Next to a cacophonous building site, where Indian labourers and engineers are working alongside international consultants to build a new station for Delhi’s world-class metro, stands one of the grimy glass-and-concrete office blocks ubiquitous in urban India. But up its staircase, past the workspaces of outsourcers and traders and accountants, you’ll find an unexpected concern: a dial-in health clinic whose care is based on the thinking of a man who lived roughly 2,000 years ago.
Though what is practised here at the Jiva Institute, in Delhi’s industrial suburb of Faridabad, has a faddish following in the West, it’s part of an Indian tradition as old as the Buddha. Its leading figure was a man known as Charaka, who is sometimes pridefully referred to in India as ‘the father of medicine’. We know little about his personal story, but we still have his celebrated manual on the ancient medical system known as ayurveda. ‘Veda’ translates as ‘knowledge’, and ‘ayus’ means ‘long life’ or ‘vitality’, and Charaka’s treatise is as much a guide to how to live as about how to get better.