The Bilirubin Bub

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Faith healing is a scientifically accepted way-out. In Srinagar outskirts lives Abdul Qadir who treats more than 15000 patients a month and is considered a key healer for jaundice, reports Irtiza Rafiq

Abdul Qadir

The plasma screen at Srinagar International airport shows the arrival of the Delhi- Srinagar flight and the lounge gets instantly active. Among the curious mixture of excited and bored arrivals, Ruqaya, a 33-year-old woman with her pale yellow face, sunken cheeks, and a feeble body stands out. Accompanied by her husband Javaid, 37, as she makes her way out of the airport, her anxious relatives waste no time in elaborate greetings. Flying straight from the USA, the couple is literally bundled into the car and their journey started towards Syedpora (Dhara) in city outskirts.

After a drive of around 29 km, the couple gets off, pass a small bridge across a shallow, crooked, clear, stream, walk down some narrow alleys and enter a house. In the time Ruqaya waits with dozens of other women, most of them mothers with children nestled up in their arms in a compound brimful of multifarious people, Javaid proceeds towards a chaotic, almost endless queue at a congested staircase where scores of people are nudging each other to pass their Rs 10 note for the exchange of a stamped paper piece from a 40-year-old man upstanding at the middle of the stairs. There is another man at the foot of the staircase for crowd control.

The scene resembles the representation of a shrine where followers with raised hands propel each other to get a touch of some higher deity or a sacred thing. The chit for which they are struggling for is their ticket to cross the stairway. This stairway crossing is heavenly for most of them because it leads to the Bab, the ‘spiritual healer’.

For the last five decades, the septuagenarian Bab has been treating all kinds of ailments, at his residence, a quiet and picturesque place, almost 2.5 km from Harwan.

The influx of patients can be gauged by the fact that the Reshi abode comprises three houses: one where the family lives, second where the patients wait for their turn and the third where Abdul Qadir Reshi, the Bab examines and treats his patients.

The room of the treatment-building is jammed by people, among yellow faces, crying neonates, ailing individuals, on the left corner, Bab sits on a bed at a slight elevation with his youngest son Abdul Ghani Reshi. In between them is a large copper bowl of water, on their either side various bottled up solutions, some powders, and in the front, lies a knife and a leather belt.

Khadija, 65, a woman from Rajbagh approaches him with her eight-day-old granddaughter having 7.68 mg/dL bilirubin level, Bab takes hold of baby’s clothes, lays her in front of him, squeezes her nipples, sprinkles handful of water from the copper bowl on her and then slowly rubs her forehead, eyelids all the while muttering something under his breath. He then hands the baby over to Khadija and asks her to make sure that her mother doesn’t eat oily or non-vegetable food. Interestingly, Khadija reveals that the mother of the kid is herself a doctor but has a firm belief in the healing powers of Bab. The medico mom didn’t comply to the paediatrician’s suggestion of exchange transfusion (blood change).

The certitude of this kind doesn’t come as a surprise, for Bab has treated thousands of people. Some of them approached him after they keenly heard their treating doctors telling them: “There is nothing more we can do”. But somehow after following Bab’s prescription, some of these people managed to do the unexpected − they lived, fully treated.

For 55 years and counting, sort of miracles have been happening around this solemn looking spiritual healer who credits it all to the Almighty. “I have been bestowed upon by the knowledge and ability by God that I can say by looking at a person what he is suffering from, particularly jaundice patients, one look at them and I can tell if they will make it or not,” Bab said after managing his patients. “It is a vision by God; the verses I read have a healing effect in them so the healing comes from God.”

This peculiar wisdom runs in the Reshi family and has been transferring from generation to generation. The story of this bequeathed enlightenment started when a spiritual healer from Kabul had a dream, so goes the family legend, wherein he was commanded to visit Mulfak, a neighbouring area of Syedpora, which is known to be home of peers. Once there, he spent a night and went touring adjoining areas escorted by a peer from Mulfak. When he saw ancestors of Abdul Qadir Reshi working in paddy fields, he told his escort, according to Bab’s son Abdul Gani Reshi, “Go back I have got what I was looking for. From that day, he resided with my great-grandfather and passed him his saintly knowledge,” said Reshi Jr.

“But we were warned by our spiritual teacher against being greedy,” Gami said. “So we do not take any money except on Sundays when we take Rs 10 from people and that too for Darsgah and charity. On the contrary, we provide tea and refreshments to visitors.”

Every day, up to 600 patients visit the place, and on Sundays, the number crosses 1000 people, all of whom are treated free of cost by Bab who does it as a social service. He and his family make their living out of their orchards and are financially well off.

“Except for gallbladder stones, everything is treated here,” claims Gani, and he then goes to name the ailments they take care of : Sorphtoph (snake bite), Gunstoph (cobra bite), Arkhor, Hounchop (dog bite), Malder (Herpes), Diabetes, Kambal (jaundice), psoriasis. “We deal with everything but a lot of cautiousness must be exhibited on our parts and we should abide by guidelines of our forefathers. Once my uncle made some mistake and as a consequence, he had a brush with death. This is like a sword hanging on our heads we have to be vigilant at every step.”

This guarded approach is quite evident from the way Bab instructs his son while he prepares herbal remedies and writes prescriptions for patients, even whilst himself dealing with a Malder (Herpes Zoster) patient, Fatima, 55, from Shalimar by dragging and flipping the knife over her lesions. He is doing the shoving and thrusting amid the surging crowd. Angry, he finally uses the leather belt and whips it over the unruly assemblage.

Family’s makeshift shop selling the prescriptions is run by his younger son, Ghulam Masood Reshi and grandson Rayees Ahmad Reshi. Even though it’s not mandatory for people to buy their stock from this shop, still they prefer it, because patients are patiently helped to understand how to follow their prescription. Bab’s prescriptions usually comprise of 80 per cent of herbs and 20 per cent of Hamdard products. Rishis say they take great care that herbs are genuine and hire peasants to handpick them.

People waiting outside Abdul Qadir ‘s abode.

“These unadulterated herbs when used in treatment do wonders,” Masood Reshi said. “There is a specific herb Wagan which heals the bite of rabies dog, without any need of injections, another herb, Sumbloo and Kawidarh Moul, helps to treat blood cancer, diabetes, cholesterol, and thyroid. Yet another herb, Jogi Patsah, found in dog free area of Ladakh aids in treating kidney and ovarian cysts. For jaundice patients, we use a rare herb called Michre Komal. The market value of these herbs is in thousands but we sell them at Rs 600 at the maximum.”

More diverse than the herbs here are the people who flock around Bub. People from all parts of Kashmir, urban as well as rural, from all socio-economic backgrounds, pin the hope of their healing on Bab, but what is more captivating is that people from different religions have belief in him as well.

Jaswant Singh, 60, brings his son, Gurpal Singh, 24, with some throat allergies and Bab after prescribing the medicines holds his turban and reads verses from Quran. This presents a quite peculiar sight.

= A month later, Bab informed this reporter that a non-resident Kashmiri couple from the USA have also come to him for a treatment. In the USA, she was diagnosed with severe jaundice. Her bilirubin count was 65 mg/dL, a level that has the least chances of recovery as per medical sciences. She and her husband then decided to return home, maybe they were preparing for the worst.

But back home, Ruqaya’s family wanted to try for the last time for which they travelled straightaway from Airport for Bab’s consultation.

After twenty days of Bab’s treatment, Ruqaya recovered and then left for the US along with her husband happily.

(Names of patients mentioned in this story have been changed to protect their identities.)

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