At the institute’s campus, the ambience is serene the day after the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader returned to the hotbed of Delhi politics. Established as a charitable hospital in 1978, Jindal Naturecure is spread across 175 acres with a fountain and the national flag greeting you at the entrance. Most facilities, including a vast hall for yoga, a swimming pool and the cottages and rooms are not too far from the main, glass-fronted administrative building, with the paths running through gardens and lawns.
Naturopathy is based on the belief that accumulation of toxins in the body is the root cause of all diseases. The focus, therefore, is on detoxifying the system, says Babina Nandakumar, joint chief medical officer at Jindal. The system believes that the body is made up of the five elements and an imbalance in any of the elements is what causes illnesses. “It’s a spring-cleaning of the body,” she says. This is also why patients are required to stay for at least 15 days.
To get admission to Jindal Naturecure, applications are scrutinised by a panel of doctors and approved if they suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension or asthma. “People addicted to drugs, smoking, alcohol, zarda, and so on” are ineligible, as are those “intending to use the course just for relaxation and rest” at the quiet campus with its gardens and lake. Patients can choose from various types of accommodation, from free wards for those earning less than Rs 1.5 lakh a year to a super deluxe nest costing Rs 11,000 a day. Treatment charges are levied per session, according to the amount of labour involved and many are free, says Ghosh. Thus while a hot stone therapy is priced at Rs 2,500 a session, mud packs, enemas and hip baths are free.
If patients are on allopathic medication, the aim is to reduce their dependence on it, as was the case with Kejriwal’s insulin intake, says Nandakumar. “We don’t stop allopathic medication abruptly but we gradually taper it. There is no medication in naturopathy,” she says. In Kejriwal’s case, the insulin was reduced by 70 per cent, adds Ghosh. “The other issue was his chronic cough. We are not saying it has been cured, but it has been brought under control,” he says. Nandakumar says that Kejriwal has been advised on the changes he needs to make to his lifestyle, in his food and in practising yoga.
Kejriwal is hardly the only high-profile patient to have found relief at Jindal Naturecure. Lawyer and AAP founding member Prashant Bhushan is also a regular patient, according to the hospital, while earlier patients include former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and various governors and central and state ministers. Krishnakumar Natarajan, CEO and co-founder of IT services firm MindTree, is another regular. “In just a week, I saw the positive effects of good diet and exercise. The experience has made a believer out of me in naturopathy,” he tells me on email.
Pictures of Kejriwal at a naturopathy camp in Bengaluru
The other popular wellness centre in Bengaluru is Soukya in Whitefield, where Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have spent time. Positioned as a holistic health centre rather than a naturopathy hospital, treatments here include ayurveda and homeopathy. And if you don’t have an ailment but are only looking for relaxation, Soukya offers various wellness packages. A seven-day destress programme would cost Rs 16,740 a day, while a two-week weight-loss package costs Rs 12,860 a day. One is expected to stay on the premises for at least seven days. “The awareness of the side-effects of chemical-based medication and its limitations in addressing chronic and lifestyle disorders is widespread,” says Issac Mathai, founder of Soukya. This, he adds, is making naturopathy more popular.
While many question the efficacy of naturopathy, some practitioners of allopathic medicine believe it is beneficial in certain cases. “It definitely has a major role to play in chronic illnesses such as hypertension. We have seen that if a patient with high blood pressure does yoga or naturopathy, the amount of medicines he needs to take comes down,” says Devi Shetty, chairman and founder of Narayana Health group (formerly Narayana Hrudayalaya). He says their chain of hospitals has had someone teaching patients yoga for the past decade.