Visiting the Bone Setter – India

Bone Setting Clinic - Hyderabad

An old city injury requires an old city solution.

Or at least that sounds like justification enough.

For those who don’t know, I’m pretty accident prone.  Ok I’m very accident prone as I’ve been known to fall down going up stairs, find mysterious wounds on me, or walk into the occasional wall.  I’ve even been told that I’m better on skis than I am at walking. So it’s not completely by surprise that I caught my foot and took a fall on the torn up sidewalk.  On a side note my cousin says that no one uses sidewalks in Hyderabad, so perhaps it was my own fault again in the end.

We headed home, my foot swelling up inside the not so supportive sandal.  As I limp into my uncle’s house for lunch, everyone seemed to react in panic to my injury.  Suggestions flew in multiple languages as I tried desperately to follow.  Thinking to myself I just needed an elastic bandage or something along those lines, but it seemed they had other ideas for me.

You should go to Saleem, I heard someone say and a few others concur in agreement.  I of course had no idea what or who that was, and how it wouldn’t be simpler to just find a place to buy a bandage.  But there was not real point in arguing a problem I didn’t understand.

“You should go. It’s like a massage. He’ll check you out, and you’ll get a bandage” – my mom said.

Well I did need a bandage – I thought

“Is he a doctor?” – I asked my mom partially concerned and partially confused.

“He’s a doctor…of sorts.” – She replied unconvincingly. “You…probably won’t like him. But you should go.”

Hmm…really?  That doesn’t sound like a convincing argument at all.

But with everyone pushing me to go, and honestly my curiosity of the situation and the story, I wanted to see what it was actually about.


The thing about this doctor was that he was located in Mangalhat.  For all the incredible development that has hit India in general and Hyderabad in particular from high tech boom to incredible growth and modernization; Mangalhat…well Mangalhat hasn’t changed at all.  It was tucked away in a forgotten part of the old city, a place where it was even difficult to convince auto rickshaws to take you. You would often have to tell them somewhere else and just kind of coax them slowly further until you were back home.

I recall on my previous trip through India as my brother and I waited at Immigration to enter Hyderabad the officer looked perplexed.

“Mangalhat? Really?  Why are you going to Mangalhat?” – he honestly asked us as he reviewed our paperwork.

“Oh our grandfather lives there”

“That makes sense,” he said laughing and sounding relieved. “Tourists don’t go there.”

Although as we weaved through traffic on the narrow mud streets I started to think why not? This was the India I remember, the one of my grandfather’s house.  Watching the cows still wandering the streets and packs of goats gnawing on yesterday’s trash.  We weaved around potholes and oxcarts and I attempted to maneuver my legs on the scooter to avoid needing additional injuries. Various shops lined the muddy streets, several kite shops doing business at a eager pace in time for the upcoming kite festival.

 

We pulled up to a side street a stone’s throw from my grandfather’s old house. I remember the area from brief fragments of memories but this actual place was foreign to me.  To my left there sat a dairy it seemed with several water buffalo waiting their turn to be milked.  The street was lined with several shops, many since closed at this time of night.  Across the from the dairy was the place I had come to see.  A big sign was fixed on the upper floor of the building. “Bone Setting Clinic – Since 1935”.  The name of his son and grandson who has since taken over the business were also included.

The place was packed still at this time of night.  Crowds of people were careening their necks trying to watch the doctors at work.  People with bandages on various appendages trying to watch the masters at work. Various family members stood nearby holding hands as nervous patients waited for their turn.

I was standing on my good foot waiting my turn along the side of the road.  A nice old man offered me a seat in front of one of the abandoned shops.  We sat there chatting in my broken English/Urdu combination while my cousin deftly tried to secure a visit number.  As I sat there, waiting my turn, a man who looked to have had his leg set hobbled over to a motorcycle with help and then took off down the bumpy road.  Another satisfied customer.

My turn was approaching and my cousin signaled for me to come over.  I clumsily moved among the folks still trying to watch the doctors work and found a corner spot upon the hard laminate wood floor.  The room was small no bigger than about a medium sized bedroom.  There was a staircase leading up to an floor unknown. The two doctors sat on the floor with anxious patients in hand. An assistant sat nearby tearing bandages from a large cloth and mixing a bright yellow salve. The medicine that so many came to have applied (and one of reasons I was told I needed to go).

My turn came up and I slid across the floor to the doctor.  I tried to gesture to my foot and utter any Urdu words I could think of that fit this moment. Nothing coherent was spoken. He took my foot in his hand and started examining the outside.  Ok not so bad.  He then being to push into different areas of my foot to find the tender areas.  It didn’t take long before he found them.

The pain shot through my body as he continued to press.  A massage this certainly was not. He pushed hard into one of the more tender spots and I had to stop myself from screaming out. The sweat was starting to build up as I tried to hold my composure.  He took out two blocks and examined them and lined them up next to my foot.  Perplexed I looked at them too as he rested my foot gently on top. This is when the treatment seemed to have gone downhill…

He stood up while my foot still rested on the block. I tried to figure out where he was going, but it was only a split second in time. He grabbed my knee and took his foot and stepped on my injured foot with as much force as he seemed to be able to muster. I no longer was able to hold from yelling. He took my knew and bent it forward and backward rolling on my ankle. As I was trying to regain my composure I realized he was seated again and pulling my knee once again towards him as I tried desperately to not vocalize the pain.  He contorted my foot in a few different more positions each as painful as the last.

He held my foot again and I waited for something else. I was a bit nervous to let him keep handling it, but I really didn’t know what else to do in this situation.  He examined it and said a few words that I can’t recall now (if i ever did). He took some salve from a bowl next to his knew and applied it heavily to my foot as I cringed awaiting more pain. He took a bandage from pile and wrapped it tightly around my foot and motioned me to head over to his assignment.

I walked over the assistant and reseated myself while he pulled out a large needle.  I don’t know why but I feared he was going to somehow stab my foot with it but instead with a few flicks of his wrist he sewed my bandage in place.  I breathed a sigh of relief as I stood up and paid the cost of treatment.  The price – 120 Rupees or the equivalent of $2 US a pittance for an American Traveler but a decent sum for a working local who really rely on these places in case of trouble.

We got home by the same method that we had come. My cousin made it a point to mention how I had screamed while I was being treated. I didn’t appreciate that, but I certainly couldn’t dispute.

“Do you feel better” – I was asked as I got walked in.

I didn’t really to be honest and I replied in kind.

“At least it’s over, and I have a bandage” – I said as I made my way to sit down.

“Oh no..you need to return on Thursday” – the reply came quickly.

“Wait what?”

 

Street in Mangalhat - Old City - Hyderabad

Hungry Hungry Goats - Hyderabad, India

Shopping for Kites - Hyderabad, India

Bone Setting Clinic - Hyderabad

Comments

  1. says

    Wow! What a story to tell! You had me at Bone Setter! In the USA, this is what I did for many years, but we call it Chiropractic! I have had many a patient yell on my table as well! Too bad, that it did not seem to help you, as it is not a cure all for everything, depending on how the injury occurred. Loved the story though!
    Dr. Cacinda Maloney, DC
    Chiropractor and Travel Blogger!
    Cacinda Maloney´s last blog post ..Chihuly: The Maestro in the Valley of the Sun, Phoenix, AZ

    • says

      Haha, its great and very factual given that most of his work is setting bones. But it seemed to be the same fix regardless of the issue. I wonder if chiropractic treatment would be useful in this instance though. Glad you like the story! Sometimes you have take some pain to get the story ;-)

    • says

      I tried to right it a with a bit of humor. I have to laugh at the experience, so I was hoping others would too. I did…fool me twice I suppose. I did get my bandage changed, but then I ended up just getting a elastic bandage like I wanted anyway.

    • says

      You know I had pretty decent treatment in Croatia for a similar injury. I hurt myself a lot. Thankfully my foot wasn’t worse when I went or I fear it would have been worse after. But it was an experience. Perhaps if I actually had a broken leg or something it would have been good to get it set? I’ll have to find someone who that happened to though and ask.

    • says

      Its always good to find the humor in any situation. I found it amusing in many regards. Yeah, you know though its not the first time I hurt myself overseas, and probably not the last either. I’m just thankful it wasn’t anything serious.

  2. says

    hahaha your foot was like murdered twice, oh, it’s going to be three times! sorry! :D
    But I do hope it gets well. Go see a real doctor instead if you don’t wanna go. :)

    • says

      You know, there is some curiosity in the story though! Its hard to judge something in a country you don’t know until you do it though as well.

    • says

      So…Thursday. Fool me twice? Yeah….so they said I would only need to go get a bandage. It was a bit more than that, and I was basically like, I can’t believe I did it again. I mean the 2nd time was not as bad as the first by any stretch! But it really wasn’t what I needed. I dont know when I would have needed that treatment though. It seemed like it was the same treatment for nearly all injuries.

    • says

      Well I don’t think it was broken before i went. I’m thankful i dont think he broke it. or at least i hope he didn’t. I did go back, they told me it was just to get the bandage changed. Fooled again…ugh

    • says

      Thanks! It is definitely a story to remember. Those are always the ones you do. I wanted to put in the humorous parts too. I couldn’t help but laugh at different parts when it was happening.

  3. Lesa Victoria says

    Thanks for giving me the link to your blog from twitter. Not only are you an artist in photography but a genius at story telling LOVE reading about your experiences. I feel like I’m there with you. That is a gift that many don’t have.
    Bless you and your family
    Lesa

    • says

      Lesa! Thank you for stopping by and thanks for the comments :) I appreciate the lovely compliments on my photos and stories. Hope to hear from you again sometime too!

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