As former ‘patient without borders’ – having had a taste of being a cancer patient in both India and the Netherlands – I have come to realize that how we experience being unwell and what we consider to be a good treatment is greatly informed by views on sickness and cure prevalent in our community or culture.

bone setter
Poster for bone-setting practice (photo: Soon-ok Heijmans)

So it’s no wonder that a country as vast and varied as India has developed its own culture of medicine and healing over time. A recently published book by Dr. Aarathi Prasad – In the bonesetter’s waiting room: Travels through Indian medicine – explores how these traditions are intertwined with spirituality, the rituals of daily life, and the big health care issues in India.

Poster of the Tabiyat exhibition (photo: Soon-ok Heijmans)

This book complements a lovely¬†exhibition held earlier this year at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja Vastu Sanghralaya Museum in Mumbai that paid tribute to the traditional midwives, bone setters, faith healers and other doctors who have been benefiting the tabiyat (‘well being’) of millions of Indians.

Painting of eye surgeon – probably performing cataract operation – from the early 19th Century (photo: Soon-ok Heijmans)