10. Doctor

Gandhi as Doctor

Gandhi matriculated from the Alferd High School at Rajkot. Soon after when his guardians decided to send him to England for a study of Law, Gandhi asked: " Could I not be sent to qualify for the medical profession?" His eldest brother objected because a Vaishnava could have nothing to do with dissection. Gandhi's deceased father Karamchand had never liked it.

At the age of 39 Gandhi again went to England from South Africa and thought of taking up the medical course. Again vivisection stood as a barrier. Vivisection of live animals, experiments on living creatures for preparing serum and injections he could not tolerate. To him allopath were the devil's deplored the Ayurvedic practitioner's apathy to new experiments. Homoeopathy had no charm for him. His great interest in healing the sick allowed him no peace till he became a naturopath.

He read Kuhne and was influenced by the use of water in curing diseases. Slowly, after making experiments on himself, his sons and his wife, he stuck to a treatment based on the right use of the elements around us of water and earth, of fresh air and sun's rays. Gandhi never poisoned the body with pills and powders and laid stress on fasting, change of diet and use of herbs.

His uncommon power of observing the sick and making a full study of a case helped him to treat patients successfully. In South Africa, he was the first coolie barrister and the first coolie quack. Many came the family physician of some of his clients. His method of treatment at that time was against the current rules of medical science and was later partly advocated by doctors.

When his son was down with typhoid, doctors prescribed eggs and chicken broth. Gandhi did not agree to give any non-vegetarian diet. He took up the case and kept the boy on water and orange juice. He put him in wet sheet packs. When the boy grew delirious, Gandhi got a little nervous but stuck to his nature cure methods and cured him. He succeeded in handling more cases of typhoid without injections.

He defied a doctor's ruling more than once. Kasturba was once laid down with a bad type of anaemia. The doctor asked her to take beef-tea. Both Gandhi and Kasturba refused to do so. Gandhi kept her on lime juice for days together and cured her. He advised her not to take dal and salt. For a moment Kasturba forgot her husband's rigid nature and murmured; " it is all very well for you to prescribe it. Can you give them up? " Quick came the reply: " Surely if the doctor advised me. But there, without any medical advice, I give up salt and pulses for one year." Kasturba's tears and pleadings could not induce him to recall his vow. Both the patient and the physician stopped taking salt and pulses.

On another occasion for a fortnight Kasturba had to fast and take neem juice regularly. Gandhi laid particular stress on keeping the bowels clean. To destroy pent-up poison he advised fasts, semi-fasts and the use of enema. He believed that headaches, indigestion, diarrhoea and constipation resulted exercise. Long brisk walks were to him an unfailing means of keeping fit. In jails he maintained this habit by walking in the allotted space every morning and evening. He also advocated breathing exercises. He knew physical fitness was often disturbed by mental disorder. Ramanam meant to him complete faith in God's will giving up all worries. It was a remedy for all ills.

When Gandhi was assaulted by the Pathans in South Africa, he applied clean earth poultice on his bruised mouth, forehead and ribs. The swelling soon subsided.

He applied earth treatment in cases of plague, enteric fever, malaria, dypepsia, jaundice, blood-presure, severe burns, small-pox and fractures. His son broke his arm during a voyage, Gandhi tried earth bandage and the wound healed. He was successful in treating and the wound healed. He was successful in treating a number of cases, yet he warned not to take his experiments as gospel truths. He knew there was great risk in making such unorthodox experiments. He admitted his Guide to Health contained bold views on keeping fit. He was not keen on opening a few maternity homes, hospitals and dispensaries but on touching people cleanliness and healthy ways of living. He was more for preventive measures than for curative ones.

Allopathic drugs were not taboo. During a cholera epidemic in Sevagram he allowed the villagers and the ashramites to get vaccinated. He himself was operated in jail for appendicitis and was flooded with unkind letters from the public. He admitted his lapse.

Gandhi knew the limitations of naturopathy still he patronised it for many reasons. It was within the reah of their poor masses of India. It was cent percent swadeshi. At seventy seven he took it up with redoubled zeal and established a nature cure centre in a village called Uruli Kanchan. It had no costly and mechanical appliances. He thought an ideal doctor should have a good knowledge of medicine and should share the knowledge with the public free of charge. He wanted to fix a yearly allowance for doctors who need not expect anything from their patients whether rich or poor. For some days he examined the patients and wrote prescriptions. One read: For Raju- " Sun bath , hip-bath, friction bath . Fruit juice and whey . No milk. If whey cannot be digested, fruit juice and boiled water should be used." Another was for Parvati " Only mousambi juice. Hip-bath, friction-bath mud-pack on abdomen. Regular sun-bath . If this much is observed, she will get well. explain to her the glory of Ramanam."

In his ashram the common joke was: " If you want Bapu near you, fall ill." Gandhi knew the smallest details of all sick person and visited every patient on his way back from the daily walks. He gave detailed instructions as to how the diet was to be prepared, how a patient was to be sponged and massaged and how many grains of salt or sods were to be used in an enema. When he decide to devote on hour each morning to patients in Sevagram, patients streamed in from the neighboring villages. His advice was; "Bhaji khao, chach pio, mitti lagao" ( Eat vegetables , drink buttermilk and apply mud poultices). He sometimes examined the stool of a patient. If the patient was not too weak, he was kept and open air. He suggested a cure for an ailment after making a thorough study of the case. One Co-worker was suffering from high blood pressure due to nervous strain. To detect the cause of it, Gandhi got his pressure checked before and after a serious discussion. The next day, it was checked before and after he sawed a plank of wood exactly on a line drawn on it. The third day the same was done before and after he ran a furlong on the ashram ground. On the last day there was a fall in his blood-pressure, in two previous occasions it rose higher. Gandhi's prescription to him was: " Whenever you feel a higher pressure, walk it off." Gandhi 's most important work or talk could be interrupted by anyone seeking his advise on food , bath and treatment of patients,. Many well-known leaders were kept under strict vigilance, lest they disobey his orders. in jail too, he obtained permission to attend on his co-workers.

A co-worker suffering from asthma sought his help. Gandhi asked him to stop smoking and he agreed. Three days passed without any improvement. The smoker could not help smoking secretly one or two cigarettes a day. One night as he stuck a match for lighting a cigarette, atorch flashed on his face. He pardon and gave up smoking. Asthma soon left him for good. Gaffar Khan had some scalp trouble and Gandhi suggested a home remedy. That pained the tall pathan leader more than the disease . A thorn once entered Vallabhbhai's foot. Gandhi put burnt bibba, a marking nut, as substitute for iodine. Vallabhabhai said: " I prefer the pain of the thorn to this biting cure."