Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day 6-7

Today I got admitted into the hospital for the Snehana or pretreatment to Panchakarma. What you read till now was the pre-pretreatment which I carried out as an outpatient.
I chose a common room in order to have some company. As luck would have it, the only lady who was here moved into a separate room after spending a day with me. We laughed too loudly, we spoke too much, we displayed too much exuberant behaviour and such complaints rose within the hospital and hence she quietly moved out of the room after briefly crying over my shoulder. I knew it was that Nandakumar who spread these vicious words. His job is to ensure that we do not fall asleep during the day (as it aggravates pitta), make us sit erect in our chairs during and after meals and prompt us to have our baths before 6.30 am etc. He must have been a Puritan in his previous birth, always worried that “someone somewhere might be happy.”
The hospital is a fairly pleasant place, neat and simple, bright and quiet. All this at the first glance. Heh- as you begin your stay here, the harshness of the place unfolds. In my room, three fans hang above three beds uselessly. In this tropical heat, we are not to use fans. Three beds wait vacantly, but I cannot lie or sleep until the sun has set. I have this urge like Goldilocks to try all three beds…in vain.
My laptop beckons but I am not to work until it is dark. No talking, no sleeping, no serious working during the day. Only staying awake and being still. Try it and see if it does not drive you crazy.
There are other interesting patients here- one has hands that turn numb without notice, other has a tummy that cannot accept any kind of food without breaking into bleeding rashes, yet another has a growth in his brain and then there is me with this unglamorous mysterious illness and so on. Yet we cannot speak to each other to offer comfort or exchange notes.
“Conserve your energy. You can heal only by not doing routine things like talking, phoning, browsing, working, eating unfriendly food, sleeping at odd times and bad posture,” my good doctor instructs. Suddenly it makes immense sense to me. I got ill in the first place because of faulty habits. I must give my body a chance to heal. I immediately became a good girl and even read Skanda Shasti Kavacham. But in some two hours time, I tired of being good. Luckily it was bedtime. I was asked to be ready by 6.30 am the following day. I was told that I would be given “Sneha Panam” (literally ‘friendly drink’) first thing in the morning. Ha! A welcome drink at a hospital! What next? Would ill clad girls dance to me and pour wine from tall urns into my waiting glass? Mmmmmmm. I hit the sack with great expectations.

As I eagerly awaited the drink the following mornign, a lady came in bearing a steel tumbler, a longish piece of cloth and two cotton buds dunked in some unguent.
“I have to blindfold you,” she said and my imagination simply exploded. Wheee! Long live Charaka and Sushruta. Long live ancient Indians and the age that facilitated the writing of a treatise like Kama Sutra. So on and so forth I exulted as I permitted myself to be blindfolded. No sooner were my eyes bound than two oily cotton plugs were unexpectedly thrust into my nostrils. A smell that could make a skunk wither pervaded my entire being. As I swooned in shock a glass was pressed to my lips. I perked up immediately, knowing that it was that promised welcome drink and eagerly opened my mouth when of all things ghee flowed into my mouth! Can you believe I was made to drink an entire glass of ghee?!!
“You call this Sneha Panam?” I shouted.
“Sneham means oily. This is towards internal oleation of your body. This will help the toxins to dislodge from various sites in your body and move towards the alimentary tract,” they explained in Shudhh Sanskrit.
Shuddh ghee over Shudhh Sanskrit. I could not decide which was worse.
“Tomorrow we shall give you a larger glass of ghee, okay?” said the lady. I could only weep.


Snehana is the pretreatment to Panchakarma. It literally means oleation. In Snehana medicated ghee (according to your illness) is administered internally over three to maximum seven days in increasing dosages, till your body reaches a saturation point. Sneha Panam or medicated ghee is given first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and no food is offered until the ghee has been entirely digested. Only hot water laced with dried ginger is permitted during the day. When the body reaches a saturation point, the patient begins to purge to empty the excess ghee out of the system. At that point, Snehana is stopped and the next phase of treatment begins. Just as we dip clothes in detergent for easy cleaning of clothes, Snehana is vital for the easy “laundering” of the body failing which the body will suffer like a dry stick under pressure.


  1. ai yam vary kurios - vai the BLINDFOLD????

  2. Ghee? Aiyye!
    I about the patient whose hands turn numb. Happens to me at times. (Hyperventilates):O