Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

One Last Creak

The vestibule of a middle-aged building at Princess Street creaks with the sounds of broken bones. It also sings with the prattle of restless patients. Who knew a Parsi bone-setter saw so much action. Even in this day of multi-syllabic specialisations and sleek machines, large numbers (old and young, modern and classic) with sprains, dislocations and hairline fractures have great faith in the antiquated techniques of a Parsi Bonesetter or hadvaid. One of the patron saints of bone-setting in Mumbai, Ardesher Bhimjee, mended bones in this foyer as early as 1879—a fact his great-granddaughter (who keeps her privacy by refusing her name) announces with vigour. “Only five or six of us survive in this city today. Few Parsis want to continue in the family practice,” she says, “Muslims have got into the line, but Parsis are more skilled.”

Her nephew, who pleases his mentor aunt by secreting his identity as well, says, “But our community itself is diminishing, so logically the bone-setting group will correspondingly contract.” The manual practice of sending bones back to sockets and righting errant nerves is delivered down the family, through apprenticeship. They would rather be buried with their techniques than make them public. Even the tarry salve they called lep (an admixture of herbs) is a secret agent. Despite this monopoly and despite being based in a city that guarantees accidents, bone-setting is simply not exciting enough for the young blood.

Original article here.