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Bone Setters and Panchanga Rains



That we live in a non-modern society should be the most obvious thing to all of us.  From pulverizing lemons under the tires of a new two-wheeler (or, indeed, a many-more-wheeler), to dowsing for a water source with a pendant, conducting homas for business success or consulting the stars to determine the course of our lives, such approaches are indeed the only ones we adopt.  Perhaps our life experiences reinforce this approach.


Water sources, for example, are most often located with the help of dowsers without resorting to the use of hydrological data of any sort.  The few amongst us who do resort to the hydrologist often report either the lack of accurate data for their area, or a failed exploration. Similarly, lemon-decimation appears to be the preferred way to ensure safety (by warding off the 'evil eye') on our roads. Neither adherence to rule nor discipline is then as important in ensuring safety as is the citrus-demolition conducted on 'day one' of the vehicle's ownership. (Might this be one reason why we drive the way we do?)


We've often been buffeted, ourselves, by similar doubts about the efficacy of modern ways and the 're-rendered' form in which they are available to us.  On our piece of land, the panchanga has turned out a far better predictor of when we'll have the next rainfall than anything we have been able to get from the Indian Meteorological Department. Indeed in April this year, our Vontikoppal panchanga predicted our rains in the second half of the month far better than anything we could get from the newspapers or the world wide web.  This was the case throughout the season last year as well, much to my chagrin. I am not sure what system is used to make these stellar predictions, but the next year - I'll be looking them up - just to make sure.


A couple of years ago we had a fracture in our immediate rural neighborhood.  A 13-year old had decided that the best way to learn to ride a motorcycle was to take it for a ride himself and had ended up in a tree.  I felt certain he had been, at least partly, emboldened to undertake his adventure by the fact that the motorcycle had been sanctified by fresh citrus extract.  We paraded him past several doctors (with MBBS and similar letters against their names) and tiny, dingy 'hospitals', allegedly of the modern kind, in the nearest taluk headquarters and ended up with a sheaf of drug prescriptions, close encounters with syringe (oosi) wielding nurses of dubious intention and an estimate for x-rays and other scans totaling up to a few thousands of rupees.  Needless to say there was no public health centre that was accessible to us. All this trysting with the allegedly 'modern' did not foster any confidence with the boy's grandparents and, in fact, shook my own.  We then retired to a small tailor's shop, in a by-lane by the main market, where between the firm hold of a couple of volunteers and the application of a green, herbal paste, his bone was 'set' with a few deft maneuvers. He was then custom-stitched a sling and we were sent off with a net expenditure of a little over a hundred rupees.  In a couple of months, the 13-year-old was seen running family errands on his cousin's  motorcycle with a perfectly healed  arm and protected from misfortune and  the 'law' by perhaps a further application of lemony liquid.


It almost seems like 'modern' solutions to society's needs are distorted, subverted or other wise re-rendered to the point of being ineffective, in our parts.  From education to healthcare to meteorological data and its dissemination, every such service is rendered so profoundly ineffective in meeting people's needs that the community or individually constructed solution is the only one that remains of any relevance, or even available - whether the bone setter or indeed the panchanga.