What if I told you that there are people who could diagnose and cure a variety of illnesses by using the power of bodily senses? Ears in place of a stethoscope, hands in place of an x-ray machine. What if I told you that the position of a foetus and its gender could be revealed by feeling the stomach area of a pregnant woman?
In the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya, I travelled across the district to speak to three traditional healers. And what I learn quenched my fascination. It was the most interesting and far-reaching project that I have been involved in.
In and around the state’s backward villages is where you will find these people who claim to have been bestowed with the power to cure people. People with modern day illnesses. People with cancer.
When I look back at my childhood, I recollect my great-grandmother’s stories of demonic creatures like “U Thlen” (a snake) and “Taro” keepers who could supposedly “e kynbad” or cast spells on other people; and I recognize the age-old association of the mystical with the corporeal. On meeting three healers who have taken their power to heal to a new level, my fascination and doubts have been satisfied.
Kinsingh Lamare is a traditional healer in the village of Wahiajer, in the West Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya. “When I was a little boy, I assisted my father,” Bah Lamare started. “My father was a healer, and he used orally-learnt, traditional, non-western methods of healing and treating sick people.”
“I learnt it from my father,” Bah Lamare said. “It wasn’t inherited or anything like that.”
He is in his mid-90s with over 35 years of experience in the field of traditional healing. Using the barks of medicinal trees, natural light and a modern day grinder, he is able to create potions and powders that work wonders on diseases like ulcers, tumours, kidney stones, enlarged liver, excessive bleeding, diabetes, strokes and even cancer.
His career began years after his father passed away, when Kinsingh was employed as a Government Servant. “One day,” he said, “God spoke to me and told me that I was born to heal.” From that day onwards, he never looked back. He quit his government job and turned his one room home into a “dispensary.”
His success has spread across India and beyond. With his most recent patient from Bangladesh, who was recently cured of his “khai bhur” – epilepsy in medical terms; his talent is significant and profound.
When asked if he is being acknowledged by the state government for the fascinating work he has done, he said. “Yes, but accepting the opportunity to work in a hospital would be like going beyond the plan of the Lord himself.”
He is happy with the hundreds of patients showing up at his home every day.
Although he claims that “there is no specific course or technique to learn the ways of healing,” Kinsingh has trainees who seek to learn from him but he says “I can only teach so much, the rest is in God’s hands.”
He has two collectors who visit the forest department for raw materials, two staff members in charge of peeling and drying the raw materials, one person who grinds the ingredients together and two nurses who function as his right and left hand.
Another healer from Ummulong village is an expert in the field of gynaecology. Boi Talang explained that her technique is the antithesis of gynaecology.
“With the touch of my hands, I can tell women how far along they are.”
One day a pregnant woman who had insomnia and terrbible stomach pains knocked on her door and without so much as a request or warning put Kong Boi’s hands on her stomach. The woman claimed that Kong Boi appeared in a dream and that she was the only person in the world who would be abe to take her pain away.
Which she did.
And Boi Talang began her career as a healer. She travelled all over state to heal pregnant women, people with broken bones, swollen nerves and migraines. Twenty years later and Kong Boi is still amazed at her journey.
“I never knew I had it in me, I still don’t. It must be the work of God himself.”
“I use whatever ointment is closest to me, and also, the ointment is not as important as the technique,” Kong Boi explained when I asked about the medicines that are made use of. “Some techniques involve sessions of massages, and those make me sweat excessively.”
“It is hard work.”
Steward Suting lives in a village called Mookyndur and was a cowherd when he found out he had a skill to heal. One of his cows became injured. “I grinded some leaves to cover the wound and tied up a bunch of twigs to make a support for the cow,” Bah Suting explained. “In a few days the cow was back up again.”
“I then tried the same on one of my farmer friend who also broke his leg, and it worked!”
When word of his healing started to spread, there were many who were against the fact that he used the same kind of leaves for both mankind and animals. He disagreed and opined, “both creatures have a soul, a heart and blood running through their veins, what difference does it make?”
Bah Suting collects the medicinal plants himself. Through trial and error of mixing one type of plant with another, he has practised his profession successfully for fifteen years. He is not against modern medicine nor is he against people who think his practice is a hoax. He says “it is up to people to believe, and to have the willingness to heal.”
An orthopaedist, Bah Suting is not.
“Doctors,” he elaborated “advise people with broken bones to rest; they tie up the wounded body part and allow no movement whatsoever; sometimes for months!”
“The diagnosis and methodology is all wrong,” Bah Suting went on.“Bones are made to move, the fluid that flows in between joints and sockets will only increase when the bones move, hence taking a faster period of time to heal.”
“Advising patients to take rest is another form of manipulation to increase profits, to create more complications, to have an excuse to operate.”
This strong minded healer however refuses to take in patients that have had a history of other illnesses. He says his hands are only made to treat broken bones and nothing beyond that.
Author: Yadawanka Pala
Yadawanka Pala is pursuing a Maters’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication at North Eastern Hill University, Shillong. She was Longlisted for The Half and One Prize, 2019, and her poems have been published by Delhi Poetry Slam.