October 31, 2020


(c) J.Singh, 2017

Harjinder Kaur tapped the blank notepad on her desk with her pen in a slow rhythm. She was lost in thought. It had been several months since she had started her medical practice, and even though she had been diligent about following all the advice she had read on marketing her new business, she still had no customers. She had taken great care in locating the physical space for her office, and the setup, including everything from the color of the flooring to the decor. Everything had been chosen with the focus on healing and wellness. But, she had yet to treat her first patient. Several weeks ago, she had let the front desk receptionist go. It had been a sad and disappointing parting, and she wished that she didn’t have to do it, but she had to conserve whatever savings she had left. Now, she was running the office by herself, running to the front desk every time the phone rang. Considering that there were no patients, however, it wasn’t really all that busy for her.

She sighed and looked around at the room. Soft lighting, the sounds of water flowing gently with barely discernible background music. The ambience was perfect. But, there was no one around to benefit from it.

Harjinder remembered when she had announced her decision to go into the healing arts to her family. Her parents had been ecstatic, until they learned that she wanted to study alternative medicine. They tried to convince her to become a “real” doctor, but she was adamant. She knew there must be a better way than simply pumping patients full of pharmaceutical antibiotics, whose side effects alone were enough to cause secondary infections and wreak all manner of havoc on the human body. Her reasoning and explanations fell on deaf ears. “But, beta,” her Mom advised her, “when people get sick, they need medicine to feel better. Real medicine.” Harjinder bit her tongue and did her best to refrain from entering into an argument which would only spiral downward. She told herself that her Mom didn’t understand yet, and that was okay.

Now, several years later and after much hard work, she had finally opened her practice and set up shop. She had done all the marketing, sent out flyers and mailers and business cards. She had placed advertisements in the local newspapers and had paid for her website design and hosting. She had told all her friends and acquaintances that she was now in business. And yet, after months of continued efforts, not a single patient had walked through the doors.

She sighed. Maybe her mother had been right, after all. She stood up to turn off the music. A nice atmosphere and soothing sounds were all well and good, she mused, but they wouldn’t pay the bills. Just as she pushed the STOP button on the CD player, she heard the front door open.

Walking out to the front desk, she saw an elderly, frail woman standing there, eyes cast downward, wearing a beige colored saree. She was accompanied by a younger woman, presumably her daughter, who was dressed in jeans and a black leather jacket, her hair neatly pulled back into a ponytail. She was carrying a light blue Coach purse under her arm and held a phone to her ear with her right hand.

Harjinder smiled. “Hello,” she said warmly. She completely expected that they had gotten lost and needed directions, like the last confused looking couple who had wandered through the door.

“Oh hi,” the daughter said. Then, talking into the phone, “We’re here now, I have to go. Will talk with you later.”

She hung up the phone and held it in her hand.

“We’re here to see Dr. Harjinder Kaur, is she in?” she asked.

“Yes, that’s me,” said Harjinder, surprised to hear her own name in that sentence.

“I’m Rani, this is my mother. We really hope you can help us.”

Harjinder blinked and stood there speechless for a moment. The old woman looked up into her eyes with a beseeching look. In that instant, it all came flooding back to Harjinder - the reason why she chose this profession, her purpose in becoming an alternative medicine practitioner, and the emotion and feeling associated with being a healer. It was all there, as clear to her as the day she had decided to follow this path. There was no doubt, she was certain of who she was and what she wanted to do. She felt confident and capable of carrying out her chosen duty.

“Of course,” she replied warmly, smiling, “Please come inside.”

She walked out into the hallway and helped the old lady step by slow step into the treatment room. Rani followed and took a seat next to her mother.

“May I get you anything, Mataji?” Harjinder asked, addressing Rani’s mother. “Some tea, or juice? Water?”

The old woman managed a weak smile. She shook her head slightly and raised her hand. “No thank you,” she conveyed with her gesture, “I am fine.”

“What can I help you with?” Harjinder asked.

“It started about three months ago,” Rani explained, “Mom was doing just fine before that. She’s always been very healthy. But all of a sudden, she started getting this pain in her abdomen, and very loose motion. She lost a lot of weight. She also got dizzy, and got headaches. She has never suffered from headaches in her life. Anyway, we went to the doctor, and even after doing a lot of tests, they still can’t tell us what is wrong. They prescribe one medicine after another, but nothing works. We are hoping you can help, because this situation, and this pain, is not going away! We are very worried. You can see how weak she has become.”

Harjinder nodded while listening to Rani, all the while maintaining eye contact with Rani’s mother. Her sunken cheeks and the black circles around her eyes were evidence of more than just her age. These were signs of her weakened condition.

“Can you help her, please?” Rani’s voice broke. “We don’t know what is wrong, and we are losing hope.”

Harjinder put her hand on Rani’s arm to reassure her.

“I think I can help,” she said softly, “Do not worry.”

Rani nodded and wiped her eyes.

“Mataji, I would like you to do two simple tests,” Harjinder filled out a form and handed it to Rani, “These can be done at any lab, you can take it to the hospital or there’s an independent lab two blocks from here, on 6th avenue. Whichever you prefer. One of these tests requires a fasting period of twelve hours, the lab can explain all the requirements.”

“You have an idea of what the problem might be?” Rani’s eyes lit up with hope.

Harjinder nodded. “Yes, I believe I do. Let’s get the lab test results for confirmation.”

“So there is a treatment?”

“Yes, there is a treatment. And the good news is that it works very well. Once we get the test results, I can prescribe some herbal medication and she will start seeing relief from the symptoms in one to two weeks. Complete recovery usually takes a month or two.”

Rani smiled, her eyes tearing up again.

Rani’s mother spoke for the first time. Her voice was weak and low, but it conveyed all her emotion.

“Thank you, beta,” she said, with a soft sigh. She raised her hand held it in front of Harjinders face, then closed her eyes and gave her a silent blessing.

When they were back out at the front desk, Rani reached into her purse.

“How much do we owe you for the visit?” she asked, prepared to use her credit card or her check book. “Mom is not covered by any insurance so I can pay the full amount now.”

Harjinder shook her head.

“Nothing,” she said, “There is no charge.”

“I don’t understand,” Rani looked puzzled.

“Mataji is like my own mother,” Harjinder explained. “It has been my honor to be of service. I cannot accept payment for that, all I would ask for is her blessing, and she has already given me that. Please accept my gratitude for the chance to serve.”

Rani’s mother placed her hand on Harjinder’s head, nodding slightly. The old woman smiled knowingly, and then she and Rani took their leave.

Harjinder sat down on the sofa in the small waiting room, lost in her thoughts. She didn’t realize how long it had been, maybe minutes or maybe hours, and then phone rang. She answered it. It was a new patient who wanted to make an appointment. Minutes later, the phone rang again. Another patient. And another. And another. And another.

Today, there is a three month waiting list for new patients to obtain an appointment with Dr. Harjinder Kaur. Her practice is thriving, and she has hired a full-time staff. She recently moved into a larger building with more facilities, and has partnered with other leading doctors in their respective fields to provide a holistic, complete health solution to the patients who come to her for treatment.