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My desperate experiments with Ayurveda
If some are born with a silver spoon, it seems I was born with handkerchiefs in both my hands! Since birth, I had been a compulsive and a boisterous sneezer.

Seemingly without any irritant, if I started sneezing there was no knowing, when it would stop. To my dismay and to the amusement of others, I sneezed endlessly during chilly winters, torrid summers and misty monsoons. Night and day, there was no respite. I felt distraught for distracting others. Worse still, by the end of the day I would have used at least three to four handkerchiefs! The insides of my nostrils turned sore from sneezing, and my handkerchiefs were stained with blood. I was driven to desperation.

My very concerned elders administered home remedies, as also allopathic and homeopathy medicines, but they were of no avail in the long term.

At my hostels at the University and BITS Pilani, whenever I started sneezing at night, all the boys in my wing would shout in chorus of 'One, two, three ….' and so on. They didn't know when I would stop and neither did I!

In the libraries I found no literature on the subject, till I chanced upon an article in the latest issue of Scientific American. The researcher explained that each one of us has a unique sneezing pattern. Unless the last sneeze of the pattern comes, each one of us has that uneasy unsettled feeling, till it actually happens! Eureka! Taking cues from the article I discovered, that I sneezed in sixes. If it overshot to a seventh sneeze – then it would continue till the 12th and in further multiples of six! This sounds comical, but it was my harrowing reality.

During my wedding at Meerut, a telegram arrived at the bride's address. The contents mystified all and sundry. My colleagues at Bombay had jointly sent a telegram reading, 'Multiplication allowed, but not in sixes!'

The real embarrassment came for me, when I started working. Imagine interrupting my conversation in the middle of a sentence, as my seniors and other colleagues waited good-humouredly for the ordeal to get over. While they were sympathetic, I felt guilty and sheepish.

Finally, I decided to take things into my hands. It was during this search for some literature on the subject, that in the 90s I came across a book, 'Perfect Health' by Dr Deepak Chopra. I was familiar with his other books on the Mind-Body continuum. At home, we did have books on Ayurveda. But they were written in an archaic style, not suited for the present day lay reader. Dr Chopra, an experienced allopath, explained Ayurveda in a language and style which I could relate to. He covered various aspects of the science lucidly and extensively.

The book explained that all of nature and its creatures (including humans) are a mix in different proportions of the three attributes or Doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. (See inset). Studying the profiles of each dosha, I realised the dos and don'ts that we have to follow in our lifestyle and in the food and beverages we partake of.

To cut matters short, I realised I belong to that mix of doshas where the biochemistry within the body take place at a slower rate. Put in medical terms, my types have a slow basal metabolic rate. The positive spin on this is that we generally age slowly, as compared to other types.

The flip side of me is that I am lazy and my system is also lazy in expelling the waste and other toxins that the body should otherwise expel as promptly as possible. If waste matter and toxins linger on long in the body, obviously it is an ideal breeding ground for infections and other disorders.

In my particular case, the waste matter we are particularly talking about is 'mucus'. 'Mucus is a thick substance that lines the nose's inner cavities, which are called sinuses. The job of mucus is to help clean the nasal passages by trapping foreign particles. It also helps provide moisture for the sensitive lining of the nose. Nasal congestion occurs when the mucus thickens and blocks the flow of air through the respiratory system'.

So, I have to minimise the intake of food that produces mucus. This unfortunately means practically all the food that I gorge on, viz. Starchy foods like wheat, rice, potatoes, and dairy products, citrus fruits, chilled stuff, to name a few! Such mucus producers are preferably to be taken before 2.00 pm. This gives the body enough of time to digest and drain out the mucus overnight. If this does not happen, then we wake up with stuffed sinuses and blocked noses! Now I realise, why our grandmothers did not encourage serving of rice, curds or cold drinks in the evenings. There is also some virtue in the common admonishment of having our last heavy meals before sunset!

Along with the above, I have to partake of substances that make the mucus less viscous. This helps in propelling mucus faster through the body. In the process I stopped taking milk and sugar with my tea. Now its green tea, boiled with black pepper and ginger. Apart from black pepper and ginger, other very common mucus thinners are onion and honey.

In my specific case, my ordeal ended in the 90s after decades of suffering, by making some simple adjustments as mentioned above. No regimen is complete without a reasonable amount of physical activity daily, regardless of age. Say, a brisk 45 minute walk early in the morning!

Now the ordeal of sneezing in sixes is a long forgotten bad dream. I wouldn't be human, if occasionally I didn't transgress. Once in a while, I do pop open a bottle of chilled beer along with good music, and there I go off with my sixers!!! But they are fairly restrained by now!

Post Script: The above narrative is an unvarnished account of a layman's journey. Doctors and Vaidyas no doubt will find many a slip, thanks to my limited exposure. Nevertheless, I do believe that there is plenty of scope for research on Alternative Medicines of India, China and the rest of the world. During my stay at Dalai Lama's camp in Dharamshala, I was impressed by the manner in which a Tibetan monk-healer diagnosed patients. Marrying modern medicine with well researched clinical findings on Ayurvedic precepts could make treatment less invasive and possibly less costly too!

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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