Thursday, April 18, 2024

A modern day kobiraj

Jawad Hossain Nirjhor for The News Today
This article is about alternative medical practices that are adopted by poor people suffering from myriad illnesses, giving us a glimpse of the health conditions and sufferings of the underprivileged population in this country.
Afsar Ahamed lay near a corner of a street in Hatirpool, huddled in pain. He was gasping for breath desperately when I walked past him. Deeply suffocated, Jafar was trying to breath so hard that he was overstretching his body muscles to draw in air. He barely managed to whisper hapani and Ticamet 250 when I enquired. A couple of bystanders explained that the man was an acute asthma patient. He had run out of an inhaler and on his way to Mohammadpur he had fallen into an attack. Understanding the gravity of the situation, I quickly purchased a Ticamet 25O inhaler from the nearest pharmacy, shook it hard and gave itto Jafar. When he took the first puff, the gasping slowed down. He quickly turned to me to offer a word of thanks, as best as he could. Such incidents occur quite frequently but the poor patients like Jafar are unable to afford the costly inhalers. Jafar, a resident of Kutuber Bosti in Khilgaon, has been an asthma patient for more than 12 years. Previously, he had suffered from Tuberculosis, or TB, and treated himself at the TB hospital in Chankharpul. Asthma was a follow up to the TB. He needs three inhalers amonth. A Ticamet 250 inhaler that lasts 120,puffs costs Tk 800. Jafar’s family barely earns Tk 100 a day by feeding rickshaw pullers in a mess, and he cannot afford to purchase the inhalers. A good man in Mohammadpur gives him one inhaler every month. Jafar rations that to survive whenever he has an attack. His last inhaler had run dry three days ago and he was on his way to Mohammadpur to fetch another one when the attack came. Unable to bear the medical expenses of conventional treatment methods, Jafar opted for alternative practices. The first treatmentwas eating frog’s liver. A female kobiraj (‘healer’ without any professional training) in his village in Bhola had administered the treatment. The remedy was supposed to cure the lungs.The second treatment Jafar received was in Tongi. This time, another kobiraj made him drink tea with a cockroach in it. The belief was that it would clear the breathing. The treatments did not bear fruit and Jafar has had to struggle ever since.Belief at Work The High Court mazaar (mausoleum) area is a home to a good number of kobiraj. They specialise in treating jaundice. What they use is a garland made of green shoots of a tree locally known as ‘bilaihachra’. The tree grows in the adjacent National Eidghah field. The garland is made using a special knot called the baisha knot and it is placed on the patient’s head. Thetreatment is predicated on the belief that the body soaks in juice from the garland. As jaundice in the body is gradually cured, the garland expands in size and ultimately falls off the head. This act is cited as a grace of God. Alternatively, the garland might as well expand due to a gradual loosening of the knots over time- as the shoots dry and shrink. In addition to the garland, a special herbal medicine is given. The liquid, which has two different versions for kids and elderly people, is a certified herbal remedy for purifying the blood sold in the local market. Some kobiraj also tie a special amulet on the abdominal region. The amulet contains the elephant faeces that is collected from Dhaka Zoo. It is believed that anelephant’s faeces contains healing properties and extracts bad water from the body of a jaundice patient. Kobiraj Nazim sits in the open Eidgah field adjacent to the mazaar. When I approached him, he quickly grew impatient and reproachful towards me. To substantiatehis claim of the healing properties of his method, hesaid, “The cure depends on imaan (faith); if you do not have strong faith, it does not work on you.” I asked some of the local people about the medical practice, but none could ascertain that the method actually works. The recipients of this treatment are the very poor people who, unable to pay for conventional treatments, are more than ready to take a leap of faith. There are also some ignorant patients who blindly believe that such treatments work. One such kobiraj has a female relative working in a government hospital. Sometimes the relative sends poor patients from the hospital to him. A kobiraj in the High Court area makes Tk 50-300 a day from attending four to five patients. The mazaar offers free food to the poor everyday at lunch. Sometimes, kichuri and biriyani are doled out in the morning. The area attracts a good number of poor people, some of whom are patients. The kobiraj survive between their meagre income and the free food. The Stones Use of stones is another form of unconventional treatment. Unlike other methods, the stones are both a proactive and reactive cure that can, as is believed, both heal and prevent illness. Stone sellers sit on the footpath in various areas in Dhaka, exhibiting a wide array of stones in rectangular glass and wooden boxes. Apart from stones, they also sell printed copies ofverses from the Holy Quran and miniature Holy Qurans measuring only one square inch in dimension. At first, such a small Holy Quran looks marvellous, but a close look at it shows that it is only a work of a computer word processor where an ultra small font has been used and numerous copies printed per page and cut into pieces. The writing is not legible .The stones sold on the footpath are inexpensive ones, cut into shapes and polished to give a shine. Some stones are synthetically manufactured. Different stones, which are named by colour and shapes, are believed tohave different healing properties.I met Karim Shah Chishti selling stones near Matshya Bhaban. On my query, he defensively answered, “I only sell stones that people want to buy or are prescribed by astrologers. The stones are a grace of the Almighty and works with his blessings.” His customers are the poor people and the prices of the stones range fromTk 5 to Tk 500.I met one customer suffering from rheumatism. He already had two stone rings on his fingers and was purchasing a third one.Mr Chishti informed him that the akik stone ring he had been wearing for two years was a fake one. On the purchase of a small stone, when the customer was not willing to pay good price, Mr Chishti said, “Pay as much as your imaan wills.” The Modern Day Kobiraj In Mohammadpur, I met one kobiraj who administers treatment over mobile phone. The kobiraj, unwilling to disclose his name and mobile phone number to me, said, “I read out Surah Náas and the last three verses of Surah Hashr from the Holy Quran over the phone to treat body illness. The phone must be placed over that part of the body where the illness lies. If I read out the verses and blow over the phone the illness is cured by the grace of God.” I met one patient who placed her mobile phone over her knees to treat a pain while receiving the treatment. I could not find any patient with claims of proven results from the treatment. In Goran, I met another herbal medicine doctor who claimed to have the power to treat cancer. Dr Elias of Koshba Homeo Hall in South Goran claims to prescribe foreign herbal drugs to cure cancer. Among other drugs, he mentions ‘shark cartilage’ as the principal medicine to cure tumorous growth. On the walls of his chamber hang testimonies of patients who have supposedly been cured of cancer. However, on my two visits to the premises, I failed to locate any cancer patient. Unani And Herbal Medicine The Bangladesh Unani and Ayurvedic Practitioners Ordinance of 1983 in the constitution guarantees a legal status to traditional medicines. Traditional medicines and medical practices in South Asia are the most commonly used means of treatment for poor people. Unani and Ayurveda have a long history of treating diseases and ailments.Presently, Hamdard (Wakf) Laboratories is the largest producer of Unani medicine in Bangladesh. It is also the largest producer of Unani medicine in the world. There are many other herbal medicine producers located in Narayanganj and Gazipur. Under the Unani system, a Hakim does not charge any fee for visits; he only charges for the medicines he prescribes. The Unani medicines are also relatively cheaper compared to their allopathic counterparts. As such, the method is widely availed by the poor. There are many herbal and homeopathic clinics in Dhaka that have been treating patients for more than two decades.Medicines such as Alisa, Dpiles and Ginseng are prescribed in these clinics that can permanently cure asthma, piles and sexual ailments respectively without any form of surgery. Hamdard (Wakf) Laboratories has many medical centres throughout Bangladesh where free treatment is given to the poor once a week. However, while the application of the Unani practice is widespread, the success is not evident in all cases. In March 2005, a Health Canada report on Safi, a popular herbal syrup,stated that Safi was ‘found to contain arsenic levels in excess of 40 times the maximum allowable concentration for drugs’.The Reflection Due to rising medical costs against limited income, coupled with religious beliefs, tradition and ignorance, poor people adopt alternative medical practices. While Unani and herbal practitioners have drug licenses and medical certificates, most kobiraj treating countless diseases do not have the income to file for license which would impose VAT upon them. Poor people are often illiterate and the actual experience they get from the treatments is unaccounted for. The government and health authorities should investigate these alternative medical practices. Practices that are scientifically ustified and productive should be integrated with the mainstream medical system to create greater awareness about them; practices that are not proven to have proper remedies should be quashed with strong force.

Related News

World Chocolate Day 2023: From history to celebration all you need to know

News Desk : dhakamirror.com World Chocolate Day, celebrated on July 7 each year, is a delightful occasion that brings people together. On World Chocolate Day, people indulge in a wide array of chocolate-infused delights, ranging from chocolate milk and hot chocolate to candy bars, cakes, and brownies. It is a time to revel in the ... Read more

Saudi Arabia: What happens to the 100 million Jamarat pebbles after Hajj?

World Desk : dhakamirror.com The annual Hajj pilgrimage, one of the five pillars of Islam, is a time of deep spiritual reflection for millions of Muslims. One of the most significant rituals during Hajj is the stoning at Jamarat, where pilgrims throw pebbles at three pillars, symbolising the rejection of evil. With over 1.84 million ... Read more

Still no facilities for cyclists

World Bicycle Day today Shahin Akhter Bicycles are the cheapest and most environment-friendly mode of transport in easing traffic congestion and reducing environmental pollution in the capital city, said green activists and entrepreneurs. Absence of separate lanes on roads and increased value added tax on spare parts, however, are hindering this mode of transport from ... Read more

Which are the 10 largest airports in the world?

The scenario of the global air transportation sector has drastically changed over the last few decades that has been subject to many variables over the past decade. Air travel is not only the most sought after and popular means of travel for long-distance but has made a major contribution to the world economy. It may ... Read more

Celebrating World Samosa Day

September 5 is celebrated as World Samosa Day and the day is solely dedicated to the crunchy oily snack. Be it rains or winter or summer, samosas are our savour. For those unaccustomed to the humble street food item, it’s a triangular-shaped pastry that comes with a range of fillings. Different parts of the world ... Read more

BRAC University: The World Champions

On January 3, members of 400 participating teams along with distinguished guests gathered at the Main Hall of Technische University, Berlin. Thousands if not millions watched the live feed online, from all around the world, eagerly and anxiously waiting for an announcement, the results of the World Universities Debating Championship 2013(WUDC 2013). The tournament is ... Read more

The land of beauty

by Mahfuzul Haque Bangladesh, a South-Asian country wrapped up with great streaming rivers, is indeed a land of green and natural beauty. The land possesses the longest sea beach and is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger. Sundarbans is also the biggest mangrove forest in the world. The country, once part of undivided Bengal, is ... Read more

Tourism in Bangladesh: problems and prospects

by Ziaul Haque Howlader Forty years has elapsed of Bangladesh’s tourism industry, yet we still see it in a nascent position in comparison to our neighbouring countries. Despite having all the potential to flourish, tourism in this country has been growing at a very slow pace. Bangladesh is not known as a tourist destination in ... Read more

A brief life sketch of Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose

Obaidur Rahman Born on 30th November, 1858, in the Rarikhal village of Bikrampur during the British era, which is now under the Munshiganj district of Bangladesh; Sir Bose was all together a physicist, biologist, botanist, archeologist and the author of the very first major work in the arena of Bangla science fiction, Niruddesher Kahin, written ... Read more

Focusing on community strength for disaster preparedness

OP-ED Focusing on community strength for disaster preparedness We can mobilise all the communities at every corner of Bangladesh and we will discover that they all have the same potentials. They by themselves will find a way out of their problems, writes M Mizanur Rahman. INVESTMENT in disaster preparedness can save five times as much ... Read more

Tourism prospect of Bangladesh

OP-ED Tourism prospect of Bangladesh If tourism is given due honour of industry and if both government and private organisations equally come forward for its development then it would open doors of immense possibility for us. At present, in our gross domestic product, the role of tourism is below one per cent. If it could ... Read more

New policy to promote tourism industry

The Nepali government has brought new tourism policy to promote tourism industry, The Himalayan Times reports. Addressing a press meeting, Minister for Tourism and Civial Aviation Hisila Yami said the ministry is planning a curriculum regarding tourism and the development of a separate Tourism University. “European arrivals are declining due to the global financial crisis ... Read more

A 19th-century Bengali scholar

By Monty Siddique for The News Today Abu Saleh Mohammad Siddique, whose ancestral home was in Tetulia (Zamindar family), Satkhira, Bangladesh, studied English Language and English Literature at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. He breathed his last in June 2007 and is buried in the Muslim section of the Greenford Cemetery in the London Borough of ... Read more

Infectious diseases and vaccine sciences

What does the Programme do? ICDDR,B is a vibrant institution with various experts actively engaged in research on infectious diseases. Microbiologists conduct fundamental research on the characteristics of pathogens. Immunologists study host defences, including potential vaccine candidates. Clinical scientists study the diseases caused by these infectious agents and evaluate optimum therapy in infected patients. Epidemiologists study ... Read more

The story & esoteric significance of Rath Yatra

By Dr. Subrato Ghosh for The News Today The story of the origin of Rath Yatra given by the Goswamis is practically unknown. As the gopis think and cry for Krishna, so He too was always immersed in their thought and would feel acute pangs of separation. HISTORY OF RATHA-YATRA Once Krishna was deeply thinking ... Read more

Rabindranath: The Contemporary Forever!

By Aly Zaker It was in August of 1971. I was on an official mission of the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, escorting some foreign dignitaries to the refugee camp in the Salt Lake area ofCalcutta. After my official duty was over as I was getting ready to leave, I heard that the Mukti Shangrami’ Shilpi ... Read more

Struggle to Survive

By Jawad Hossain Nirjhor The ready-made garment industry employs around 3.5 million workers and accounts for 80 percent of the total export earnings is mainly depends on women workers .Following the countrywide demonstration last year, the minimum wage for the garment workers was slightly increased. On the eve of May Day, it is time to ... Read more

Junk science

Scientists are increasingly worried about the amount of debris orbiting the Earth, writes Dr K.H. Amin February 10th 2009 began like every other day in Iridium 33’s 11-year life. One of a constellation of 66 small satellites in orbit around the Earth, it spent its time whizzing through space, diligently shuttling signals to and from ... Read more

Agricultural breakthroughs

Khamin writes about the researches that have made positive differences to our agriculture sector Being mainly an agrarian economy with agriculture being the largest producing sector, the increasing performance in the sector in Bangladesh, has been fuelled by various scientific researches conducted over the past three decades. The fruition of the researches has brought about ... Read more

World’s largest mangrove forest

The Sundarbans, the largest single tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world, is intersected by a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests. The name Sundarban can be literally translated as “beautiful jungle” or “beautiful forest” in the Bengali language. The name may have been derived from the Sundari ... Read more