Doctor Quack

By Sonya Rehman

It really amazes me how superstitious people can get about certain things. So much so that superstition itself has nestled itself so neatly and smugly into the fabric of our everyday lives. Superstitions such as walking under ladders, black cats crossing your path etc all breed bad luck. Okay, so I didn’t get run over after I encountered a black feline on the street and no I wasn’t squashed like a house fly under a ladder. So what gives? I think all of this is hogwash. Nonsense. Garbage. Mumbo jumbo. Gobbledygook. Okay enough of the synonyms.

An Aunt of mine known to my mother since elementary school came to visit us a few weeks ago from the City of the Sea (Karachi of course). I’ve always loved this Aunt of mine. She’s hilariously funny (a real riot), eccentric and an incredibly strong woman. Anyway to cut a long story short, she told us about this ‘holy man’ and how pious, virtuous and honourable a person he was. She also said that he had this amazing power to heal and help people in need. Since she sounded so convincing I immediately became excited and the following day we decided to make a trip down to the ‘holy man’. After picking up two more of my Aunt’s friends on the way we chug-chugged it down to his office situated somewhere near Choeifat. The women were certain about the fact that some malevolent cousin of theirs or perhaps a devious mother-in-law had done black magic on them, which is why some suffered from migraines on Tuesdays, backaches on Thursdays and diarrhoea on Mondays. ‘Maybe a little exercise and Atkins would do the trick?’ I offered quietly. Everyone looked at me stunned, including my mother (Et tu Mama?) Anyway so there we were on dirt roads with open ditches bumpity bumping (Yay! Who needs JoyLand when we have roads like these?) and speeding our way to the holy man. My Aunt kept screeching that we were getting late and that he’d end up leaving. ‘This is black magic I tell you! The broken road and, the traffic…these are all signs! The powers of evil work against us!’ squealed one of the women in the car. ‘Welcome to the third world’ I muttered and closed my eyes.

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After an excruciating half hour we finally reached destination holy man. His ‘office’ was on the top floor of a building mid-way in construction. My heart pitter patted as we made our way upstairs. My heart sank when my Aunt stopped outside a bright silver door and knocked.

‘Bizarre’ I thought and we all walked in after being greeted by one of the holy man’s helpers. The inside of his office resembled the inside of a spaceship and there in the corner sat a young, fat and dark mullah with the most beady eyes I had ever seen. He was sitting behind a desk with a computer on it, some websites were open which I couldn’t really make out from where I was sitting but I definitely got a glimpse of his MSN list. ‘Ah, wonderful’ I thought, ‘a holy man in a space-ship-like-office with a hotmail account.’  I think he noticed me sizing him up and anyone could’ve told from my expression that I thought this was all a load of b.s. He then turned his attention on my Aunt and asked her how she was, addressing her as ‘sister’ whilst I dug my nails into the couch. My Aunt talked about awful headaches and other ailments while he nodded sympathetically and cooed ‘Oh so sad…tsk tsk…this is definitely the work of black magic’ which made me want to scrape his tongue with sand paper and box his ears all the more. My Aunt’s other friend then told the fat-tub-of-pseudo-holy-lard that her husband wasn’t giving her any attention and that she was sure that her mother-in-law had a hand in this. He nodded furiously and said ‘sister not to worry bring me one of his garments, a pair of socks or a shirt perhaps and I’ll sort your problem out. Within one week your husband will be cured’.  ‘Yeah better still a nice sweaty underwear!’ I quipped into my mother’s ear. I really couldn’t believe this guy. Here he was preaching religion and piousness (with his MSN and Orkut getting it off with some Brazilian bimbo), making my Aunt (along with probably countless more women) pay through her nose for his little potions and tonics and promises of doing a bit of abracadabra here and a bit of abracadabra there, and voila the problem would be extinguished? Who was he kidding?

I think many of us take the line of least resistance. We’d rather blame our strife, our troubles and our unhappiness on a bunch of senseless superstitions because it’s just plain easy.
It’s just plain old easy to get ripped off from quack doctors and assume the backseat in our lives.

Sunday, Daily Times

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