26 May 2014 22:00
Bloodletting practitioner Mohammad Gyas watched as his son sliced open the tourniquet-bound hands and feet of the sick with single-use razor blades in the garden of Old Delhi's Jama Masjid.
The ‘bad blood’ spilled into gutters that ran along the side of the platform, washed from the patient’s limbs with jugs of water. This ancient medical practice is said to cure everything from heart pain and arthritis, to cancer and diabetes.
"The darker the blood, the longer you have to bleed," Gyas said. A typical treatment regime runs for six weeks.
Gyas’ son was working with half a dozen assistants. They wrapped the tourniquets and washed water over the blade wounds to flush out blood. They then treated the cuts with a mixture of spices and doctor was on hand to give tetanus injections.
Gyas learned the trade from his grandfather and passed on his skills to his son. He has been practicing and overseeing treatments at the same place every day since 1980. During that time he has saved every single razor blade he used, which he proudly displays in 20 plastic drums.
“This many years, this many people, this many blades,” he said, pointing proudly to the plastic drums. “How could you doubt my treatment working?”
Gyas suffers from Parkinson’s disease, which has prevented him from doing any of the work himself since 2008. Interestingly, neither he nor his son sported any nicks or cuts on their own limbs. However, that does not deter the duo's patients who travel from far-flung parts of India and even other countries, including Japan and the United States. Many of them swear by the treatment, which includes following a strict no-booze, no-smoking, legume-rich diet.
One of Gyas' longtime arthritis patients demonstrated his belief in the treatment by leaping spiritedly on and off a brick platform in the garden.
“Look at me now!” he exclaimed in broken English, grinning and bouncing gratefully. “I can move everything, there’s no pain.”