Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Dr Deepa Jayaram - she provides the healing touch of ayurveda




There is a picture of her posing with the Rajnikanths in the visitors’ room of her clinic. There are other VVIPs she has treated, including a government head whom she does not want named. But she says she is hardly excited by all that. What motivates and inspires her is catering to the common person who cannot afford expensive ayurvedic treatment. And that is perhaps reflected in the picture that hangs just above where she usually sits in her clinic – of Sushruta (1000 BC), the father of surgery, performing plastic surgery of the ear of a commoner.

It was at a meeting of the Zonta Club that I first met Dr Deepa Jayaram, the chief physician who runs the Pranavam Ayurveda Chikitsalayam. There, she was talking to an all-women audience about the benefits of ayurveda. It was her way of spreading the message of relying on the Indian system of medicine for treatment of simple and complex diseases. She evinced interest in talking to more such groups of people and, impressed by her enthusiasm, I have offered to spread the good word.

It was the entrepreneur in her that prompted Dr Deepa to establish, with the help of a bank loan, the unit in Sait Colony, Egmore, which offers consultation, treatment and has a pharmacy. Pranavam, Dr Deepa says, offers traditional ayurvedic treatment for all chronic diseases, including skin diseases. She has found success in the treatment of bone and joint, and auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis, as well as degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis.

“I have seen patients wheeled in, walk out after treatment. I feel good when seemingly incurable diseases are cured. We also offer rejuvenation therapy using detoxification methods. For example, there is Abhyanga, a general massage for pain relief. Nasyam gets rid of problems related to the throat and diseases above the neck; it’s useful in treating paralysis. Sirodhara is a good therapy for sleeplessness, anxiety or stress. We specialise in Kerala panchakarma therapy. There are oils that give you instant relief after application,” she explains.

Dr Deepa then welcomes a mother and her daughter, the latter holding her newborn. They had come to show her the baby. It was her treatment that helped the young woman conceive. It is a happy day for Dr Deepa. Earlier in the morning, she had received information that a few children with cerebral palsy she was treating were doing well.

Born and brought up in Thiruvananthapuram, Deepa studied at the Cotton Hill Girls High School and completed her pre-university at the Government Women’s College. Her father, Nirmalanandan, was a professor of Sanskrit and the Vedanta. Her mother, Uma, was the principal of Victoria College in Palakkad. Deepa began studying Sanskrit at the age of 10. Quite a few of her family members were drawn towards ayurveda. Her great grandfather, for instance, was a vaidyar or ayurvedic doctor. Her uncle and aunt were superintendents and heads of departments at the Ayurvedic College in Thiruvananthapuram.

An average student, Deepa wrote short stories, participated in literary activity and won prizes for her essays in Malayalam. After pre-university, she joined the Ayurveda College in Thiruvananthapuram to obtain her Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery degree, which she did in 1997, after five-and-a-half years of hard work, including a year of internship. Immediately thereafter, Dr Deepa joined the Arya Vaidya Pharmacy in Coimbatore as resident medical officer. Her first posting was to Tiruvalla, at the Sudarshanam Netra Chikitsalayam.

Marriage in 1999 to R. Jayaram, who now heads P.L. Shipping & Logistics, brought her to Chennai. “We were in Tiruvanmiyur. I found the climate too hot; it was tough. But I learnt Tamil and continued working for Arya Vaidya Pharmacy, at its Royapettah branch. I soon found people accepting me wholeheartedly,” she says.

From branch physician offering consultant services, Dr Deepa became the branch head, overseeing treatment as well as administration at the treatment centre. She was spokesperson for the centre, was on the panel that interviewed doctors for Ayush (a Unilever brand) therapy centres, and a consultant for Kalakshetra Foundation.

Dr Deepa is all for increasing awareness about the benefits of ayurveda. “People don’t recognise it as a science,” she says. Over the past few months, she has been conducting free medical camps and talking to small gatherings. Earlier, she had tutored nursing course students on anatomy and physiology at the Indian Red Cross Society in Thiruvananthapuram and held first-aid classes for St. John’s Ambulance there.

In Chennai, Dr Deepa has started a six-month therapy training course for boys and girls – Pranavam will offer a Diploma in Ayurvedic Therapy. Approved by the central government, the certificate will be issued by the Bharat Sevak Samaj.

The products at the Pranavam pharmacy are sourced from Kottakal Arya Vaidya Sala, Ashtavaidyan Thaikkattu Mooss Vaidyaratnam Oushadhasala (Thrissur) and Arya Vaidya Pharmacy (Coimbatore). They range from herbal hair wash to herbal tea to Sugandhachurnam (a body scrub), apart from the many formulations for therapy.

Pictures show Dr Deepa administering the Nasyam therapy; a patient undergoing steaming for body pain; and a view of the pharmacy.

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