The nature wellness clinic of Vedary in Mumbai deploys ancient healing wisdom. Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi experiences a much-needed reboot of body and mind. By Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi
During my acupuncture treatment at Vedary—perhaps the finest wellness clinic in Mumbai—the traditional Chinese medicine specialist, Dr Afzal, told me about hijama, an ancient technique of cupping and blood-letting. Small incisions made into the back are protected by suction cups into which drips away the ‘bad blood’, or bloody discharges bearing years of toxicity.
“Would you like to try it?” he asked.
“Yes,” I responded, although I was nervous. I was in his treatment room, supine, marvelling at the acupuncture treatments at Vedary. Dr Afzal is a genius of ‘needling’—he has previously worked at the famous Vana wellness retreat near Dehradun. He reminded me of the talent of the renowned Satoshi Hashimoto, who practises a special form of Japanese acupuncture at Thailand’s best wellness destination, Chiva-Som.
I discovered Vedary when sonic healer and musician Satya Hinduja posted online about a workshop she conducted here. Intrigued, I reached out to the founder, 20-something Kolkata-born Harshvardhan Saraf. In my first meeting with Saraf—who radiates sincerity, concern and gentleness—I spoke of needing to restore my gut health to equilibrium. Three weeks of gluttony and copious wine in Rome had thrown my constitution out of whack.
“Of course,” Saraf had said to me in his cabin at Vedary’s Khar outpost (the main clinic is in Worli). “Let me book you in with Dr Afzal.”
And so, here I was, a week after my initial acupuncture treatment, presenting my bare back to Dr Afzal for a hijama treatment. After making quick, precise minor cuts on the upper extremities of my back, the doctor lobbed on two glass suction cups over the slits. I felt the slow, eerie drip of blood into glass cups.
“See?” Dr Afzal showed me the bloody cups after 20 minutes. “This thick discharge is considered to be toxic.” I noticed a top layer of good blood, and under it, a thick viscous residue of red—very much like blood, but thicker and clotted.
“It’s revolting,” I said, looking away.
Both the acupuncture and hijama treatments worked powerfully. I felt a significant hike in my energy and an overall, almost visceral, sense that someone had wiped the screen before my eyes—I could see more clearly, evenly. Life was entering me as if a river.
When Saraf suggested a sonic healing session with Bambi Mathur, I was suspect. I’d had a terrible sonic healing group session in Goa (one woman, who apparently fell into a trance, screamed out road rage-variety obscenities in Hindi—a colourful state that the healer couldn’t rein in). But Mathur—who once donned the hat of a jeweller and a curator of hospitality experiences—was a different kettle of fish. When I lay back on the massage bed, I tried to block out the white noise of Mumbai traffic. Vedary would be better served with sound-insulated fenestration. But in minutes, I felt myself drop—that feeling hawks must get in-flight when they navigate great heights quickly. I felt ushered into a deeply meditative state—a visible, liquid blackness—by the hypnotic peal of Tibetan vibration bowls, originally crafted by a blind Hindu Balinese priest. An adjunct instrument to this session was a Balinese rainstick, which had on me the effect of listening to whale songs—an ancient, healing language I would never understand but one that was veined with wisdom and familiarity.
“Can you touch your feet?” Dr Qureshi, the chiropractor at Vedary, asked me. He specialises in spinal therapy and non-invasive blood vessel treatment. When I bent, I could touch my feet, but with wracking pain in my calves. I am not a gym rat; the punitive result of laziness is telling.
“Are you 41?” Dr Qureshi, who is sight challenged, deduced this simply from feeling my shoulder muscles. “Good form! But back is troubled.”
I lay down on the treatment bed. Dr Qureshi ran a series of pressure points on my back, running the length of my spine. It was similar to a massage, but I felt an invisible knot dissolve with each point he gauged. My back, it turned out, was an entombment of secret knots. This was a revelation, as I am fairly flexible—I swim at sea five times a week. Dr Qureshi’s expert treatment of blood vessel therapy relieved these tensions in my back and helped me realise that I needed to replenish the balance. “You must write standing up,” he advised me. I shall, I told him.
For so many of us who leave big cities for countryside retreats, here is a marvellous alternative. Vedary is a gloriously curated constellation of healers, shamans, therapists and doctors. Saraf has pulled off something remarkable with a gallery of therapies that include marma reflexology, dhara and colon hydrotherapy—all rendered with sensitivity and refinement impossible to rival in Mumbai.