In Dr Arora, a web series directed by the famous Imtiaz Ali, veteran actor Kumud Mishra is seen as a small-town ‘gupt rog’ specialist. Not that depiction of these characters is new. Several series, movies, dramas and serials have been made in India around this topic, with actors usually playing ‘blemished’ characters.
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Gupt rog translates as ‘hidden disease’, and visheshagya is the Hindi word for specialist. Though the patients of ‘Gupt Rog Visheshagyas’ are certainly shy and secretive, these sexologists have no qualms about openly advertising their presence in different nooks and corners of the city.
Some may be quacks while others are traditional healers such as Babas, Vaidyas and Hakeems. Even qualified MBBS doctors have pamphlets printed and distributed so as to reach out to timid patients. Walls are painted with huge advertisements offering cures for a lot of personal issues, including sexual problems.
Patriot set out to find these sexologists in the real world. Do people actually visit their clinics? Are they qualified doctors or quacks? What kind of cure do they offer? Do their customers still think sexual dysfunction is a stigma, a taboo?
A secretive business
It seems people don’t really care to find out if these practitioners have medical degrees, as long before the ‘English system of medicine’ came to India, cures were offered by Hakeems, Maulanas, Vaidyas and Gurus. While some claim that they have had traditional cures passed on to them by the older generation, others say they have supernatural powers. For them, ‘curing’ a disease or ‘resolving’ an issue can be a matter of seconds.
One such practitioner whom Patriot discovered was a self-proclaimed sexologist named Baba Maulvi Musa in Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar. He claimed that he has a mysterious power to cure diseases and dysfunctions.
“People come to me when there’s no option left and I am their last hope,” states Musa. “Some just ask for my blessings in the form of talismans and sometimes they ask for my specially prepared medicines.”
Asked about how he treats sexual problems, he says that’s easy for him. One such problem is fertility. “I have been doing this since I was 16-17,” he recalls. “I used to sit with my uncle earlier, from whom I inherited this work. I can understand the problem as soon as I look at the patient’s face. For example, if someone is not able to become a father, I shower him with my blessings and a bottle of holy water along with a few naturally prepared medicines, and it works. I have several patients who trust me and have suggested me to a number of their relatives and friends.”
Musa boasts about his supernatural power to cure sexual diseases, but when asked about the mention of ‘vashikaran’, hypnotism and other such techniques in one of his pamphlets, he becomes visibly uncomfortable. Turning his head towards the window, he says, “There are different people with different problems, and I am here to solve them. I possess powers and can do anything I want”.
By now he had understood that he wasn’t meeting a patient clarifying some doubts but was being interviewed. With a slight change in tone, he added, “There are young lovers with broken hearts, ready to shower me with money to bring back their loved ones to them and sometimes to their beds. I am bound to cure the problem. After all, everyone is welcome at my place”, he states and starts looking at his phone, signalling that he is in no mood to answer further questions.
Patriot’s next destination was a Hakeem who also claimed to have inherited the art of curing diseases from his forefathers. Interestingly, women outnumbered men at his clinic and at Musa’s.
While Patriot waited among the patients for 30-40 minutes, a man in his seventies with a white beard and a blue kurta could be seen inside the chamber. He had a bundle of registers and books before him, and was assisted in the preparation of medicines by two others in their mid-40s.
He agreed to answer questions but under the garb of anonymity. “See, English medicines have their own side effects and not a lot of people trust them. In our case, we have been preparing these for centuries and the patients are completely satisfied. It is hard for the women to speak up in front of those doctors but they have been visiting this clinic for a number of decades, and now I am one of their own”, he states in a polite manner.
Speaking about the visitors to his clinic, he states that mostly they are from the nearby areas but patients from other cities aren’t a rare sight. “I have earned a name in this field, and thus I am respected across regions and religions”, he states, all the while looking at one of the registers kept on his table.
“My patients are not just the common people sitting outside, but even those who are sitting in lavish bungalows of Lodhi Colony and the Lutyens Zone”, states Hakeem with a large grin as he pointed to a glass bottle being packed. “That’s for an IAS officer”.
“See, those are my regular clients. I have already diagnosed them and prescribed medicines. I just have to send them the medicines on time”, he says, pointing out bungalow numbers from Ferozshah Road in the registers.
“You won’t believe it, there are Members of Parliaments who trust me and are my regular clients. Whenever they have a problem, they just call me to their place or inform me about the issues and I parcel the required medicines”.
“If a minister is facing erectile dysfunction or he isn’t able to perform in bed, whom do you think he consults? A doctor?” he shrugs, laughing. “I am a man of secrets: I know secrets and I keep secrets”, he states, drawing the meeting to a conclusion.
Quite amazed by the interesting address register, Patriot talked to a few women who visit such practitioners. It turned out that when they know that it is illegal to terminate unwanted pregnancies after 24 weeks, they too approach shady clinics – and end up in trouble.
One of them is Sunita Devi, 63, a resident of Amritpuri. Six years ago, when she found out that her 23-year-old daughter-in-law was going to give birth to a daughter, she consulted a Baba to carry out a medical termination of pregancy (MTP) or abortion. The daughter-in-law was 19 weeks pregnant at the time (or so she says).
“I am illiterate. I didn’t know what was legal and what was not,” she claims. “This is how our mothers-in-law handled such pregnancies, and their mothers-in-law handled theirs. We already had four beautiful grand-daughters, and wanted a son. There is a Baba in Jasola who helped with such problems and we used to visit him often for various spiritual and medicinal concerns.”
When the two women visited the Baba and narrated the issue, he asked them to perform some religious rituals at a nearby temple for three consecutive days. “Next, he gave my daughter-in-law a powder that was to be consumed by mixing in milk. The powder was made of dhatura (a poisonous plant), alai (cat’s claw), turmeric and some secret ingredients which he never reveals”, she says.
Two weeks later, her daughter-in-law started bleeding profusely from the vagina, complaining of unbearable pain. “She even started foaming at her mouth. We were really scared. We had to admit her to the local hospital saying it was a pregnancy complication following a change in diet. The doctors didn’t question much, and she was discharged following treatment in four days. That visit to the Baba almost cost the life of my daughter-in-law”, she rues.
Shame and mistrust
A Vaidya known simply as Tiwari ji, who operates from Old Delhi, told Patriot the number of visitors to his clinic is declining with each passing day. “They are both afraid of being recognised and ashamed”.
“The younger generation usually calls in the evening or late at night which is often disturbing, as the clinic timing ends at 8 pm. I understand their problems but I need to see them, it is impossible to prescribe an Ayurvedic cure just on the basis of the patient’s narration, where he tends to hide a lot of facts”, he states.
“Once there was a young man in his twenties who had blisters on his penis. He was so embarrassed and ashamed of it that he hid it for months. The infection grew so much that it became impossible for him to walk”, he pauses and says that it is a ‘gupt rog’ but that doesn’t mean that it should remain hidden. “It needs to be cured”.
“These are the days of the internet, so not a lot is hidden from the younger generation. Still, a lot of issues are to be resolved and thus we are here, sitting in different streets and lanes, available for them”, concludes Tiwari ji with a smile of satisfaction.
Even though discussing sexual illnesses carries a social taboo, sexologists of Delhi see several patients daily. Delhi-based sexologist Dr AM Nair has been practising for six years across India. He says that the media has helped people identify sexual behaviour and characteristics, allowing them to be more open while addressing sexual concerns.
“Dr Mahinder Vats’ column in The Times of India’s Mirror was a game changer, I feel. People read about the weird and genuine concerns of others, and perhaps found some of these concerns relatable. Consulting a sexologist – before that column became popular – was not an idea that came easy to many. Now though, we see at least 10 patients a day.”
He points out that even in the popular OTT series Mirzapur, the lead character played by Pankaj Tripathi consults a sexologist for treating premature ejaculation. “These series have facilitated more open dialogue”, he says.
Speaking about the kind of issues people approach sexologists for, Dr Nair says, “Problems like premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, low/high libido, orgasm anxiety, pain during intercourse, vaginismus or vaginal dryness, genital herpes and others are common. People also come to understand better sexual positions that can enhance their sex life.”
Dr Gupta, a sexologist from Lajpat Nagar, says that the treatment they provide relies on physical exercises like kegel (to strengthen pelvic muscles), medicines and ointments. “If someone is experiencing erectile dysfunction, we ask them to make lifestyle changes like reducing the number of cigarettes they smoke, and we also prescribe them medicines.
“For someone who is struggling to achieve an orgasm, a problem that is more common with women, we counsel the couple on basic things and better positions they can try. Different concerns for different people require different approaches of treatment that have been proven scientifically”, he says.
When Patriot told the two sexologists about the treatments prescribed by Hakeems and Babas, they stated that only scientifically proven medicine and therapy can help cure sexual problems and concerns. “Ayurveda and modern medicine, both are equipped to handle and treat such issues. Fraudsters will ask people to fast, or drink weird potions, or perform illogical activities as part of treatment, but that won’t really help. At the end of the day, it depends on people: if they prefer science or hokum”, says Dr Nair.
He adds that a patient of his had suffered following the treatment he sought from a Baba. “My patient had visited the Baba after seeing an ad for penis enlargement. The Baba asked him to apply a paste of onion, sunflower oil and lemon on his penis daily to achieve the desired results. After three days of applying this paste, the patient started noticing red spots on his penis and also experienced trouble urinating”, he says.
An acidic element like lemon mixed with raw onion will react adversely with the glans skin, and the residue of the paste had affected the urinary tract of the patient, he says. “People react differently to different treatments. All problems cannot be addressed with the same solution. In this case, instead of suggesting penis stretching exercises and kegel to the patient, he was asked to use a hokum method that then needed two weeks of proper treatment”, Dr Nair says.
It becomes clear, then, that while there are MBBS doctors and traditional healers with their own sets of medical knowledege for curing sexual diseases, Delhi also abounds in quacks who are out to cheat patients rather than cure them. Sometimes they are caught either by a wronged patient or by the police, but they continue to boldly advertise themselves through hoardings in multiple corners of the city.
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