With Covid spike once again casting shadow on Kashmir hospitals this Ramzan, the vale’s traditional therapists adept at fixing bones are only becoming alternate healers for the distressed community.
By Saima Shakeel
FEARING hospital during the second wave of Covid in Kashmir, a young boy has arrived in busy Hazratbal market with his sore shoulder.
It’s Friday and the famous Dargah bazar—filled with the smell of spices and tandoor smoke—is bustling with the masked faithful thronging the sanctum for the condensed congregational prayers.
With painful facial expression, the boy holds his shoulder carefully and approaches an old therapist sitting on a shut-shop front.
Mohammad Ramzan Bangi asks the boy—who can’t move his arm due to an accident—to sit down.
The therapist starts rubbing the boy’s tender shoulder in an effort to fix his dislocated bone. After putting some white tape around his shoulder, he bids adieu to the young patient with a big smile. The relieved boy takes out some cash from his wallet and hands it over to the therapist with gratitude.
“Most of these patients are afraid to visit hospitals due to this ‘woebah’ [pandemic] these days,” Ramzan says in his calm voice. “I try my best to give them right treatment. Rest Allah is the real healer.”
The 85-year-old street therapist, called ‘Baieng’ in Kashmiri, eagerly arrives on his weekly Friday visits to the old Hazratbal market. The elder sits under the basement of an old building and awaits his patients.
Although his skull-capped therapist tribe isn’t new to the valley, lately they’re witnessing rush due to the Covid crisis.
“Everyone wants to play safe these days,” says Abdul Rehman, who’s into this traditional treatment from last 35 years.
“Since our health centers are mainly dealing with this [Covid] health emergency right now, so many [non-Covid] patients resort to the safer and simpler means of healing.”
The street therapy for Rehman is an ancestral job, practiced by his “seven generations”.
“Patients admitted in different hospitals visit us after feeling no improvement in their condition,” he says. “It’s all about having faith.”
But with health crisis like Covid challenging everything, including the previously-thought effective measures, these Hakeems are only playing safe and according to the book.
“Some of us may not be educated, but our new generation is well-educated who handle every ailment with a great care and caution. Most of us don’t treat the patient without seeing his/her X-ray first. And based on that we decide if the patient needs plaster or not.”
Talking of plaster and an old woman arrives to get it done.
Limping due to her plastered foot, she is supported by her two sons
“I’m feeling better now,” the woman says in relief as the Hakeem carefully opens her foot plaster. After a quick massage and new plaster, she has been asked to visit again next week.
“We initially took her to a city hospital but her condition didn’t improve there,” says Imtiyaz, one of the attendant sons of the woman patient.
“It was then someone suggested us to go to Hakeems of Hazratbal. This is our second visit here and she is feeling much better.”
These traditionalists mainly fix bone fractures, dislocated discs and bone cracks, besides treating skin diseases, sinusitis, arthritis, thyroid and other infections.
“But since most people avoid hospitals these days,” says Ghulam Mohammad, a 48-year-old Hakeem from Shahanpora Habak, “we mostly get to treat the cases of dislocations and backaches here.”
Besides Covid factor, these Hakeems have their own niche following that still prefer these old-timers over the modern-practitioners.
“We don’t charge any particular amount for our therapy sessions,” Ghulam Mohammad says. “We take what our patients happily give us.”
In these viral times, many patients also prefer these traditional healers due to their “easy and effective” way of treatment.
Acknowledged for the same treatment, Bashir Ahmad, 65, from south Kashmir’s Kulgam is fixing a leg fracture of his young patient at his street workplace.
“I learned this treatment from my father who was treating people in Kulgam,” Bashir says.
“Later I shifted to this Hazratbal market during early 1990s and started my therapy here. Since then I’m unabatedly fixing bones of my people in this bazar.”
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