The Good Doctor and the Labourer Who Made Him Cry

Aryan Narayana Mooss was a famous Ayurvedic physician who lived in Kerala more than a century ago. Read the first part of the story here.

One day, Mooss was sitting on an armchair on the veranda of the southern wing of his house. A poor mappilla labourer came in through the gatehouse and approached Mooss. But when he reached the middle of the courtyard, he sat down and couldn’t move.

Image by Adam Hill from Pixabay

“My lord, I can’t stand,” he said piteously and continued to sit there on the courtyard that had been flattened smooth, and swept clean.

“Tell me what ails you,” said Mooss in a kind voice.

The kindness brought tears to the labourer’s eyes.

“My lord,” he said. “When I walk my heart jumps up to my throat and starts beating loudly. Then I’m not able to breathe freely because of the heart stuck in my throat. Then my heart jumps to my head and fries my brain and makes the whole world go round and round. My stomach starts roiling and I throw up a yellow liquid.”

He stopped speaking and his breath came in short gasps. He continued after some time.

“My lord, I live on what I make every day. I haven’t been able to work for some weeks now. My wife and three children have been reduced to begging. If you prescribe some medicine I don’t have the money to buy it. In our village everyone knows about you. So when a few people were coming to this place, I begged them to allow me to sit in a corner of the boat.”

He then joined his palms and continued to sit silently, all by himself in the centre of that well swept courtyard, now and then looking up at the doctor piteously. Mooss had for some time now been looking at a laburnum tree on the grounds. The branches seemed to bend with the weight of the bright yellow flowers. A common parasitical climber had wound itself round the tree trunk. Mooss signalled an assistant.

“Cut down the climber from the laburnum tree and place it on the boat this man came in,” he said.

Then turning to the mappilla labourer he said, “Grind the plant to a fine paste. Then dry it out in the sun. Every morning dissolve a little of the powder in warm water and drink it on an empty stomach. Do that for thirty days, and you will be cured.”

The doctor’s assistant cut the climber from the laburnum tree as instructed and placed it in the boat the labourer had come by and helped him in.     

A couple of months later a chocolate brown, well-built young man walked up to the veranda where Mooss was sitting on his usual armchair. From the fold of his mundu, the man took out a few betel leaves, a ripe areca nut and a tobacco leaf, placed them respectfully on the parapet near Mooss’s chair and stood waiting to be spoken to.

“What brings you here?” asked Mooss in his habitual kind voice. “Are you unwell?”

“No, my lord,” replied the man. “By your grace I am well. When I came here two months ago, you cut down a climber from that laburnum tree and gave it to me as medicine. I did as you had asked me to. My disease was cured within two weeks but I continued the treatment for a month since you had asked me to. I now have regular work and my family is well. I just came to say thank you.”

This time it was the doctor’s eyes that filled with tears. He had treated so many. The high and mighty; the wealthy and the powerful. He smiled.

“Not many come back to tell me that they have been cured,” he said. “You are very kind. I must thank you for your kindness.”

He then took out some money from a box and gave it to the labourer saying, “You have travelled this far just to say thank you. Keep this for your travel expenses.”

Though the labourer refused the money, he took it when Mooss insisted in a friendly way and then went his way.

One summer afternoon a tall thin man walked into Mooss’s house leading two children – a boy and a girl. The boy was nine and the girl seven and both clung to their father. Mooss knew the man well and greeted him cordially.  

“Ah, my dear friend,” said Mooss. “What brings you here?”

“It’s the boy, Mooss,” said the man. “He has had a cough now for a month. I thought it would go away and put off coming to you.”

“Oh! Is it the boy who’s unwell? I thought it was the girl,” said Mooss, looking kindly at both children. He then opened a large wooden box that he kept next to him and fished out two colourful, wooden puppets and gave them to the children. They took the gift shyly and after some time, they lost their fear of the stranger and started playing happily in the courtyard.

 “No there is nothing wrong with the girl,” said the father, smiling indulgently. “I came here by country boat. She loves travelling by the boat and so she too jumped in.”

 “The boy’s cough is not serious,” said Mooss. “Just give him this mixture of powdered nut and cumin seeds. Add a little sugar to make it more palatable for the child. Give it to him five times a day for five days. He will stop coughing.”

Mooss paused and looked again at the little girl playing happily with her brother.

“I just wondered what I could do for the little girl,” he said, preoccupied.

“No, Mooss, you needn’t do anything for the girl,” the father repeated slightly embarrassed at what he thought was Mooss’s eccentricity. “She’s in perfect health.”

“You’re right,” said Mooss with quiet regret. “I don’t think anything can be done. I just wondered …” His voice trailed into silence.

“I must leave immediately in order to reach home before sunset. It is a big trouble to row in the dark,” said the father apologetically.

“Definitely,” agreed Mooss. “Please start immediately, so you can reach home before sundown.”

The man gathered his children and went home.

Early next morning, people from the man’s village came to tell Mooss that the little girl, who had no apparent illness, had died in the night.  

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