The Hush Post| 8:52 pm | two-minute-read
Mahatma Gandhi managed to change the world in more ways than one. He was called ‘the half-naked seditious fakir’ by Winston Churchill who was one of Bapu’s sour critics. There are several unanswered questions on how he managed to maintain his determination for freedom. Now, for the first time, the Mahatma’s personal health records have been made public. These reports reveal that he was as prone to illness as anyone else and suffered for a long time with high blood pressure. And yet, he managed to “make his life his message” as he said famously. Also, he worked tirelessly with Leprosy afflicted patients to fight the stigma.
Mahatma Gandhi’s health files are well-preserved in the National Gandhi Museum in New Delhi. However, those reports are published for the first time in the book ‘Gandhi and Health @ 150’ by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). This special journal was released as the father of the Nation turns 150 years. It was released in Dharamshala by the 14th Dalai Lama said that Mahatma’s philosophy of non-violence and mental hygiene are broadly relevant in today’s century as well.
The health files reveal that he weighed merely 46.7 kilograms and his height was 5’5” or 165 centimeters, last recorded in 1939. This gave him a body mass index of 17.1 – which, according to current estimates, means an “underweight” individual. Suggestions are derived by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for such individuals who weight less- “try to eat more and eat the right kinds of nutritious foods as you are underweight. It may also be useful to visit your doctor for a regular health check-up.”
Surprisingly, Mahatma Gandhi led the massive non-violent movement, that too, with this sort of body weight which gave India its freedom later.
Also, the records reveal that Gandhi suffered from several serious ailments which included contracting malaria three times in 1925, 1936 and 1944. He was operated for piles and appendicitis in 1919 and 1924. Further, he also suffered from Pleurisy – inflammation of the tissues that line the lungs and chest cavity – while he was in London. His acts of undertaking fasts sometimes led to his health condition deteriorating to almost “near death”.
But heart of this man was healthy as he preached non-violence and forgiveness but never stopped his will to free his mother India. His electro-cardiogram (ECG) records of 1937-1940 show normal characteristics with some changes. His record of 1939 says “no evidence of coronary insufficiency”. But as cardiologist Dr Balram Bhargava, currently director general of the ICMR, writes in the book “The comparative records showed that his ECG was normal in all respects except slight Myocarditis which was negligible given Gandhi ji’s age. His cardio-vascular degeneration was arrested”.
Despite the high blood pressure that came to afflict him since as far back as 1927 with a high of 220/110 on February 19, 1940, he maintained his calm and continued his good deeds.
A few months later, Mahatma Gandhi wrote to Dr Sushila Nayyar, who later also became India’s health minister, “My blood pressure continues to remain high hence I took three drops of Sarpagandha”.
But the key to maintain his coolness is also revealed in the 166-page collector’s item. “Gandhi ji used to walk around 18 kilometers every day. During campaigning from 1913 to 1948 he walked around 79,000 kilometers. It is equivalent to walking around the Earth twice,” the book says.
The report has also given Mahatma’s horoscope which tells that he was born at 7:45 am on October 2, 1869 in Gujarat’s Porbander. Venus, Mercury and Mars were rising at his birth time which gave him elements of great leader. “It gave him great fighting spirit, popularity, truthfulness, soft spoken. The stars also signify- the Great Mahapurush Yoga, with great passion, self-belief and ability to connect with masses,” it says.
One very interesting question in the Mahatma’s life was how he vowed not to drink cow’s milk, as said by Dr Abhay Bang, a co-editor of the volume. He is also Director of the Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health at Gadchiroli in rural Maharashtra.
According to the trained physician who grew up in Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram, the freedom icon said “it is my firm conviction that man need take no milk at all, beyond the mother’s milk that he took as a baby”. But Dr Bang says, once after a very severe bout of dysentery, on a suggestion of his wife Kasturba Gandhi, he started taking goat’s milk.
Gandhi disliked medicines and liked to keep modern doctors at bay. He himself practiced natural cure and Naturopathy as healing solutions and experimented heavily on his own body using “earth and water” treatments.
The editorial of the book penned by Union Minister for Health JP Nadda along with ICMR scientist Rajni Kant and the director General of ICMR Balram Bhargava reads: “It is quite possible that some solutions Gandhi ji had back then may surprise today’s generation, but his philosophy towards life, and healthy living continues to remain relevant. His belief in the almighty and the influence of Rama-Nama along with his experiments with nature cure for treating various diseases, would probably look unacceptable today, but during that time this may well have been quite effective when modern tools and technologies were not available to people… but our fight against emerging health issues such as lifestyle related non-communicable diseases could be handled by adopting the Gandhian philosophy.”