The Homoeopathic Medicine Shop

The homoeopathic medicine shop is situated off the main road, in a narrow street behind the railway station. It is a little shop on the ground floor of a two-storey house, and is flanked on the right by a tailor’s shop and on the left by an old banyan tree. Opposite the medicine shop stands a big block of grim looking flats with the determined name of Working Women’s Cooperative Quarters. One almost expects to look up and see a furiously working woman at each of the forty dirty windows that can be seen from the road, but this is not the case.

The noise from the road and the railway station does not reach the medicine shop. Instead, the primary sound is that of great, grey, masses of crows that return to their nest in the banyan tree at sundown.

The shop itself is small and narrow, and divided into a front reception area and a back vestibule, where the medicines are measured and shaken and packaged. The ceiling is high. Three walls of the shop are lined with floor to ceiling shelves fronted in brown glass. The glass doors on the upper shelves are coated with dust, but still, through the glass can be seen vials and bottles and packets and assorted packages of globules, tinctures, pills, and powders. A tall wooden ladder, smooth and oily with use, stands leaning against one wall.

Inside the shop it is dark, it smells of alcohol and sugar and exotic poisons; it is manned by an old gentleman and another nearly old gentleman. It has a touch of an apothecary on Diagon Alley. The names of the medicines as you read them are exotic, like little wisps of magic smoke coming out of your mouth: Bryonia, Rhus Tox, Cimicifuga, Allium cepa, Belladona, Nux Vomica, Phytolacca, Thuja, Kaliphos. They are measured out in ounces and promise to cure strange diseases. Some can dissolve warts. Some help little children improve their memory. Some are said to cure early-stage cancer. Some change the position of the baby in the womb. Some cure unhappiness.

The shop is never crowded, but it has a steady stream of visitors throughout the day. The loyalists bring their own list of medicines. The newcomers consult the old man first. The old gentleman asks tens of impossible questions (does the patient like sleeping on the side or the back? does the patient get angry easily or gradually? does the patient have a scientific or an artistic inclination? etc), and depending on each answer, tweaks the medicine to suit the need. Sometimes he abandons the formula midway, and starts afresh.

Homoeopathy is not for the modern scientific mind. Do not listen to the stories of legendary homoepathic success that float around the city: there are many and they are all fantastic. Do not wikipedia homoeopathy. Do not wikipedia Phytolacca and Belladona, especially Phytolacca. It will not help to know that your mother is feeding you twelve drops of a native American Indian poison every morning on empty stomach. Who wants to lose faith with mothers, empty stomachs, native plants, poison, and homoeopathy? Not me.

The name of the old gentleman is Mr. Mukherjee. The name of the nearly old gentleman, improbably, is Jimmy. Every evening you will see them sitting outside their shop, peacefully smoking cigarette after cigarette. Sometimes you will see them snacking on oily samosas, masala dosas, and mutton rolls. As far as one knows, these gents have never fallen ill nor taken any form of medicine, but who knows? Perhaps their robust health is guarded by the powders and pills and potions so toweringly stored in the back vestibule.


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