A model for holistic rural health

BOOK REVIEW

A model for holistic rural health

Manu Kothari

DOI: https://doi.org/10.20529/IJME.2012.070


Ulhas Jajoo. Towards holistic rural health: Sarvoday way. Sevagram, Wardha: Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences; 2012. 205pp. INR 300.

Gandhiji penned Hind Swaraj on board a ship in 1909, and its continuing and universal relevance has been reaffirmed even today. Dr. Ulhas Jajoo’s book is an encore of Hind Swaraj. The book is charged with core truths, applicable anywhere, for anybody, with no need for any financial largesse. The widespread applicability of Prof. Ulhas Jajoo’s pioneering work requires only the will to act, with results assured in many ways. Dr. Jajoo’s thesis, his vision, is beyond the caprices of space, time, and statistics.

The title term “holistic” conjures up the vision of a human body pepped up by the right food/ exercise/ medicines/ meditation, a self-centred view of health. Dr. Ulhas Jajoo encompasses in his vision just a little of the foregoing and a lot of socio-economic factors ranging from the absence of motorable roads, even make-shift toilets, medicines or medical care; coupled with joblessness and loss of spirit, unwillingness to cooperate, the dangers of small but unexpected earnings against a background of farming and dairy farming. The chapter Eureka! is immediately followed by the realisation of The shattered dreams, a climactic comedown that speaks volumes of the down-to-earth realities that the author and his large team are conscious of.

The Bhagwad Gita on the one hand, and Gandhiji and Vinoba on the other have reiterated, time and again, the irrelevance of material gains in the absence of a backdrop of spirituality, decency, societal consciousness, and the appreciation of one’s duties to society and humanity. Alexis Carrel, the Nobel laureate, who penned the classic Man the Unknown had pointed out, in the 1930’s, that medical science pays too much attention to “so much protein and much vitamin”, forgetting all the while that frequent doses of spirituality and meaningful prayers are even more vital. The Sicilian literary Nobel Prize winner, Quasimodo Salvatore, summed up the modern man, Homo modernus et scientificus as “Heartless, Loveless, and Christless”. Be it the crumbling West, the struggling Far East, or the so-called emergent economies of the BRIC group – Brazil, Russia, India, China – the GNP runs parallel to Gross National Perversion in terms of crime, drug addiction, alcoholism, rapes and murders. On a tiny nuclear scale, Ulhas Jajoo illustrates how economic gains get rapidly matched by social decay. Given the clout of money and the media, and of crass commercialism, this may be the most difficult nut to crack. Gandhiji tried and failed. The Gujarati poet-educationist Karsandas Manek sized up India and its Indianness in a haiku, circa 1948.

Oh! Independence

Thou petal of freedom

We dunces

Chewed you up!

That Dr Jajoo has succeeded in rendering as many as 15 villages healthy, and that too in a sustained holistic fashion, augurs well for his welcome crusade.

Another title term “rural” needs elaboration. The inevitable assumption is that things are alright with the urban areas, a presumption belied by Indian urbania’s fouled up air, gutterised water, filth all around, food scarce and costly, and social unrest and crime that seem to be chronically on the upswing. That the investors and the political powers gleefully collaborated in describing medical services as the “health care industry” automatically gave the profession the right to seek dollars-in-disease and see patients-as-profit. The kickbacks and commissions have seen to it that whereas all other commodities symbolising sophistication: mobiles, laptops, I-pads, computers and TV screens, DVD players, all progressively come down in price, the medical spiral is shamelessly and uncontrollably directed skywards. The modern medical curriculum could be summarised, in the words of a British educationist, as “putting false pearls before real swine”. Medical colleges give degrees but no character. The exceptional qualities of Dr Ulhas Jajoo and his team are a credit to them and to the institution they represent.

I would like to conclude that whatever Dr Jajoo preaches is highly doable, completely worthwhile, and contains the promise of restoring Gram Swaraj to much of India. The book is a must-read for all the “pathies”, their students, teachers, researchers and planners, as also the powers, locally and at the state and central levels. The book merits being part of all the undergraduate and postgraduate curricula, backed by frequent seminars, workshops, and the like. It could travel well beyond the borders of India, in all directions, for the betterment of all the nations and humanity.

The book is admirably produced. The simple colourful cover offers an inspiring depth. The publication is sleek with clear fonts, faultless editing, a highly readable text, and excellent drawings by Gajanan Ambulkar. Many of the photos appear faded, and the small drawings are too crowded to convey the message. The next reprint of the book should take care of these minor flaws. The no-nonsense approach of the book to the so-called “science and modernity” is very telling. Dr. Jajoo has prescribed distilled wisdom, gleaned after ceaseless personal involvement from 1976 onward. He is a modern-day Schweitzer, imbued with Gandhian spirit, Vivekananda’s vision, and Vinoba’s clarity. His march may seem a lone one, a solitary crusade, but is endowed with veracity, applicability, fruitfulness, and above all, is imbued with the well being of mankind, physically, mentally and spiritually.

About the Authors

Manu Kothari ([email protected])

Former Head, Department of Anatomy

GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Parel Mumbai 400012

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