I have often wondered what is it about faith that keeps people going in their lives. Recently I happened to be passing by the village of Wazirabad in north Delhi where I chanced upon a clinic of alternative medicine. Known as ‘Rahat Open Surgery’, this clinic is located in one of the many lanes of the village where people from all communities and different parts of the world come in the hope of getting some relief from the ailments they suffer. It is amazing to find so many people attending such a clinic in an age of huge biomedical advancements. Stepping inside this clinic one enters the world of Mohammad Ghyas and Mohammad Iqbal, the two doctors who treat their patients through a traditional medical practice known as bloodletting. In what is probably the only clinic of its kind in the whole city, most people who visit it do so after facing dejection from all other possible medical treatments, be it allopathic or homeopathic. A case in point being Ms. Kamlesh, a native of Nainital, has been their patient since the last twenty eight years. She was diagnosed with cancer and could not walk at all. Doctors had told her they could do nothing to improve her condition. It was her faith which brought her to Mr. Ghays’ clinic through whose treatment she believes she was blessed with a full life.
As a medical practice, bloodletting was popular till as recently as the late eighteenth century. However today this form of medicine is often looked down upon and considered to be without any scientific basis. What is interesting is that Hippocrates too, the father of modern biomedicine, himself believed in the beneficial effects of bloodletting. According to his theory of four humours, blood was one of the four main components of the body and any changes in its composition could lead to diseases. According to Mr. Ghyas, bloodletting is based on logic of draining out the ‘bad blood’ that accumulates in people’s body. It is this bad blood which leads to various diseases and therefore needs to be drained out of the body for it to become healthy again.
Every day in Rahat clinic, Mohammad Iqbal sits down on his stool at 11 am and sets out to make small cuts with a practiced hand and sharp razor blades on the veins of his patients. Both he and his father specialize in the treatment of a variety of body aches, including arthritis. Practicing bloodletting has been a family tradition with them running back to several generations. Though his own grandfather was a practitioner of bloodletting too, Mr. Ghyas learnt the details of this practice through formal training from Abdul Majid over a period of five years from 1975. There was no looking back for him once he started his own practice in 1980 on the streets of Meena Bazaar in Old Delhi. It was only in 2014 that the clinic was shifted to Wazirabad.
Led by the belief that it is only in the service of man that one can attain God, they provide free treatment to everyone who manages to reach their clinic. On any given day they are visited by around fifty patients from different parts of not only the city, but also the whole country. Over the three decades of his practice, Mr. Ghyas has had patients coming to him for treatment from as far as Japan and USA. The satisfaction of his patients can be gleaned from the fact that when asked to choose between his treatment and other allopathic medicines, they willing chose this ancient practice! At the end of the day, to quote Martin Luther King Jr., ‘faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase’. In the case of Rahat Clinic’s patients, it was taking this first step which eventually led to them climbing the whole staircase.
Where: Plot no. A 415, Gali no. 9, Near Amina Masjid, Wazirabad
Timings: 11 am to 1 pm
Nearest Metro Station: Kashmiri Gate Station (a fifteen minute auto rickshaw ride from there)