My father learned a bit from a vaid, a bit from a doctor and many bits with experience. One of the questions he would ask every patient, as he held their wrists feeling for a pulse, was ‘bahar theek aunda’?
In rustic Punjabi bahar jana means ‘passing motion.’ In my childhood we went outside to defecate and so did the generations before us, so bahar jana, literally going outside, was how the act itself was addressed as.
To him and many ‘doctors’ of his generation, among other things, the quality, quantity, frequency, effort involved, etc. of what human body excreted helped determine what might be wrong with the body. So, they asked ‘bahar theek aunda’, ‘are motions ok’?
‘Doctor sahab’ has retired now after nearly half a century of practice. But many of his old timers still come to ask for ‘taapharan,’ a concoction he prepared which cleansed the body unlike any other laxative one can find on market today. Taap-haran, Fever cleanser. In their words, half a glass of it made them feel as light as a feather (after a few rounds to you know where).
Mother cow eats in her trough in a farmer’s care. The brahmin picks the gift and gives a fresh coat to his courtyard. Mother cow scavenges in the garbage of the city dwellers. The brahmin makes a nose at her and what she excretes on the roads.
A veterinary doctor checks the condition of mother cow’s excreta to diagnose what ails her.
Till 2014, we had many an expert critic, many an expert doctor, who smelt the stink that Mother India lived through. Every moment of their existence they diagnosed what was wrong with her and they prescribed and shouted the solutions every which way.
Since 2014 many well-meaning noses have lost the ability.
Mother India still awaits taapharan.