali ‘Besaray’

Proud Nepali ‘Besaray’

A few days ago, I was walking in my neighborhood when I saw an elderly woman I knew coming down the road. She was walking in an upright posture, without the help of a crutch or a stick. Her face was bright and she had a smile on her face. “You’re looking good!” I said to her. She smiled, obviously pleased.

About two years ago, I’d seen the same elderly lady, with one palm on the wall to support her frail gait. We’d gotten into a conversation. “Yestai ho, janay bela ma yestai huncha!” (‘When we’re about to die, we get frail’). I suggested she take mungrelo (nigella sativa) seeds, which help with joint health. She embraced my advice with enthusiasm. She told me she bought a bottle of the seeds, roasted them, and put them by her bedside. She popped them whenever she felt the urge to snack during the day, and ate them with her morning tea. Unlike my elderly relatives who will try an ayurvedic remedy for a few days before jumping to antibiotics and Big Pharma and surgery, this lady seemed to have no other option. Slowly I saw her get better as the months progressed. Then I saw her cured. 

This case pleases me a lot because it was the progression of Ayurvedic healing as it was meant to unfold, at its own slow time and pace. No need for joint replacements, surgeries that cost 12 lakhs, elderly people laid up in hospital with invasive surgical interventions. This old lady become fit and healthy through the simple remedy of some tiny seeds.

We have a healing tradition in South Asia that goes back thousands of years. Yet we have been taught to ignore, ridicule and dismiss it as a body of knowledge without value or scientific proof. On Twitter, the scorn against “Besarays”—people who advocate the theory that turmeric helps ward off the coronavirus—is vituperative. Where are the clinical trials, people will demand? They are seemingly blind to the evidence that the Besar Belt (including Asia and Africa) has very few coronavirus deaths. They also ignore existing scientific studies on healing properties of turmeric, including its anti-inflammatory and blood-thinning properties.

Anti-Besaray people then go on to demand Remdesivir, a drug made by a company known for its extraordinary inflated prices, including a liver drug that costs over $74,000 for a course. This is an extraordinary denial of healthcare to the masses by elites whose rip-off goes beyond ordinary fraud or swindle. We need new words to describe this kind of commercial transaction with genocidal intent, one that our current vocabulary lacks. Yet this is precisely the company the WHO is promoting, at the expense of local, easily available remedies that are already saving lives in the Third World.

I shared my mungrelo story with my great aunt. She, obviously, knows a lot more about Ayurveda than I do. She was born half a century before me. Like all modern people with pride in knowledge gleaned from the web, I assumed I was the only one to “discover” the healing properties of this seed. She demolished my ignorance in short order. “I raised my children with Ayurvedic remedies, but during my grandchildren’s time, we forgot about those. We went to the doctors and kept using antibiotics. They were constantly sick and we raised them with difficulty,” she said.

She’d used this remedy on her own children: the mother put a few jwano (ajwain) and mungrelo seeds in her mouth and chewed it, spit this mixture at the tip of the linen sari, filtered two drops of the juice, then mixed that in breastmilk and fed it to the two- month-old. Only a few of the powerful seeds are needed! The same ajwain and nigella sativa can be ground into paste, then applied to infant’s head to stop a cold. She’d put it on her nephew after a vaidya told her about it, and he’d been cured. Now imagine the money we could save from hospitalizing infants if this remedy was followed everywhere in the “poor” (but knowledge-rich) Third World. We wouldn’t need to spend lakhs on hospitalizing infants, pumping them full of antibiotics, and in general exposing a fragile infant to the possibility of an latrogenic death.

But for a modern doctor, this remedy will bring shivers because saliva contains bacteria, which must be instantly killed! Preferably with bleach. Never mind if the mother’s saliva is a key ingredient in introducing healing macrophages into the infant body. “Nowadays you can use a handkerchief,” my great aunt said. “I don’t know, maybe there was something healing about a mother’s sari.” I have no doubt there was something healing about a mother’s sari: her biome, the body, is teeming with a rich jungle of microflora and fauna which help an infant fight off disease, and what better way to introduce it into the infant than through her sari’s sapko!

Creating a microbe-free environment can be lethal, as no benefic bacteria can survive in the desert. High coronavirus death rates in the West may be caused by this overkill with hygiene.

We need to return to our roots—through the mouth and eating, through traditional food, and through the herbs we have always known and which have cured our ancestors and ensured our own existence.