…Today, I was driven to a small village 20 km east of Faridabad. Twenty kilometers does not sound very far to us, but to the locals it is a significant distance. I could tell that I was one of the only foreigners to have visited this hospital in quite a long time. I was welcomed by the doctors and staff with warm greetings and inquisitive interrogation. I met every one of the approximately 15 employees, each of whom showed me where they worked and what they did in varying levels of broken English.

This hospital is the Primary Health Center (PHC) for 21 surrounding villages comprising 57,600 people. There are four doctors, one dental surgeon, and one medical officer.

As a recent development for 2012, all patients now receive care for free at this and other public hospitals (each visit used to cost 1 rupee, the equivalent of 2 cents). Free of charge, the patients receive a consultation with the physician, basic tests (only hemoglobin, blood typing, malaria, tuberculosis, and pregnancy tests are available here), and three days worth of medication. After three days, the patients must return to the hospital and go through the entire process again to receive more medication.

The patients cannot afford and will typically refuse to get important tests thinking that the free medication alone will be all that they need. It is an interesting dilemma to say the least. The doctors are forced to practice what they call “presumptive medicine.” The consultations are short to accommodate large numbers of patients and medicines are prescribed for the slightest hint of ailment knowing well that the patients will not seek the additional care they need.

However, the most interesting and different aspect of my visit was learning about ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medicine native to India, from an ayurvedic physician himself.

Ayurvedic medicine has been around for more than three millennia and is still a significant part of the rural healthcare system here in India. The doctor explained to me how the body is composed of five components: earth, water, heat (or fire), air, and sky. The job of the ayurvedic physician is to regulate the levels of each in the body and ensure that proper balance is maintained.

Non-vegetarian diets, for instance, are said to unsafely increase the amount of heat within the body, therefore disrupting the balance and causing harm to the body. From what I could tell, patients were able to see either the allopathic (western-style) physician, ayurvedic physician, or both.

Religion also plays a significant part of the healing process in India. I will learn more about the religious approach and post about it later.

In school today, I took photos of all of the kids with their names and ages written on a chalkboard so that I can remember all 60 of their names. I also took a picture of one of the girls, Manisha to be exact, saluting as a sign of respect.

Just when I thought the best part of the day was over, my host family and I received wedding invitations from the next door neighbors. Indian weddings are famous across the world and I am so honored and thrilled to be a part of one. Events start tomorrow, but the main events are not for another two weeks. We are going to Jaipur this weekend, where I will be decking myself out in the most handsome kurta pajamas I can find to wear at the wedding.