For several years, Reena Fernandes, a resident of Siddharth Nagar slum in Bandra (East), had been suffering from arthritis and lower back pain.
Though doctors advised her to undergo an operation, Fernandes decided to opt for another form of treatment – acupuncture.
“I didn’t want to get an operation as it was too expensive,” said Fernandes. “One day, my son told me about a foreigner who was running a clinic in the area and was healing people using needles. Thought I was a little skeptical, I decided to go for the treatment. I have been going there for a year now, and I feel much better.”
Like Fernandes, many other residents of Siddharth Nagar have benefited from the Chinese form treatment offered by Belgian national, Walter Fisher, 40.
Fisher opened his clinic, Barefoot Acupuncturists, in January 2008, in a small 8x10 room in one of the bylanes at Siddharth Nagar.
Nearly three years on, Fisher has moved to a bigger place in the same area and treats around 20-25 people every day using the ancient Chinese technique of healing.
With the nominal charge of Rs 20 from those who can afford it, Fisher continues to treat many completely free of cost.
According to Fisher, he came across the form of treatment while scourging for alternate medicines for his ailing
sister. “After studying in Belgium, I worked for a corporate firm for four years. My friends and I started a restaurant chain with friends, which I looked after for six years,” said Fisher.
“Even though work was successful, after a certain point I realised I was looking to do something more. I wanted
to do something for the society.”
With a keen interest in the ancient Chinese healing method, Fisher studied acupuncture for two years in Switzerland followed by a two-year internship in China.
“I came to Mumbai through a common contact who funded an NGO in Mumbai. And since then this has been my life’s work,” said Fisher, adding that he goes to Belgium once a year.
Understandably, locals have taken to Fisher pretty well, even though they are a little confused of his nationality.
Sixty-five-year-old Ibrahim Abdul Gani said that the ‘British’ man gave him a new lease of life.
“I am a retired person and couldn’t afford to spend Rs 3 lakh for getting my kneecaps replaced. I went to Fisher and his treatment has been very effective,” said Gani, adding, “he is doing something very good for the people here.”
As to how he keeps clinic running, Fisher said: “To ease the suffering of those that come to me is my payment. Every now and then my patients surprise me with homemade sweets and others things. Those are my perks.”
However, he does not rule out the possibility of suspending the clinic if the donations stop. “If tomorrow there is no money, I don’t mind moving into a slum in the area. I will take up acupuncture professionally and with the money I make I will restart the clinic. The show will go on,” he said.