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Mumbai naturopath nurses green oasis amidst concrete jungle

Mumbai naturopath nurses green oasis amidst concrete jungle

Author: IANS
Publication: The Hindu
Date: August 2, 2009
URL: http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/099200908021551.htm

For the past half a century, naturopath Raj Merchant has pursued two goals in life - nurturing Mumbai's only nursery of herbal plants and chasing away the avaricious land mafia eager to grab his 1.5 acre property in a prime suburban neighbourhood.

While the land mafia is more or less kept at bay now, Mr. Merchant's 50-year labour of love has seen the nursery bloom with over 500 common and exotic plants, bushes, herbs, creepers, flowers and fruits, each with unique medicinal properties.

Tucked away amidst three multi-storied buildings, a stone's throw away from Malad station in north-west Mumbai, the 'Mr. Merchantwadi' is next to an army depot.

"The military presence around makes me feel very secure. Plus, to keep intruders away, I have five dogs on the property," Mr. Merchant, 65, told IANS in an interview.

Not without reason - the 65,000 sq feet (or 1.5 acre) property is worth a whopping Rs.1.3 billion (Rs.130 crores) at current recessionary rates in Mumbai.

At first sight, Mr. Merchantwadi appears a rather unkempt, thick, overgrown green jungle, a rarity in itself for Mumbaikars. At one corner is a large cottage in which the entire Mr. Merchant joint family lives, a small shed makes up his clinic.

The property is separated from the neighbours by tin sheets that create a noisy racket when heavy rains lash. "I call it sweet music," Mr. Merchant smiled.

Walking in the nursery, he pointed to an ordinary creeper of money-plant. "This is one of the best remedies to stop blood from oozing out of any wound. Crush some leaves and blood will stop flowing out," he said.

Last month, a banker SOSed Mr. Merchant saying his 12-year-old son had a deep gash on his wrist after he broke a glass bottle, it was bleeding profusely and boy was feeling giddy.

Calmly, the naturopath asked him if he had a money plant at home, to which the banker replied in the affirmative. "Just take a few leaves, crush them and apply them on the wound, call me later," Mr. Merchant advised.

An hour later, the relieved banker called to say that bleeding had stopped completely. Mr. Merchant asked him to continue applying the money plant leave for 2-3 days more.

A fortnight later, the cut had healed, the deep wound had disappeared, what was visible was only a hairline streak in its place which will also completely heal in a few weeks, Mr. Merchant said.

Working 24x7, Mr. Merchant's clinics at around half a dozen places in Mumbai and Thane attract droves of patients who are weary of all other types of treatment.

Among the visitors were the late Ustad Bismillah Khan, the legendary shehnai exponent who was conferred Bharat Ratna. Khan reportedly found great relief from arthritis after Mr. Merchant's herbal treatment.

The late music director Naushad (Ali), several Bollywood actors including Asha Parekh and Manoj Bajpai, corporate bigwigs and commoners approach Mr. Merchant as "the last resort, after everything else has failed".

Former Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi, who had heard a lot about Mr. Merchant, had invited him as a special guest in parliament in 2003.

Mr. Merchant specializes in curing hypertension, diabetes, skin ailments, asthma, tuberculosis, spondylitis, arthritis and many others.

He claims he can cure different types of cancer, for which he offers free treatment. He has also also treated over 3,000 patients for thyroid and migraine.

"I believe that just as nature creates diseases, it also provides a cure. We must understand and apply this cure in a natural manner," he explained.

A majority of his patients come as cynics, after having failed to get a cure anywhere. But Mr. Merchant treats them as a 'challenge' at very nominal costs. Many return after a few days or weeks of treatment with relieved smiles and some even fall at his feet.

Now, the gen-next is waiting in the wings, to take the baton from Mr. Merchant.

"My daughter Kavita has been helping me since the past few years and has picked up very well. She has also qualified in naturopathy. We are also jointly writing a book on nature, leaf, herbal cures for the future generations," Mr. Merchant noted.

He is saddened by the rampant developmental projects which are coming on "the blood of greenery" and which is responsible for a variety of problems plaguing the city, the country and the planet. "Let us hope that a few decades from now, there is enough greenery on our planet to sustain human life," he said sadly.

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