By Suma Varughese August 1998 Dr. Issac Mathai is setting up perhaps the world’s first multi-system hospital in Bangalore TIPS FOR PERFECT HEALTH Dr Issac Mathai’s tips for a better lifestyle and healthy body: Do gentle stretching exercises everyday Go for vigorous long walks and exercises three to five times a week Do relaxing exercises like yoga, meditation and deep breathing for half an hour three to five times a week Avoid smoking Limit alcohol intake Take a complete break from work for a few days once in eight weeks and a week or two once a year Go to bed before you are over-fatigued and at a regular time About 50 per cent of your meals should consist of vegetables and fruits Occasionally fast for a day or two with only fruits and fruit juices Dinner should be at least an hour before you sleep. Health Management: Always have a family physician who has a basic knowledge of other systems of medicine, and develop a relationship of trust with him or her Go for regular medical checkups For any chronic disease, always take medicines with no or minimal side effects Always look out for better alternatives in other systems of medicine You don’t have to know that the Duchess of York, George Harrison, Tina Turner and Sting are his patients. Or that he zips around 30 countries every year, bringing succor to the ill. You don’t have to know that he is President of the Academy of Holistic Medicine, India or visiting professor at the Hahnemann College of Homeopathy, London. Or that he is planning the world’s first International Holistic Health Center in the Indian city of Bangalore (an integrated medicine hospital) of which he is to be the medical director. At first glance, Dr. Mathai may appear the archetypal celebrity doctor—all chrome and glass, spit and polish. His clinic, the Homeopathic Medical Center at Bangalore’s upmarket Richmond Plaza, is plush, dark and quiet. The man himself is impeccably dressed in an expensive suit. But the Mathai success story hinges upon a delicate balancing act between style and substance, appearance and reality. While the clinic may be deluxe, its trump card lies in Dr. Mathai’s integrity, honesty, and sense of caring. ‘The bottomline of healing is how much you care,’ he says. ‘And in the courage to tell the truth.’ Dr. Mathai came into the limelight in 1996, when the media came to know that Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, was visiting him for some rest and rejuvenation. In case you wonder where he was hiding pre-Sarah Ferguson, the answer is London. In fact, Dr. Mathai was a celebrity doctor even before the Duchess furor, working with the famous 101 Private Clinic of London, now known as Hale, and networking around the world with patients. So how does an obscure homeopath from Kerala reach this enviable state? Dr. Mathai comes, as he puts it, from a very good homeopathic background. His mother ran a homeopathic clinic in Kerala and the young lad helped her treat patients. Graduation from ANSS Medical College in Kerala, India, one of the best home colleges in the country, helped, as did encounters with several remarkable people. Dr. Mathai mentions R.P. Patel—’a great researcher’—and Dr. P.E. Abraham. The latter, an MD who turned to alternative medicine, introduced Dr. Mathai to the multi-system approach. Yet, ultimately, there is something inexplicable about his rise to international status—perhaps a case of the universe and the individual being in perfect alignment. Take, for instance, his first foray in international waters at the World Homeopath Conference in France in 1975. India had already dispatched its official representative, and there was little chance for an individual to gatecrash the gathering. Using his multi-system knowledge, Mathai sent a paper to the conference on yogic management in homeopathic treatment. The subject was intriguing enough to merit an invitation. The doctor’s good luck continued when he went to England for his postgraduation. To support his studies, Mathai signed up with the 101 Clinic. ‘The clinic had many celebrity clients from Hollywood, such as Tina Turner. I taught her meditation and nose washing (jal neti),’ says Dr. Mathai. Having assisted his mother with the management of acute diseases, an area unknown to homeopathic doctors in England, Mathai’s ascent was smooth. Within three months, he was promoted to the post of physician in the clinic, and in six months he was off on his first foreign jaunt. By the time he completed his MD, the 28 year old doctor was also consultant at the 101 Clinic, so named because of its wide spectrum of alternative therapies. ‘Forty therapies and 100 therapists,’ says the doctor. At this clinic, Dr. Mathai honed himself in holistic medicine. Today, he calls himself an international holistic health consultant. Apart from homeopath, Dr. Mathai has specialized in yoga, ayurveda, Chinese pulse diagnosis and the Japanese energy healing system of Jorei. Inevitably, the doctor has a refreshingly open mind towards all branches of medical practice. ‘The ultimate aim is the patient’s welfare,’ he says. ‘The doctor’s role is to initiate the healing process, and if other procedures can help, why not? In cardiac and cancer cases, Dr Mathai works in consultation with allopaths. As of now, all his energies are concentrated on the establishment of the International Holistic Center. The concept emerged from the First International Conference on Holistic Health and Medicine, organized by the UK based Society of Holistic Medical Practitioners in Bangalore in November 1989. When it came to choosing the place for the center, Dr Mathai was adamant. ‘I said India,’ he recalls. ‘India has five flourishing medical systems: allopathy, ayurveda, homeopath, unani and siddha, besides other therapies like naturopathy and Tibetan medicine.’ The decision to establish an international center where patients could avail of various therapies and which could offer facilities for research and training was mooted, and the task fell upon Dr Mathai’s shoulders. This decision also led to Dr. Mathai’s shifting to Bangalore. ‘I spent nearly three years trying to persuade the government to give me land. I was spending so much time here that it made sense to set up a center.’ The holistic center will have all in-house facilities, offering suites, rooms and other accommodation options, and will be situated on 40 acres of landscaped gardens, including an organic vegetable farm, an equestrian club and recreational facilities. All this at a price, Dr Mathai candidly admits that the center is aimed at his international clientele. If all goes well, the center should open shortly. The therapeutic approach would be elaborate, based on the practice at the 101 Clinic. Offering 45 therapies, the clinic includes various health management programs. The initial session with the patient can run to two hours, during which the doctor tries to understand causes behind the patient’s health problem. A program is then drawn up with an average time-run of three to six months. Medication may be supplemented by yoga, meditation, colon irrigation, chiropractic, naturopathy and many modern techniques. Today, with a three month waiting list and clinics in the US and London, Dr Mathai is sitting pretty. Says Asha Kapoor, 56 housewife: ‘Three years ago, when I went to Dr Mathai, I was using steroids to control my asthma. Within a month of seeing him, I was off my Ventolin inhaler, and my mental and physical well being improved. His treatment has worked wonders.’ Doctors recommended amputation of Manju Malhotra’s thigh, owing to acute diabetes. But Dr Mathai’s treatment had this housewife up and walking without surgery. ‘I’ve recommended his name to many of my friends, all of whom have come back feeling much better. He’s not a doctor for me, he’s more like my brother’ says Manju. ‘A doctor should be a combination of counselor, guru and healer,’ muses Dr Mathai. ‘He needs to be a patient listener, and have a genuine interest in the patient’s welfare. Some of my clients even ask my advice on business matters. They may not use it, but it shows they value my opinion. Each patient teaches you; even the one who dies.’ With such a benign approach, should one crib if his charges are high? ‘I’m expensive,’ the good doctor admits frankly. Initial consultation costs Rs. 1,000 and subsequent costs for medicine are Rs. 500 a month. Says Priscilla Mascerenhas, wife of an allopath, whom Dr Mathai helped tide over menopause:’He may be expensive compared to other homeopath, but his medicine is worth every penny it costs.’ For those who cannot afford the charges, Dr. Mathai has a charitable dispensary in Bangalore, run by one of his assistants. But there is no difference in the quality of medicine. Much of the expense, he points out, goes in running his clinic. When you ask why it needs to be so grand, Dr Mathai replies: ‘I spend eight hours in this clinic. I want it to have a pleasant ambience.’ For Dr Mathai, substance must have a patina of polish to be palatable. Perhaps that is the direction for holistic medicine in order to be taken seriously. And when appearance is coupled with an attitude that says: ‘I take no credit for healing. It is the grace of God that heals’, you know that the basics are all right.
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