Tuesday, June 29, 2010



[prohindu] In An Ancient Land - A Modern Miracle

Krishan Bhatnagar Mon, Jun 28, 2010 at 1:15 PM
Reply-To: prohindu-owner@yahoogroups.com

Note: Here is an article published over a decade ago, but should be of interest to many. Lord Hanuman's blessing cured a hopelessly sick patient.

In An Ancient Land .....

... A Modern Miracle
Pamela Constable (Washington Post Correspondent)
BJP Today : June 1-15, 1999
(It is presumed that this article was published in the Washington Post earlier in 1999, from which it was taken)

It was Hanuman. I know it was Hanuman. Otherwise Ashok would have died, mostly because of the time the doctors had spent four days frowning over their charts and ordering more tests and absently patting him on the arm, by the time he had spent four nights bathed in sweat and clenching his teeth against the unbearable pain in his belly, he believed it.

I could see in his face, in the limp resignation of a wrist too weak to raise off the sheet. " I have to go back to my village," he kept whispering. " I have to go back to and see my mother before I die".

Ashok Pandey was the watchman at my house in New Delhi., where I had arrived only weeks before to take up my new assignment. I barely knew this tall, thin man with the shy smile who was always hovering around the office, trying to practice his English. His wife, Asha, a chirpy and obliging young woman in a vivid chiffon sari, mopped and swept the house each day, and the couple lived over the garage with their 4 year old son.

I realized almost immediately, however, that something was wrong with Ashok. He looked gaunt and his face was too pale. He confided hew had been having problem with his stomach for months, and had been to a number of doctors. But the medicine they gave him never did any good. His wife explained, holding up a plastic bag of prescription drugs he had stopped taking. In the past few days, she said, he had consulted several sadhus, or Hindu wise men. They had advised him to pray and take offerings of flowers and coconuts to his temple.

And one night Ashok collapsed in the driveway and was rushed to a private clinic. For the next four days, he was poked and probed, filled with more medicines and stuck full of medicines, but he did not get any better. He lay on the bed, a skeleton beneath crumpled sheets, too weak and feverish to move, too sick to eat. With each day, I could see, his will to live was slipping.

Asha slumped on the floor beside the hospital bed, clutching a tear stained sari to her face. Their little boy, Ravi, watched gravely from behind the cubicle curtain. Ashok's two other brothers were there, too, having traveled a long distance. They hovered worriedly, conferring in murmured tones and stroking his head. Finally the family reached a decision, and Asha approached me , her voice deferential but her face anguished and determined.

"Please, madam, Let us take him home."she begged tearfully. "Hospital no good. Go home to village, please."

Her request startled me. This was more power than I had ever wished to possess. I Had only known the family for a few weeks, yet their fate was in my hands. How could I let Ashok leave the clinic? Everything I knew, everything I had learned to trust as an educated Western person to;ld me he needed to remain there, that he was getting the best care possible.

After all, I was there to pay for the treatment-- and to periodically remind the clinic staff, simply by appearing each day and inquiring after his progress., that the otherwise anonymous 30-year old night watchman ha had an affluent foreign patron. Although this was new and uncomfortable cudgel for me, I quickly realized how usefully it could be wielded in an emergency.

But Asha's entreaty put a terrible burden on me. If I gave in and allowed the family to take Ashok away, setting off on a hot and long journey to their native village in another state, there was a good chance that he would die on the way. If I insisted that he remained hospitalized and he died of the disease, his family would never forgive me, and they would always believe that Western medicine had killed him.

Here was a country with the best of modern medicine available -- indeed a country that exported many fine physicians and scientists abroad -- and yet millions of Indians remained poorly educated and deeply superstitious, preferring to trust their gods and sadhus when they fell ill. Here was a country where caste discrimination had been barred by law and very adult enjoyed the right to vote, and yet the hierarchy and habit of class emerged instantly and sharply in a crisis.

And here was I, an American raised to be independent and egalitarian, suddenly depending on a household full of servants to do chores I would normally do myself, called upon to take an almost feudal responsibility for their welfare, and finding myself, after disdaining the self- serving rationales of the waited-on classes in third world countries, thinking of this night watchman and his relatives as my family.

I took a deep breath and said no. Ashok had to remain in the clinic, I told his anxious wife and relatives, if they would only trust the doctors I asserted as authoritatively as I could, he would get better soon. The problem was that I knew that he might not get better. He had waited too long, been to too many spiritual advisers and neglected to take too many pills, while his intestines developed dozens of ulcers and finally collapsed. There was a small chance, the specialist with the cell phone at his waist confided to me in a corner, that the patient might never recover.

What I needed, I realized, was extra insurance, some familiar source of healing to persuade Ashok and his family that they were doing the right thing. I knew Ashok was a devotee of the monkey god, renowned in Hindu lore for his cleverness, loyalty and strength. Indeed, it was the monkey god who had saved Lord Ram, the hero of India's "Ramayana" epic, by hoisting the world on his back and seeking a special herb to cure Ram's ailing brother.

Feeling inspired and a little silly, I headed for a shopping area and ducked into the first curio shop. On one shelf was a small monkey figurine, posed in his customary fierce stance, one foot forward, staff held aloft. It cost about $1.25.

When I got back to the clinic the same afternoon, Ashok looked even worse. His cheeks were sunken in shadow., his eyes were too weak to open. Asha was at his side, weeping unconsolably. His brothers were there, too, patting his hair and looking worried. One of them bent down and whispered and Ashok's eyes opened briefly. I put the figurine in his hand, and he immediately pressed it to ho forehead and clutched it to his chest. Then his eyes shut again.

I dreaded going back the next day, dreaded saying hello to Ashok's little boy playing in the garden outside the clinic, dreaded climbing the narrow stairs and seeing the same shrunken feverish head rolling on the pillow, dreaded looking at Ashok's wife and brothers and seeing their eyes - eyes they never dared fully raise to meet mine, but fixed on me in mute hope.

The bed was empty and freshly made. My heart stopped. Ashok must be dead, I thought. But there were murmurs coming from farther down the ward., and I thought I heard laughter. I walked toward the sound and there, surrounding another bed. was Ashoks's family.

And propped up on the pillow, with an enormous grin on his face, was Ashok. He wanted a transistor radio, he said. He wanted to know what was happening in Parliament. He wanted his wife to make some porridge. He felt much better now, thank you very much, and he wanted to go back to work.

I glanced back toward the other end of the ward. Beside Ashok's old bed, half forgotten behind a bedpan and an empty glucose bottle, was a small metal monkey figurine. It was Hanuman.

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