Lone Survivor

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Once it was the most crowded place for patients seeking remedy. As the English system of medicine, overtook the traditional Unani system, Kulgam’s Gopalpora stopped producing Hakims’ and now there is one practising Hakim in a cluster of twenty, reports Umar Khurshid

At one point of time in Kashmir’s not so distant past, the only visitors from Afghanistan were hoards of fortune hunters, mostly soldiers. In one of the groups had come a family of Hakeem’s from Kabul. They set up their base in the periphery of Kulgam’s Gopalpora. Decades after, it became the Hakeem Mohalla, once a place frequented by patients of all sorts.

Till the onset of allopathic, the unani system of medicine was the only medical system in vogue. It took almost a century for the English system of medicine to overlap itself on the traditional unani system. The change impact the 20-odd families of the Hakeem Mohalla, which had, at least one member each a practising Hakim. Now, it has reduced to two cousins, perhaps the only practising duo.

“When I was a kid I never understood the fact that why is every one of our family into it,” recalls Niyaz. Shifting to USA after his computer degree was his  only goal. His “liberal” family never tried to come in between his  choices.

Hakeem Niyaz Ahmed 33, and his cousin Hakeem Zahid Hussain 30, are the only two fifth generations Hakeem’s in Gopalpora.  Zahid is actually a part-timer as he heads a primary health centre as well.

Niyaz was not interested in family profession though his father Hakeem Nisar Ahmed was a famous Hakeem. “Politicians apart, even Bollywood stars used to visit my father’s clinic then,” recalls Niyaz.

But destiny has its own way of making and unmaking things. After clearing his twelfth class, Niyaz started studying computer science. Soon, he ended up joining Kashmir Tibia College for BUMS Srinagar, a formal course, equivalent to MBBS.

“When I was a kid I never understood the fact that why is every one of our family into it,” recalls Niyaz. Shifting to USA after his computer degree was his  only goal. His “liberal” family never tried to come in between his  choices.

But in 2000, an incident changed the Niyaz’s life. His uncle Mohammed Hakeem, a lawyer, and his two cousin brothers died in a road accident when they were on their way to Srinagar. The tragic accident shattered Hakeems. Niyaz was very close to his  uncle. It shook him completely.

In trauma for months Niyaz started spending nights outside house, mostly in mosques.  Gradually, my dreams weaned away. “I found myself getting close to my God and then I started showing interest in Hikmat,” Niyaz said. “Wherever I found any difficulty, I would go through those old prescriptions given by his father or grandfather Hakim Ahmadullah, which are still safe.”

“I see 20 to 30 patients a day and I earn well,” Niyaz said. “Now I am puzzled by the question: why every family has given up this profession?”

A patient, Masroor Ahmed Lone 28, from Kachdoora Shopian, had spent Rs 20,000 in a year for his kidney stone but all in vain. Niyaz helped him pass it out within two months.

Niyaz’s all patients are the family’s third generation followers. His clinic Hakeem Nisar’s Herbal Clinic has almost every kind of herbal and unani medicine for a huge basket of problems: allergies, kidney stone, constipation, skin problems, digestion and sexual related problems. In comparison to allopathic drugs, unani preparations are cheap.

Ghulam Rasool Hakeem 68, is a retired teacher. He is Niyaz’s uncle and is not a practising Hakim. His son Irfan Ahmed 42, is remembered in his family for completing  holy Quran writing at the age of five. That feat became news and that feat fetched him an invitation invited to a Deoband conference in Saharanpur (UP). In Saharanpur, interestingly, lives one of Ghulam Rasool’s  uncles. He is a practising Hakim there.

Niyaz is literally the only practising Hakim as his cousin Zahid see patients less often because of his government job. “I see patients from Reasi, Rajouri, Kishtwar, Srinagar, Jammu and even Ladakh,” he says.

At his clinic Niyaz is helped by his brother Hakeem Adil Hussain 28, an MA in Urdu, from MP University. Unlike Niyaz, Adil was keen to stay in family profession. He would spend most of his time at home grinding herbs and making Sharbat. Over the years, he has evolved into a class pharmacist. He has huge knowledge about the herbs and the preparation of Unani medicine. “I spent hours to grind herbs in our house, then with the instructions from my brother we mostly mix honey or hot water to make perfect syrup or capsule,”  Adil said.

The two brothers sell herbs at their  clinic in a dried and powdered form. They offer their guests special tea that are basically herb based.

Zahid Hussain Hakeem 30, is working at PHC Manzgam. He hardly gets time to see patients. “Though I work in government hospital and prescribe English medicines but I believe in Hikmat’s spiritual power most,” Zahid said. “We believe that body should be treated as a whole and not just as a conglomerate of organs.”

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