By Suma Varughese September 1999 Ayurveda practitioner Pankaj Naram’s meteoric rise culminates in a multifunctional health center in Mumbai, India, which combines the best of ayurvedic treatments with a soothing ambience. The white elegant building lends unexpected dignity to the muddy by-lane it stands on at Malad, a suburb of Mumbai, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Set amidst a miniature lawn with tall almond trees, the five-level structure, with its color-coded décor and antique, ethnic wooden furnishing, has a polished sophistication reminiscent of either a holiday resort, a multinational office or an arts zone. Anything but what it actually is: an ayurveda center. Ayushakti Ayurveda Health Center is the dreamchild of ayurvedic physician Pankaj Naram. It is the culmination of Dr Naram’s meteoric rise that has seen him treat, within the span of a decade or so, over 200,000 patients globally. The good doctor has, apart from centers all over India, nine centers in Italy and two in Germany. He treats about 300-400 patients a day. Impressive statistics, however, can’t capture the essence of a human story. Dr Naram’s tale is one of giving hope to the hopeless. More than 7,000 couples have been cured of infertility. Heart patients, suffering from total arterial blockage and consigned to dotage, have stepped out of his clinic as limber as athletes. Victims of rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, blood pressure and spondylitis have been almost totally cured. Dr Naram has even stabilized the condition of some AIDS patients. Epilepsy patients and the mentally deficient have found relief with him. Dr Naram’s USP lies in his nadi vidya (pulse diagnosis) expertise. Practiced by relatively few ayurveda practitioners, nadi vidya enables the physician to zero in on any imbalance of the body’s three doshas (humors)—vata (wind), pitta (bile) and kapha (phlegm)—simply by feeling the pulse. Vata, composed of ether and air, stands for mobility. Only vata can expel toxic substances from the body, dry out wounds, generate new cells and control circulation. Pitta is composed of fire and a small portion of water. It is the metabolic power that causes biochemical changes and is responsible for gastrointestinal secretions. Pitta also controls body temperature, hunger, thirst and suppleness. It stands for courage, intellect and cheerfulness. Kapha comprises water and earth. It is the nourishing power that protects the human organism and its reproductive abilities. When these three doshas are in balance, it signifies health. In pulse diagnosis, the physician places his index finger, middle finger and ring finger below the radial bone of the wrist. The index finger identifies vata, the middle finger pittaand the ring finger kapha. ‘Based on the dominant dosha and the direction in which the pulse moves—its degree of heat, cold, humidity and dryness—it is possible to identify 350 different body situations,’ says Dr Naram’s wife and helpmate, Smita. Dr Naram learnt pulse diagnosis from his guru Baba Ramdas, a Tibetan lama who consented to initiate him into the art only after breaking down his ego by making him sweep his place. Even today, Dr Naram is under strict injunctions not to charge for consultancy or advertise his practice. Also central to ayurveda is the concept of aam—impurity generated by tridosha imbalance. With herbal extracts, diet and panchkarma, an ayurvedic physician can eliminate aam to restore balance. The Ayushakti center is fully equipped for such treatment. The ground floor of Dr Naram’s setup leads to an ayurvedic restaurant, probably the first of its kind in India. Adjacent to it is a counter that sells a vast range of products—health snacks, dry fruit fudge and saffron syrup—all created by the doctor’s wife. The counter also sells a variety of toiletries and cosmetics. Culled from the ancient ayurvedic manuscripts that Dr Naram received from his guru, the cosmetics are apparently based on the beauty recipes of the legendary ancient Indian dancer Amrapali! They include rejuvenating hair oil, to which Dr Naram, prematurely bald at 20, owes his thick crop. Opposite the food and cosmetic counter stands the dispensary. All products at Ayushakti are made at Dr Naram’s laboratories, and are prepared from specially picked herbs. Dr Naram attributes his medicines’ efficacy to their unpolluted source as well as the fact that they are made from ghana (liquid) extract of herbs rather than the standard powder extract. On the first floor of the Ayushakti center is the outpatient department, where Dr Naram, his wife and a team of 10 doctors attend to a non-stop stream of patients. Elegant stone terrazzos flank the open balconies, providing patients with airy seats. The second floor of Ayushakti has the panchakarma centers, with separate sections for men and women. Panchakarma, which is currently enjoying a successful revival all over the world, stands for five purifying measures—vamana (vomiting), virecana (purging), nasya (nasal treatment), vasti (enema), and rakta moksha (bloodletting). The facilities include steam bath, fiberglass beds and jacuzzi. A beauty parlor is on the cards. Dr Naram also has a few special tricks up his sleeve. Take marma, the art of using the body’s pressure points. I watch him in action with 19-year-old Archana Tambey, whose right half of the face is heavily distended. With quicksilver agility, Dr Naram touches five points in the face and then applies some medicine, which gets absorbed. ‘It’s my injection,’ Dr Naram says. This treatment, agrees Archana’s uncle, has reduced her swelling by 50 per cent. Yet another technique is panchoti, in which Dr Naram aligns the body’s chassis by making the space between the navel and the nipples equidistant. One day, Ramesh Venkatachalam, who looks after Dr Naram’s export section, bent down to pick up something, sneezed and threw his back out of kilter. ‘I found I was tilting to one side. On immediate examination, the difference between the distance of the right and left shoulder from the navel turned out to be three inches.’ A few days later, as I watch, Dr Naram measures the distance and finds it reduced to one and a half inches. Turning the patient on his stomach, Dr Naram deftly touches the pressure points at the base of his spine, rubs in some medicine, which promptly disappears, then thumps the length of the spine sharply. Turning him back, Dr Naram re-measures the length between the shoulders and the navel: they are now in perfect proportion. The animal and plant world, too, benefits from ayurveda. Dr Naram’s album is full of photographs of him checking the pulse of baby leopards, snakes, bunnies and dogs. His wife claims that he has been treating a blind lioness at a nearby national park for the last six months. Now, its caretakers believe that the lioness has begun to see. Though Dr Naram claims that he specializes in the treatment of chronic diabetes, blood pressure and arthritis, his success with infertility cases is also quite spectacular. So, what’s the secret? Says Dr Naram: ‘Eighty per cent of today’s population has pitta dosha because of our stressful lifestyle and pollution. Pittaincreases body heat. Semen, on the other hand, is cold. This is why cases of low sperm count have increased. Since only ayurveda thinks in terms of hot and cold, we alone can cure this problem by prescribing cooling herbs and diet.’ Dr Naram assesses his success rate at 70 to 80 per cent. He has himself benefited from ayurveda—his blood sugar count dipped from 420 to 95. ‘After seeing even 3,000 patients a day, I feel as energetic as when I started,’ he says. ‘The purpose of my life is to be happy and to create an opportunity for others to be happy.’
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