In a country where traditional medicine is a virtual no-no, a Kuwaiti princess is aiming to buck the trend by learning acupuncture so that she can take its benefits to the four million citizens back home. Last week, a Mercedes driven by a female chauffeur halted outside a small 1,000-sq.ft. clinic, located in a narrow lane in the congested Dadar area of south-central Mumbai. The chauffeur asked her distinguished passenger, Sheikha Alia Salem Alsabah, the wife of Interior Minister Mohammad Al Khalid Al Sabah: "You have come here to meet a doctor?"
"Yes, since I have come here, you can well imagine what he must be..." the guest smiled, stepping inside the eight-bed clinic run by internationally-acclaimed acupuncturist Dr. P.B. Lohiya. Expecting his visitor, Lohiya, 63, founder of Indian Academy of Acupuncture Science (IAAS), was well-prepared, despite a large crowd of patients in the clinic.
"I want to learn acupuncture as I have great faith in its curative success and benefits," Sheikha Alia, 55, smiled, interacting with IANS at the clinic full of patients with problems ranging from back pains, irregular menstrual cycles, cardiac problems and cancer. In her home country, with Indians and Egyptians comprising the largest chunk of expatriates, traditional medicines are virtually a no-no, she explained.
"Yes, we have a small acupuncture department in a government-run hospital run by Chinese medicos, but there is lack of proper diagnostic systems and cures," Sheikha Alia said. In fact, along with her daughter, Sheikha Alia recently travelled to China to get basic knowledge of acupuncture, but after a week of grappling with the local language problems and lack of diagnostic systems, she gave up on her efforts.
In China, a medico informed her that she could learn a lot from renowned Aurangabad-based acupuncturist Lohiya, the only Indian visiting professor at the prestigious Beijing Meridian Research Centre and vice president of the Beijing's World Association of Chinese Medicine. (Lohiya spends the bulk of his time in Aurangabad but attends the Mumbai clinic for one week every month. He also devotes time to his clinics in cities like Pune, Kolhapur, Nagpur and Hyderabad, besides travelling abroad.)
"Well, with a little research and help from some officials I contacted Dr. Lohiya and took the next flight to Mumbai," said Sheikha Alia, a qualified aerospace engineer from the US.
At present she spends hours carefully observing Lohiya as he treats patients for various ailments, including those relating to the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, muscles, bones, paralysis and tissues and brain disorders by pricking tiny needles at strategic points on his patients. After a week-long sojourn in Mumbai, Sheikha Alia will travel with him to Aurangabad for a similar experience, topping off in Hyderabad with fortnight-long intensive lectures-cum-practical sessions in acupuncture.
"After I return to Kuwait, I want to start full-fledged acupuncture departments in hospitals or clinics for the benefit of my countrymen as I feel this ancient form of treatment has tremendous healing and curative potential," she added. Lohiya has tentatively agreed to help start a clinic under his supervision in mid-2014 and even train Kuwaiti doctors in acupuncture along with other branches of traditional medicine. Sheikha Alia said that within her family, her husband and daughter, who suffered from severe neck and back pain, got tremendous relief by acupuncture-cum-ozone treatments.
"A friend was advised to undergo a heart-lung transplant, but after an acupuncture-ozone session in Mumbai, he does not need any transplant," Sheikha Alia said.
When asked how an aerospace engineer developed an interest in ancient medicine systems, Sheikha Alia, who loves Indian vegetarian cuisine, said it was because of a desire to help people overcome their big and small medical problems. A former assistant and student of Lohiya, Dr. Shubhangi Deshmukh, said that in her independent practice, she cured some of the "worst cases, given up as gone cases by top allopathic doctors".
Endorsing Deshmukh's views, Lohiya explained that the modern allopathic system provides only symptomatic relief for problems without treating the root causes. "I felt disgusted by fooling patients and quit allopathy in 1983 to study the ancient systems of medicines - I was labeled a lunatic by the people," Deshmukh told IANS. Explaining her experiences, the down-to-earth Kuwaiti princess said it was ironic how traditional medicines are the last resort for people after allopathy shuts its doors on them.
"I was surprised to see people spending huge amounts for medical tests, X-rays, MRIs, CT-Scans and even preparing to spend more on expensive and complicated surgeries. But, when they finally come for acupuncture or other traditional medical systems, they haggle over prices," Sheikha Alia observed, as Lohiya nodded in agreement. Sheikha Alia said she is keen to implement techniques pioneered, perfected or innovated by Lohiya in Kuwait.
"I am sure my people will love all this," she said with enthusiasm. In the Aurangabad session, Lohiya has assured Sheikha Alia that she would get some "real hands-on training" on pricking needles on dummy patients to make her India trip truly worthwhile. "I am ready and yearning, sir," she acknowledged.