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Happy to be blind

Ayurvedic doctor Sameer Mansuri believes his impairment helps him in his diagnosis, writes Maria Abraham.

india Updated: Oct 22, 2006 15:52 IST

Dr Sameer Mansuri says he’s perfectly happy to be blind. And he has no desire whatsoever to be able to see. Sceptical? Listen to his explanation and he could almost make you believe he’s lucky to be blind. The 31-year-old Mansuri, who is an Ayurvedic doctor who diagnoses ailments by feeling a patient’s pulse, argues, “Your concentration decreases by 50 per cent when you can see because you get distracted by everything around you.” So, he adds, with an infectious laugh, “Believe me when I say I’m happy to be blind. It actually helps me in my work.”

The Ahmedabad-based Mansuri, who has a doctorate in Ayurveda, comes in every fortnight to Mumbai, where his patients range from reigning Bollywood superstars and film directors to middle-class professionals and families. He prepares his medications in Ahmedabad and sources herbs and other ingredients from Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, the Himalayas and Yemen. Yes, admits this graduate of English Literature, Ayurveda has taken a knocking for sub-standard medicines.

“Pure Ayurvedic ingredients such as kasturi, pearl and gold are expensive and many Ayurvedic doctors use cheap substitutes. Some also use allopathic medicines and steroids,” says Mansuri, waiting for his next patient in the Holiday Inn hotel at Juhu.

His easy laughter and perennially cheerful disposition belie both his visual impairment and the journey to his current position. It is the tale of a youngster who constantly stumbled over obstacles but refused to fall down.

The story began a few months after his birth, on new year’s day in 1975, when his mother tried to kill him in a bathtub filled with hot water. The family was ashamed of the blind infant, who was saved by an uncle who caught his mother in the nick of time. “My uncle tells me my mother planned to drown me in the tub and claim I fell in accidentally because I couldn’t see,” he narrates.

At the age of five, his parents packed him off to a boarding school for the blind where he excelled in his studies. After completing his BA with a first class, Mansuri left Ahmedabad as he faced repeated humiliation there and settled in Hyderabad. With no professional skills, he discovered he could make a living as a masseur and turned out to be surprisingly good at it too.

Then an encounter with Guru Shamshuddin, an 89-year-old Ayurvedic doctor, changed his life. Though he was initially reluctant, the youngster learnt about pulse diagnosis, the cause and cure of diseases and preparation of herbal medicines. After obtaining a practitioner’s license in Hyderabad in 1999, Mansuri was directed by Shamshuddin to return to Ahmedabad and set up a clinic there.

Word of his cures spread soon and today, the doctor runs a brisk practice. Hetal Gandhi, 35, who lost vision in both her eyes three years ago due to a retinal disease, regained partial eyesight six months after she began Dr. Mansuri’s treatment in February. ‘’I can read the headlines in a newspaper now and can walk about in the house on my own,” said Gandhi, speaking from Ahmedabad.  Film producer and director Subhash Ghai is another admirer. “Dr Sameer Mansuri’s treatment has been very beneficial for my physical and mental energy levels. His pulse diagnosis is very good and he’s treated my family and friends as well,” says Ghai.

Although he is perfectly comfortable with his handicap, Mansuri does not easily forgive what he perceives as slights against the visually impaired. Business magnate Vijay Mallya should know. “I’m sorry you had an unpleasant experience with one of my flights.... since we have fallen short of your expectations, please accept my apologies,” Mallya wrote to Mansuri last month after he received a complaint from the doctor about some remarks made by the ground crew of Kingfisher Airlines in Mumbai. “I took action because if someone like me can be humiliated, what about other blind people?” Mansuri asks angrily.     

The doctor, who lives in Ahmedabad’s Paldi area with his wife – who’s blind too – and their four-year-old son, says he does not treat more than 60 patients a month because he wants to devote more time to the trust he’s set up to take care of the needs of the visually impaired. His way of giving back something to society in gratitude.