Introduction to traditional Indian medicine

11/1/15-24/1/15

During the first week of being in a new and foreign country for the first time I would have never expected to be in such a busy and where times will always delay in a place like India. It’s not a surprise that being unpunctual is a big issue including the train times, waking up for departure and no appointment policies.

Many activities have happened during the five days of India such as going around rickshaws to various Ayurveda clinics, herbal consultation unani and walking through herbal hills farm was an amazing experience to see the alternatives of healing to be used. Listened to the introduction lectures of Ayurvedic healing, traditional yoga, acupuncture and prachakarma while it was only to be seen once as we could’ve kept a copy or handout of the slides as a reference to futher increase our understanding of traditional Indian medicine. Did some shopping on the way for souvenirs and self gifts such as a stainless steel lunch box with tight seals.

Out of the new experiences I learnt on the way. I was able to perform a lotus meditation where my legs were crossed up to my hips. I enjoy doing yoga in India as Australia would obviously not have the best ways of learning to improve. However I would prefer to have less yoga lessons and instead swap it over for more time in the clinics and getting a hands on range of activities to apply medicine and assists the practitioner in any way. Moreover I would prefer a translation of the patient’s complaint as they choose to speak in Hindi as I can understand they’re complaints are confidential. With the handouts of the ISAC program looked at I wished to have a hindi class as I usually spent each night staying up to write the hindi alphabet alone and practice reading signs from each station as I pass by. It gets more and more intense everyday at the peak hour getting shoved and pulled by the help of friends and fortunately there was a women’s carriage for the prevention of abuse. On he bright side meeting local Indians on the way has lightened up my experience as we exchange cultural aspects of life such as the security levels of the railway system and even trading currencies with one guy.

India was scary at first with beggars and boarding trains with a land full of dark skinned people. Surprisingly it took a few days to blend in with the new culture. It was such a massive culture shock when the Indians were crossing the train tracks and jumping off trains to get across the station quickly. Even I adopted there way onetime just to get through the tracks to the other side due to time management. I don’t enjoy the fact that the custom of shopping requires to have bargaining options while the possibilities of getting ripped off hard. The culture shock however has many similar aspects to other parts of the Asia continent I have travelled and hence has not made a strong impact on me. Getting stared at for the whole train ride as an obvious foreigner made me feel uncomfortable at first especially when I was texting on the phone or reading a book. In the end I would get used to it and move on. Using my SIM card for 3G internet data has been the worst so far as I have spent about 2000 rupees in less than 5 days just to be able to contact friend and family each morning and night. The wifi connection took longer than expected and I wished for the Internet at the yellow guesthouse not to be any slower than my 3G.

My highlight of the trip so far has been mavashi (auntie) cooking breakfast, lunch and especially dinner for all of us. Living on the vegetarian culture has been a delightful experience as well as a challenge to not have meat for two weeks. I thought I would never enjoy india’s vegetarian culture but here I am enjoying every last bit of mavashi’s cooking.

For my plans of next week I am looking forward to the slum tour of mumbai and finishing off the rest of the yoga lessons as I improve each time. Hopefully I would be able to know a few more words of hindi to get around whilst learning to read all the characters off by heart. Taking more group photos, meeting more fellow Indians, learning to massage patients, and knowing to bargain prices at the right time would be my expectations for the upcoming week.

On the second week of the program we went through some major change of plans to skip out yoga and go to other clinics around the Malavli. We went to praful’s clinic to do some hands on activities such as applying herbal Ayurvedic healing with some oil on my wrist and bandaged to support the oil from drying out. Also had some mock consultations for Ben, Vincent, and Kelli to understand behind what indications of disease are identified from each question asked. Had our cooking class as we learnt to make some traditional Indian food for the first time and I really enjoyed it. Praful performed Ayurvedic oil treatment on Kelli for 30 minutes of silence while pouring the oil on her forehead. On my last day (23rd Friday January) we went to herbal hills manufacture faculty to see the processing of pharmaceutical herbs and packages. Arun had us a tour at Kaivalyadhama institute to buy some souvenirs and see the history of yoga and Ayurveda.

What I learnt from this week was how the practitioners at the barefoot acupuncture clinic have combined electro, moxa and acupunture altogether on the same patient in a single treatment for just 20 rupees or free of charge. Learnt to massage Dave’s left knee for joint pain using herbs fried in oil and wrapped in a socket.

Highlight of this week goes to the slum tour in Mumbai city where I got to experience the poverty environment and how the labour was demonstrated. The culture shock I experience his week was where the slums work on hard labour at 200 rupees for 12 hours. Walking through the slums was a struggle with all the small and marrow spaces of the place, however we were safe with the tour guide and in a separate small group of 6. The culture shock from the train rides last week has settled off my fears as I face it as a norm.

Unfortunately this is the last week of the program where I will be flying back to Sydney tomorrow. This program has been an exciting experience for me, however here should be handouts beforehand for every day. I hope to have another program similar to this and experience the lively cultures of traditional medicine. Thanks ISAC.

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