Tennis players have had to find different ways to keep themselves – and their audiences – entertained in the course of the pandemic-caused lockdown, across the world. Each has found their niche to do so, and Novak Djokovic, too, is one among these.
However, within this bracket, too, the world no. 1 has opted for an off-course path to keep everyone plugged in – and clued in – about his life preferences. To rewind, a few days ago, the 32-year-old first kicked up a storm when he spoke about not being keen on getting vaccinated if a potential vaccine were to be developed to tackle Coronavirus, to continue travelling on the pro tennis tour.
In the time it took for that ruckus to subside, the Serbian created another controversial whirlpool with his Instagram live interaction on the subject of detoxification and nutrition. Joining him on the session was one Chervin Jafarieh – an alt-healing therapist – whose ideologies were not only familiar to but also practised by the 17-time Slam champion.
A lot was discussed in the one-hour-19-minute session that also included replying to comments. And all that was discussed was problematic. It was not because it was self-confessedly holistic or as Djokovic referred to the interactive sessions a, “self-mastery project” but because it came at a time of the pandemic, whose threat continues to be murky despite its billowing spread across countries and counties.
But suspect timing or not, some of us had already heard all these before. For those of us hailing from the country lending its name to the sub-continent, most of these were old housewives’ tales we had grown up hearing with a little western influence thrown in as if to show first-world elitism.
Here, in the sub-continental country, these tales interfere with actual medicinal practices adding to the burden of an already beleaguered medical sector. On normal days, we have similar and innumerable other theories about how such alternate modules help resolve major health problems and provide a revitalised and rejuvenating lifestyle.
And these days, even as our nation is dealing with the pandemic, we have certain alt-medicinal inputs that threaten to jeopardise the work of medical workers by preventing them from gaining access to treat the needy. These are still broader examples of how unwieldy these alt-therapies have been in the sub-continental country while enjoying widespread popularity.
My peeve with some of these alt-therapies, however, has been because of personal experiences. Since I was diagnosed as a type-1 diabetic about 21 years ago, I have been at the receiving end of well-meaning – yet obstinate – family and friends telling me about how I don’t need to take insulin injections three times a day.
Their suggestions to combat my “auto-immune disease” have ranged from drinking bitter gourd stock and the juice of the black plum – a fruit native to the sub-continent – to doing yoga to kickstart my pancreas into starting to function again.
My resistances have been countered with claims that I am uneducated in the way of the local culture, over-saturated with international influence and largely unwilling to abide by the dictates of the elderly. And, in a country where respect for the elderly counts as a sect in itself – we have also learnt from our elders about the legend of the Ganga, a river that is worshipped as a goddess in the Sub-Continent's namesake.
Rising in the Himalayas, and flowing through India and Bangladesh, this perennial river empties itself into the Bay of Bengal. The river is said to have antibodies of its own and as polluted as it is now because of the various industrial and socio-cultural activities – from factories depositing their waste to ashes and dead bodies being dumped into it as part of ritualistic burials – it has been long believed that a drop of the river’s water could cure anyone of any ailment.
Likewise, it was also held firmly that if a person lying on his deathbed were given a drop of Ganga’s water, he would ascend to the heavens. In fact, this principle is so keenly held that people are known to fill bottles with the river water and carry it back home after a pilgrimage to a temple, adjoining which the river flows in its glory.
These statements have been passed on for generations to generations and along the way, the references to the river’s healing properties have long transcended mythology and mysticism and entered into the realm of realism.
These attributes – beyond the river’s potability – seem surreal and quite impractical given the obviousness of the high toxicity levels in its waters on account of the uncontrolled activities carried out on its shores.
Those who depend on the water of the Ganga for their sustainability cannot transform it into healing water through the power of their mind. It would be irresponsible to think so and do so. And, when one of the most visible figures in the sporting world talks about hearing of people who, “through energetic transformation, through the power of prayer, through the power of gratitude manage to turn the most-toxic food… the most-polluted water into the most-healing water,” there is not only a lack of responsibility, but there is also the setting of a disillusioning example before the attentive crowd.
Djokovic reiterated for a good couple of minutes into his Instagram session that each person had to do their own research to understand and connect with their body better. He also insisted that there were “100s of guides and programs” that offered a multitude of information to the masses and that he was not trying to influence their minds.
But in trying to put out a message so publicly and on a social media platform that invariably gets substantial traction, was there not a subtle element of inducement involved? That, if the world’s best player can put his faith on such a methodology, it is maybe a worthwhile clique to join in.
Notwithstanding, the method itself being non-conventional and untried-and-untested – except in a sort of self-medication manner.