Vaids and Hakims in Lower Bazaar of Simla of the Sixties

Vaids and Hakims in Lower Bazaar of Simla of the Sixties

A post by Sudha Mahajan has made me wonder about so many Vaids, Hakims in and around the small neighbourhood I lived in. The simple life of the Sixties had simple solutions even for the ailments which human life had always been assailed by. I really don’t

There was one Vaid ji on the stairs starting from the Nathu Halwai shop. He carried big moustaches and was, invariably, neatly dressed in dark band-gala coat. Sitting behind a big table on which were assortment of bottles and jars had their place, he looked indomitable. The walls of his small shop were neatly lined with jars and bottles having god knows what! His patients would sit on a side bench that was put besides his chair. What I so liked about his shop was a white marbled pestle and a neat little oval shaped mortar. I was always mesmerized by his shop and especially how he would put small portions of medicine in neatly placed paper pieces on his table. He would neatly fold those pudias with specific directions to be followed by the bewitched patients.  I  would walk slowly while passing through his shop as I wanted to see the miraculous potions of medicines handled by Vaid ji.

There was another Vaid ji who had a shop next to Nathu Halwai. His shop was non-descript, a little dark as it faced north, and a little down the road. He, too, had the entire wall lined with concoctions for, perhaps, all diseases of the world. He sat on a low lying wooden Diwan and his patients sat nearby. I don’t remember much about this shop except one unfortunate happening when a small infant was pronounced dead and the wailing mother was supported by someone. This was my first real encounter with death and I felt angry that all those medicines, herbs and concoctions adorning the walls of this shop could not save a small infant from the clutches of death. Before that I had read about death only in Kalyaans and believed that only old people die but this incident changed my perception. When the wailing mother and the person carrying the dead infant had disappeared in the busy hustle and bustle of the much happening Lower Bazaar, the part of the road facing the shop was washed with water and sprinkled with gangajal while I watched it. Life goes on was the lesson that I learnt that day.
Another Vaid ji I remember of was my friend Uma’s father. He had a shop opposite to the Masjid in the middle Bazaar. As Uma and her parents had living quarters towards inside of the shop so this was one which I observed most meticulously. Vaid ji would sit on the Diwan having marble pestle and kundi and same decoration of jars filled with who-knows-what! Inside the house which had a small kitchen opening towards the back side, Uma’s mother would be busy preparing food etc. on the angitee the same way my Amma would be. Uma, too, would fall ill like me and would have running nose and I would wonder why didn’t her father made a concoction to get us rid of running nose, such an irritating thing to beseech us!
There were many more at many nooks and corners of the Lower Bazaar and the middle Bazaar as it required a few bottle,  jars and the marbled pestle and mortar and of course the experience to read the pulse.
I was so interested in observing about the Vaids as the house we lived in, once upon a time, was occupied by one Vaid ji. I remember seeing him once when he paid us a visit and Amma, covering her head demurely, touched his feet! When I saw him I started weaving
stories about him.
The house we lived in had a big Diwan facing a window. I heard Bauji tell us that there lived a Vaid ji in that house, and rightfully so as I could imagine his presence in the structure of the house. Besides this window, with iron rods inserted in the wooden frame, perhaps would have been a seating place for the Vaid ji who owned that house. He must have used the Diwan as a place to conduct his business during the day and a bed to recline upon during the night. Undoubtedly, solid wooden Diwan, besides the window overlooking the entrance, was the prime location in the entire home as this seating place faced a flight of stairs bifurchooting away from the main Nathu Halwai stairs. I don’t know why the Vaid ji left that place to settle at Tutoo where he had his ancestral place.

The home had a number of inbuilt alcoves at the ground level, two big glass-paned almirahs,   inbuilt in the room with more than sufficient shelves beginning at the ground level and going upto the ceiling. A perfect place for a Vaid ji to sit on the Diwan with easy access to jars and  bottles of herbs, medicines and concoctions neatly arranged in the glass-paned shelves, all within easy reach. The only relic of his presence in that house was a stone mortar, big enough to hold a kilo of herbs, left in one of the alcoves. The big stone mortar is still in use, filled with water every day for the birds!  Some sane use it has been put into after serving so many in search of a panacea!
As if all these Vaids were not enough to guard the health of Simlaites in the Sixties, some strange looking sellers, claiming to be from Kabul or Kandhaar would display weirdest looking herbs on the roadside on Sundays. I, too, would watch them claiming the real panacea for many diseases! The favourite spot for them would be besides the lion-faced water hydrant near Nathu Halwai shop or outside the tunnel in the lower Bazaar. And there would be a big crowd of onlookers.
Now there is no shop of Vaid ji on the Nathu Halwai stairs, Uma has taken up the seat of her father but she sits on a chair. When I go to Simla, I do meet her and we talk over a cup of tea ordered from a nearby tea stall. She has her home away from the hustle and bustle of lower Bazaar.
There are stylish looking medical clinics in and around Lower and Middle Bazaars but what has remained constant is human endeavour to find a panacea for all the ills that assail us despite so many feats of science!!

( Please fill in more details about  Vaids and Hakims as this is only tip of the iceberg)


 

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