What better place to experience the magnificent healing of this wonderful medicine than in India. So in January 2005 I decided to under take a postgraduate course in Kolkata. It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime!
It doesn’t matter what time of the day or night you arrive in Kolkata the city is alive. With no apparent traffic regulations and the roads filled with potholes we dodged our way to the hotel. The pavements were littered with homeless people trying to sleep sharing their little space curled up amongst the dogs. Their owners, ready for market, were guiding herds of goats through the narrow streets. The odd cow would casually wonder in front of the cab making you gasp with fright. It was impossible to believe you weren’t dreaming.
“Allah Akbar” at five o’clock in the morning having only had an hours sleep was certainly the wake up call I could have done without on that first morning, I soon realised this was going to be my morning wake up call for the duration. You could hear the stallholders setting up their tiny kiosks, they seem to stock everything you could possibly ask for. Rickshaw pullers rang their hand bells, hoping for passengers that will hand over the payment, which would provide food for the pullers and their families, people laughing, chatting, dogs barking and the constant beeping of car horns.
Walking or taking a taxi to the institute each morning became my daily routine. The walk took me through scenes that seemed to us to be quite astonishing but obviously an everyday occurrence to the commuters and the school children, who walked to school by themselves.
My route led first through the poultry market, where the chickens were cooped up in baskets and tied to the handle bars of bicycles, whilst groups of women by the kerbside, dressed in beautiful coloured saris, sat on their haunches plucking, cleaning and dressing the dead ones. No part is discarded; even the feathers are washed sorted and dried. The fish market seemed quite pleasant after this, but the smell isn’t for the faint-hearted! After this came the fresh fruit and vegetable sellers, quite refreshing after the others! All the market produce, including the fish, is spread out on the uneven pavements for buyers to see, so whilst walking through the market it is never safe to look up for fear of stumbling. After the market come the chai and freshly squeezed sugar cane sellers along with the coolies who carry huge loads on their heads. I saw one man with an eight-foot by six-foot pain of glass on his head.
Crossing the road is an experience in itself. All you can do is close your eyes and run and hope you don’t get hit by a car, taxi, bus, tram, motorbike (carrying whole families of four!) bicycles, rickshaws, hand carts and of course the odd goat or cow – all jostling for the same space in this crazy city.
People flock to Kolkata hoping for work, from villages and other countries but that hope is soon diminished and they find themselves sharing the pavements with the others. Whole families eat and sleep in a space just big enough to lie down in. There is no privacy at all, not even for washing. The street people use the standpipes in the road for washing themselves and their clothes. Children are children and when they get water on their faces they scream the same no matter where you are in the world. It’s impossible not to stare at them and they look back at you with the widest of smiles and a sparkle in their eyes that makes you tingle.
Part of the criteria of the course was the opportunity to visit the many slums that the college supports through donations. The college supplies not only homeopthy but also fresh milk and fruit for the children to help maintain a healthy diet. The word spreads quickly when the college van has arrived and the children come running to be served. I was privileged to hand out the free food and drink to those gleaming faces of thanks.
The slums are a community and are a step up from the pavement. The concrete boxes that are no bigger than a cupboard under the stairs are separated into two floors, the top for sleeping and the bottom for cooking. For cooking a portable cooker called a Chula is used or a hole is just dug in the ground. The amazing thing is whole families share this tiny space but at least you have a roof over your head.
Whilst taking a case you could have up to ten onlookers but no one seemed to mind. I saw all sorts of health problems ranging from Cancer, Asthma, Diabetes, Arthritis, TB and even a case of Schizophrenia, all of which had responded well to homeopathic treatment. I remember one day a lady coming to the clinic of Dr B’s for a check up, she looked no different to anyone else who had visited that day. However, She was a miracle, she had had a brain tumour which conventional doctors had given up on and as a last resort came to Dr B for homeopathic treatment and 18 years on she was proud to bring her family from miles to say thank you. This was a very emotional experience and a realisation of what homeopathy can offer people.
I found Kolkata an amazing place and certainly unforgettable. Having felt pity for the poor people when I first arrived on reflection I envy them for their simple expectance of life and their happiness when they seemed to have nothing of material value. They were very warm and welcoming people that would give you anything for nothing in return. Truly amazing!