With a mixed bunch of royalty and celebrities on their client list, the Ali brothers have established their Integrated Medical Centers in India and abroad as a viable medical option that offers aromatherapy, ayurveda, acupuncture and other alternative therapies—all under one roof.
You painfully shuffle downstairs to meet yet another doctor, careful not to jerk your stiff neck. You open the door, prepared for the familiar odor of formaldehyde. Instead, a refreshing fragrance of incense and essential oils tingles your nose. The marble-floored reception is spotlessly clean, and a sense of relaxation floods your being. You are in the Integrated Medical Center, which opened in New Delhi, India, last year as part of a chain managed by five of the Ali brothers.
The ambience is a far cry from regular hospitals. Says Imran Ali, the youngest of the brothers: 'The fragrance of various aromatherapy oils relaxes a patient, making him more receptive to therapy.' As Imran Ali leads me to his cabin, I notice a painting outside the door. At first, it seems like a collage with colors arranged in a circular pattern from light to dark. Then I begin to detect patterns—human faces, elephants, birds, trees. Imran Ali explains that this computerized painting is custom-made from Switzerland, and contains relaxation symbols. By simply standing in front of it for a few minutes, a person's stress levels can drastically reduce.
Seated in his cabin, surprisingly devoid of a nameplate or degrees, Imran Ali talks about the center with its 10 practitioners and 14 therapies. From 3,000-year old methods to the most modern ones, these therapies include acupuncture, aromatherapy, marma massage, neurotherapy and osteopathy, reflexology, shiatsu, Unani, and even palmistry!
Since when did palmistry become therapeutic, I ask. Imran Ali explains with a laugh that palmistry, in this case, stands for the ancient Indian practice of diagnosing an ailment after studying the palm of the hand. 'Fingernails, eyes and pulse all determine what's wrong with a patient. We do something similar.'
The main feature of this center is Integrated Physical Therapy, a system developed by the Ali brothers themselves, one that has made them internationally famous. Also known as Ali's therapy, it is a combination of several traditional curative systems. Believing that illness results from blockages in the streams of energy that run through the body, the Alis base their system on the principle of balancing energies. All blockages, except those caused by external factors, such as cuts, burns or accidents, can be cured through integrated physical therapy. Imran Ali explains: 'There are five nerve points between the thumb and forefinger that are connected to the heart, brain, stomach, kidney and other organs. We can figure out the problem simply by pressing these specific points.'
Depending on the nature of complaint, the combinations vary from patient to patient. Since psychology plays an important part, the treatment is decided after ascertaining what is most comfortable for the patient. 'Since all the therapies are under one roof, we can easily personalize them,' Imran Ali points out. But, he emphasizes, they respect all forms of medicine, including allopathy, and also arrange for any form of treatment they cannot provide.
The Integrated Medical Center believes in permanent cures, continuing with the treatment long after the symptoms disappear, to ensure that the root cause of the disease is eliminated. Unfortunately, however, people turn to the center only after being disillusioned by conventional systems.
'It is such a pity,' frets Imran Ali, 'that they come to us only when the problem has become so aggravated that it makes our job much tougher. People come to us on the rebound, so it takes longer for them to be cured, and because word goes round that it takes long, they don't initially come to us. It is a typical catch-22 situation.'
Ann Kumar and her family, however, wouldn't dream of going anywhere else. Ann, who has been coming to the Ali brothers off and on for 15 years, says: 'I can feel the difference within 45 minutes. People don't understand the body-mind concept of balancing energies and are distrustful. But I feel completely safe, even letting them handle my children.'
Another convert is Bijayan Kumar, a student, who was suffering from chronic back pain. He consulted all kinds of doctors and specialists at great personal expense, but to no avail. 'Then a friend of mine, who was recovering from body paralysis, recommended Imran Ali. I was amazed when the doctor told me I would require only 14 sittings with him,' he recalls. Within four days Bijayan experienced almost 50 per cent relief.
'Stress is the main cause of ill health,' says Dr Firdaus Ali. 'It weakens the body's immunity system and makes it susceptible to imbalance.' Exercise and diet form an important part of the regimen.
The Integrated Medical Centers also organizes periodic health holidays, 15-day breaks from the hustle and bustle of daily life in order to rejuvenate the body. The venue is carefully chosen in secluded areas. The first of these retreats, in 1989-90, was conducted at Dr Karan Singh's (Indian philosopher and scholar) Taragarh Fort in the Himalayas with 15 people. Venues change, but the routine remains constant, starting with a two-hour walk in the morning, followed by breakfast, sessions of yoga, deep tissue massage and meditation. The meals are light and organic. The list of celebrities who have attended these healing holidays in India is impressive: super models Kate Moss and Sarah Miles, Prince Charles' girlfriend Camilla Parker-Bowles and singer Mick Jagger.
The moving force behind the Integrated Medical Center is the eldest of the five brothers, Dr Mosaraf Ali. Based in London for the past decade, he is the only one with a conventional medical degree. His interest in alternative medicine, especially acupuncture and acupressure, goes back to his days in Russia where he was doing his MD.
The idea of integrated medicine first came to him while attending a seminar on acupuncture. India's former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, then ambassador to Russia, did much to encourage him. 'So, I did a postgraduate course in integrated medicine followed by diplomas in fasting therapy, psychotherapy and hypnosis,' says Dr Mosaraf Ali. Gujral's advice turned out to be a goldmine for him. Convinced of its potential, Dr Mosaraf Ali returned to India and started a clinic. As his practice grew, he turned to his brothers for help. Since there was little time to pursue a medical degree, the brothers opted for shorter specialist courses in acupuncture from Hong Kong. Today, apart from the medical center in New Delhi, they have clinics all over the world, including London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kenya, and Oman.
Dr Mosaraf Ali's treatments are legendary. London's Daily Mail carried an article on a new therapy he devised for women wanting to get pregnant. It includes a weird combination of yoga, pomegranates and massages, and bans coffee and vinegar. But the essential part of this therapy is to get women to relax so they can conceive. The doctor explains that though conventional fertility treatments increase ovulation, stress can make the uterus taut, making it difficult for the fertilized ovum to get implanted there. Hence, the importance of yoga, massages, meditation and other relaxation techniques. 'We simply show women how to give nature a chance,' he says.
Another of his success stories was the late Lady Tryon, a member of the British royal family. Dr Mosaraf Ali cured her of terminal uterine cancer using shark's cartilage and oil. The treatment is simple—a completely organic diet, no alcohol, coffee or cigarettes and high doses of vitamin C to go with the shark's cartilage. Unbelievable, isn't it, when you think of all the injections and chemotherapy that cancer specialists recommend? But undoubtedly, there is a rationale to the method—as Dr Mosaraf Ali's elite clientele round the world will tell you. He has been hailed by the press and public as Rasputin to spiritual guru, but his international patients' list reads like a veritable who's who. Industrialists, models, sportsmen, movie stars, and even royal families all over the world believe in him and his brothers. From India, cricketers Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar, politician T.N. Seshan and actor Kamal Haasan are just a few of his famous clients. Indeed, Prince Charles even inaugurated the London Integrated Medical Center in 1997.
Though thousands of miles apart, the brothers regularly keep in touch with new developments. 'I was recently in Dubai,' says Dr Firdaus Ali, 'on the request of His Royal Highness the crown prince Sheikh Mohammad. While treating the Prime Minister's seven-year-old niece for migraine with a massage, she suddenly developed an allergy to the baby oil I was using, possibly because it contained strong chemicals. So I replaced it with mustard oil and she recovered completely.'
This information was duly sent to his brother in London, where the Integrated Medical Center has a research wing monitoring, developing and striving to improve their existing therapies. It is interesting how the Alis have blended the traditional with the modern, adding a whole new dimension to the concept of holistic healing. Though it is difficult at this point to predict whether such pioneering efforts will bring about a sea change in medical history, if we count the successes of the Ali brothers' alternative system, the next millennium may well belong to integrated medicine.
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