: Interview with Dr. Avinash Agnihotri who practiced homeopathy for over fifty years.
AS : You are 87 now, and have been involved in homeopathy for over fifty years. Would you reflect on how you got to be a homeopath?
AA : I was born in Punjab India in 1923 and lost my father when I was only 13. I Graduated from Panjab University at Government College Ludhiana in 1944. I got teacher training at Central Training College Lahore in 1946 and started teaching in a small town. In 1948 a friend of mine gave me two homeopathic books, Lectures on Homeopathic Materia Medica by J.T Kent and Leaders in Homeopathic Therapeutics by E.B.Nash. I studied those books casually, but got impressed by the language as well as the content. In the same year I was married also. In 1949 I moved to Delhi and a year later joined a college for post graduation in History (got my M.A in 1952). By then I had started applying homeopathy to myself, relatives and friends. I landed the job of Headmaster in a secondary school, which eventually became a higher secondary school in 1962.
In 1958 I went to a friend’s house where I met a homeopathic doctor, Dr. A.H. Rizvi an M.B.B.S turned homeopath. I had a little chat with him on homeopathy and he was so impressed with my grasp of materia medica, that he said I could go to his clinic for case handling. It was just a dream come true! I started going to his clinic at least three days a week which went on for about three years. One day he introduced me to another M.B.B.S turned homeopath, the renowned Dr. K.N. Mathur, and with his acquaintance my circle enlarged. Due to more work at school my visits to Dr. Rizvi grew fewer and farther between, but we kept a Guru- Pupil relationship.
In 1964 -65 Nehru Homeopathic College was started . The college made an announcement that unlicensed homeopaths might get qualified by studying in the evening and taking their exams. Dr. Mathur was one of the founders and he suggested to me that I get qualified…which I did in 1970. Unfortunately Dr. Rizvi left this world in 1967 or 68.He was such a Saint. In spite of having a royal heritage he was so down to earth. After my registration as homeopathic Dr. in 1970, I started practicing with more confidence and that continued concurrently with my job as a Principal. During all this period I never ignored my official duties and in fact received the prestigious Satate Award in 1970 for being the best principal. I was also elected as a member of the Central Board Of Education.
AS : It’s amazing that you were able to keep two careers going. How did you first start prescribing.
AA: Since my profession of livelihood was teaching, I started giving homeopathic remedies as a hobby. Having read Kent and Nash, I bought another book called Family Practice, by Bhattacharya, a Bengali Dr. It was a small book, but very useful for beginners. It had a little bit of everything – anatomy, physiology, history, Hahnemann’s life, philosophy (Organon) and a systematic therapeutics. Another book that I bought was William Boericke’s Materia Medica. I started by applying homeopathy to myself and members of my family. For any particular problem I used to see the appropriate remedies in Bhattacharya’s book, then I read about them in detail from all three materia medicas. It hardly failed, and if it did, I tried another remedy in the same way.
I started getting success after success. I remember when my kids were infants and they wept a little too much, I gave them Chamomilla 30, and they were quiet in a few minutes. It was really wonderful and everybody in the family was happy with homeopathy.
The first remedy that I gave to an out–patient, was to a small flour mill owner. We used to get wheat ground at his mill. One day in the spring of 1954, I went to his mill and found him sneezing and with running nose, eyes puffed up and watery. Since I was his usual customer I offered to help him. I gave him four doses of Allium cepa 30, and the next day I asked how he was. Oh, my God, I remember his reaction till today. He was so happy and told everybody at his mill that I did a miracle for him. I said I had given him nothing but a little bit of homeopathic onion. He insisted on offering me money, which I declined. I was, within myself happier than he, because it was my first successful “hit” outside. Thus he and his family became my first patients, and he became my promoter also. The number of patients started growing. Bhattachary’s book was very helpful to me at that stage.
AS: Can you talk about a case that helped build your confidence?
AA: I had a friend, a Harvard graduate of international repute. In the early seventies (I was qualified then) he called me one night at about 3 A.M, stating that his youngest son was “going”. At first I didn’t understand, but by his next sentence I understood that his son was precariously ill. I took my box and rushed to his house, which was about five minutes drive . I found the boy vomiting , purging and in a state of collapse. I immediately gave him Veratrum album 6. In about 15 minutes he was under control and out of danger. I told my friend I would take the boy to a child specialist in the morning. I gave another dose of Veratrum and stayed there the rest of the night.
I didn’t want to take any chances, so at about 8 A.M . I phoned a child specialist who told me to bring the child immediately. We took the boy to his clinic. He examined him and said it was encephalitis and we should admit him in the nearby hospital where he treated serious patients. The boy was immediately put on I.V. drip and at 11 A.M the doctor came and treatment began. Three more days passed, but the boy did not improve. He had a fever, and whatever little food was given he vomited immediately.
My friend kept insisting that I should give my medicine, but all the time I was reluctant. I said I would bring in a senior homeopath. It was evening then and I went to another friend homeopath, Dr.Prakash Chand , an F.M. from London. He said it was against professional ethics to intrude into another doctor’s case. I tried to convince him, saying “If the child were my son, would you not agree to see him?”, but he politely refused.
Very much dismayed, I ran back to the hospital with my box and gave the boy a dose of Arsenic 30.To everybody’s surprise he picked up and then ate some khichri (rice gruel)! That night my friend and I stayed at the hospital and the boy slept peacefully. But around six in the morning I noted that he didn’t look normal. His gaze was fixed at the joint of the wall and ceiling. There was definitely affection of the brain due to encephalitis. I gave him a dose of hyoscyamus 6. I repeated the dose at eight A.M. and he started showing signs of improvement. At about 11 A.M when the doctor came, the child was out of the bed on the floor playing with the side table trying to roll it. The doctor looked satisfied that his treatment ultimately worked. He wrote another prescription and handed it to the nurse. We thanked the doctor and he went away. After an hour or so the nurse brought the medicine. The child was sleeping, so we took the medicine from her, saying that we would give it to him when he awoke. But we never gave that medicine . I put the child on Belladonna instead. Next day he was pretty normal and the fever had abated. We took his discharge from the hospital, telling the doctor we would follow up the treatment at his clinic. After a hectic week at the hospital everybody felt relief. I also could not go to my school for three days. At the boy’s home I gave two doses of Zincum 200, followed by a biochemic mixture of Ferrumph 3x, Mag phos 6x, Kali mur 6x and Kali ph 6x. By God’s grace the boy came to normal in 8 to 10 days.
In winter of the same year, the boy had bronchitis . As before I suggested Dr.Prakash, but my friend was adamant, saying he wanted only me to treat the boy. Luckily, with the use of Ant tart, Ars, Bry, Phos, and Sulph., the boy was all right within a week To close up the case I gave a Bio mixture containing Silica .I saw that boy grow healthy into his teens with my homeopathic remedies here and there.
AS : Working two jobs over the years, were you able to practice a very high level of homeopathy? Did you have much contact with other homeopaths?
AA: I had never rated myself more than I was worth. Even now I rate myself on the homeopathic scale somewhere between 45 to 55 and my Guru Dr. Rizvi at 80. What I speak of is not the work of a genius. It is just a narrative statement of a routinist, made a little interesting by circumstances.
Regarding my contacts with other homeopaths , yes I had quite a few of them. At one time they made me stand for election to the Board of Homeopathy, Delhi as a member. But before election I withdrew in favour of a homeopath who owned a homeopathic drug store. I was quite satisfied where I was , as my primary aim was to serve fellow beings with homeopathy and not mint money.
AS: Can you share a couple of your memorable cases?
AA: There are many that left an imprint on my memory. One of such was that of a student of mine. It was January 1973, a student of the final higher secondary class came into my office and told me that he wouldn’t be able to take the Board’s Exam because the opthalmologist at Rajendra Eye Hospital New Delhi had told him that he would lose his eyesight if he continued studying . Rajendra Eye Hospital was (and still is) the most reputed eye hospital in the country, and their opinion was the last word. I was also quite stressed because the boy was a topper. I asked him about his problem. He told me that whenever he tried to read, his eyes became red and started aching and he had a strong pain in the orbits. I asked him a few more generals and then gave him Ruta 200. I told him to take this remedy twice a week for two weeks and not touch his books for that period. Next day his father came to me alleging that I was putting the life of his child at stake, for the sake of my good name. I reassured him that it was not in my interest, but for the child. If he missed that chance at the Exam, he would lose his zeal. Next year he would sit in the same class knowing everything in advance and would lose interest in his studies. He was pacified and went away assuring me of his cooperation.
Again, as I always believe in God more than the remedy, the boy improved and started studying after mid February. Then I gave Onosmodium 30 to be taken once at night on alternate days until the exam was over. The exam was to begin in the first week of March. The boy took the exam without any mishap .When the result was declared in May, to everyone’s delight, the boy stood first in the Board! His parents came to my residence apologetic, brought three or four boxes of sweets, and offered money. The sweets were distributed in school and the money deposited in the students benefit fund. Thanks to Ruta, thanks to God.
The other case I would like to mention is rather amusing, but it sent me on my tenterhook for a moment. My son runs an allopathic drug store in Toronto. I used to go there to help him at the front register while he was in the rear at the Pharmacy section. Over the period of a couple of years customers started started greeting me , discussed their personal problems and came to know I was a homeopath. One day a lady, who I knew was drug addicted and on re-hab, came in limping and wailing. She was obese and had a lot of flesh around her waist. She entered saying “Oh dad I am dying – of this pain. Dad please give me something – I want to die. I don’t want to live!” and she passed by me on the way to the pharmacist.
After getting her medicine she passed by again and I said “Hey Joanne, do you really want to die?” She said, “Yes dad I want to die. It is better than this bloody pain.” I said “Okay” and I gave her Calc Carb 10M, saying “Do take it at night, and in the morning you will find yourself dead.” Next morning she came on foot all the way, and on entering the store she screamed, “Oh, what did you do to me?”. For a moment I thought I was in deep trouble, but her next sentence relieved me. She said “I feel like a girl of sixteen today. Where is my pain? Oh, you are a God on earth. How did you do it?” I said “Hey Joanne, relax calm down and contain yourself. She calmed a bit and asked “What did you give me?” I said “You know I do homeopathy and this was a homeopathic medicine.” She said, “Can you give me more of it?” I said ,”Yes, of course!”.. and gave her a vial of placebo with instructions to take four pills every night. She was surprised when she started losing weight and lost 20 pounds in a month. I did not repeat the dose and kept her on placebo. She lost more than 50 pounds, gave up her drugs (and her boy friend too), and got bank teller’s training. I gave her one more dose of the same and she was entirely a changed person. She asked me for a good homeopathy book and became an ardent follower of homeopathy! She continued as a customer of the pharmacy and every time she dropped in, expressed her appreciation.
AS: That’s a wonderful story. An experienced homeopath can sometimes prescribe like this, but beginners should not try this! I noticed that you made use of Dr. Schussler’s Tissue Remedies. Was that part of your practice?
AA: I learned of Schussler’s remedies from my Guru Dr. Rizvi. He gave a mixture of selected salts as a supplement.in cases of some depth. He said that during disease and cure, the balance of tissue salts is disturbed.and we should make up that deficiency by giving relevant salts. He never used them indiscriminately, but recognised their importance. In prescribing he always used a single similimum. Polypharmacy was not in vogue in his time. I too, have the same experience. I give one remedy and wait for its action depending on the gravity of the case. Tissue salts at the end do have a salutary effect. I’ve tried it on myself
AS :What is the state of homeopathy in India?
India has a very fertile soil. Any seed takes roots and prospers there. Tolerance and co-existence are other characteristics of that country. There, people with hundreds of different faiths live together, communism thrives along with capitalism, people speak different languages yet they interact with each other peacefully. Homeopathy came to India simultaneously as it went to England and the U.S., in the early part of the 19th.century, yet the real spurt came towards the end of the century and a homeopathic college was started in Calcutta,in 1885. Stalwarts like Dr. Mahendra Lal, Sir P.C Sircar and, Ishwar Chander Vidyasagar took homeopathy to the common man. With the dawn of the 20th century it had spread to all the provinces of India. Homeopathic practitioners, some qualified, some not, were a common sight in every prominent city .People were very eager about sweet pills curing diseases as compared to quinine, which was so bitter.
Homeopathy was getting more and more popular and in the 1950’s there was a sort of mushroom growth. Homeopathic practitioners, charitable dispensaries and homeopathic pharmacies sprung up everywhere. There arose the need to regulate the trade. A committee was set up by the Central Government to examine the issue of homeopathy in detail and submit a report. Since health was a state subject, the states were advised to take necessary steps to check illegal practices and provide training facilities to existing and forthcoming practitioners. Hundreds of practitioners got training and were registered for practice. This made homeopathy more popular and accessible to the common man
In Western countries homeopathy is not the first choice of the people.They take it as a complementary system of medicine. But in India many people take it as their first choice, especially for the common ailments of women and children. That is why Pharmacies from Germany, France and Switzerland have collaborations in India. Homeopathy is now the third system of cure, along with allopathy and ayurveda. In1973, by an act of Parliament, The Central Government gave its approval to the homeopathic system and its pharmacopoeia.
AS: You’ve had a long and satisfying career and helped many people over the years. Thank you for sharing some of your experiences with us today.