Recently my immediate family and I have taken a hit or two in terms of quite serious diseases. The experience has left me dazed but at the same time has given me a wonderful insight into healthcare - both modern and alternative - as it operates in Bangladesh. I can’t possibly be exhaustive in this post but I will kick off with the case of Khassani baba and then later when I am more compos mentis perhaps relate some more examples and attempt an anthropological analysis. Well no maybe I won’t attempt an anthropological analysis…

So, anyway, Khassani baba. He comes from India and has a social network the size of which even Google Inc. would be envious of. He peddles remedies to those with medical complaints and business worries. His devotees often wear a ring he gives them - not unlike the flashy stones handed out by that other more famous “spiritual guru” or charlatan - depending on your point of view - Sai Baba. His “patients” are wealthy and include the most powerful families in Bangladesh. They will swear to god about the effectiveness of his baba-ness but at the same time will make the necessary trips to India or Singapore to avail themselves of more modern approaches to healthcare….how they reconcile their faith in the bearded (mehti stained beard and hair) baba and at the same time engage in health tourism I do not know. Such is the insecurity of our upper-middle and upper classes…

One family member has a degenerative neurological condition. Khassani baba came along and cut in half 18 lemons per day for 11 days on his knees. He charged 11,000 takas per visit and the patient supplied the lemons and the knife. Khassani baba explained that the money would go towards the slaughter of 11 goats in Delhi, India and that hujurs would be praying each day for the patient. Mr Khassani predicted a 90 percent improvement ( yes he does fractions) within a month or so. After the slaughter of so many innocent lemons and the far away goats (allegedly), the sick relative, a physician in his professional life, interestingly saw no improvement whatsoever.