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 no 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 treatment. 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 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.