By Piers Gibbon
I don't think I will ever feel that I know India. Every time I visit, it feels like a whole new country.
The purpose of this visit was really clear. With my two volunteers from the USA (Charles and Mark), I wanted to find out if some ancient remedies and practices could begin to help them with their various medical issues.
One thing that became really obvious was that you can not judge an entire medical system on the basis of a quick couple of weeks. Especially a system of medicine that is more about lifestyle and attitude rather than quick fix medicines. But nevertheless we did get some really interesting results - both positive and negative.
There were several highlights for me personally. I loved how healthy I felt after just a few days at the yogic cleansing centre. I was amazed that I could be satisfied with such tiny healthy vegetarian meals. I have to confess that I had several tins of tuna hidden in my backpack (my excuse is that these form part of my emergency kit, along with water purification tablets) but after a few days my hunger seemed to disappear.
Yogi Gi was our host and guru at the yogic cleansing centre. His catchphrase was "Problem Solved" and he had boundless confidence that his regimen could solve pretty much ANY problem. But it is tough going. We had to get up at dawn and troop along to the cleansing area. The first thing that happens (and remember this is on an empty stomach) is a squirt of ghee up your nose. Ghee is a key ingredient of Indian cooking - which I love - but ghee does not feel good up the nose. However ghee is an essential lubricant when you are about to do nasal cleansing using water and then a rubber tube. The tube is poked up your nose, it finds its way to the back of your throat and then Yogi Gi grabs it and you are left to floss your own head holding an end in each hand. Very disturbing.
Other highlights included watching leeches sucking away at Mark's eczema and an extraordinary scene outside a mosque in New Delhi where people queued for hours to have blood letting. This is a therapy that has totally gone out of fashion in the West but is still popular in India. They bind your legs up and then, when the veins are popping up, the practitioner flicks a little razor blade and the blood starts oozing out. There is no medical evidence in the Western sense that blood letting can help, but it felt curiously cleansing watching my own "bad" blood being washed away in the hot Indian sun.