The once sleepy haamlet of Saikawt, about 15 kms from Churachandpur Bazar, is today a bustling village thanks to the miracle herb. The herb locally known as Ranlung Damdawi is the reason why people from every part of the State including from neighbouring States flock to Saikawt. The herb derives its name from Ranlung meaning animal’s worm and Damdawi meaning medicine. It is therefore a medicine to cure the wounds infested by worms in animals especially cattles. It is also critically acclaimed for its curative properties that can cure even cancer.
Last week, as curious I was, descended to the village with my crew. Thousands of people were flocking the Chawlien Cancer Research Agency. There were four queues from the four directions. Some had been in the line since 3 in the morning. Around 30 to 40 people are let in at one time. There, a preacher talks about God and Jesus Christ. He aptly described the plant as something that unites the whole communities. He said, this plant does not know who is Muslim, Christian or Hindu…if you believe in Jesus Christ and the healing power of this plant you will be cured. After ten to fifteen minutes of preaching, the preacher shouts Hallelujah, and the crowd followed. Slowly after few minutes, the man in question Chawlien comes out and bravely waves at the crowd. Then, they are given the concoction of the herb free of cost.
One has to see to believe it. Old and weak women and men were carried by their kiths and kins. Young boys and girls in their early teens flock to the place for reasons best known to them. One old Meitei woman was heard muttering, if I get cured of my diabetes, I don’t mind giving my heart and soul to Christianity. There were young volunteers with bamboo sticks, and sweat on their foreheads, trying to control the crowd. Some of the crowd were even gate-crashing to have a dose of the concoction. The concoction is usually prepared in the night by young lasses. Then, there were the ‘traffic volunteers’ who had a tough time controlling the movement of the vehicles. I also took a small bottle of the herb. The serpentine line of vehicles of all makes was a living testimony of how the herb has attracted the fancy of every Tomba and Tombi.
Because of the herb, there is brisk business going on. There are people who scout the jungles and bring the leaves and sell it for two hundred bucks per one cement bag. The leaves are bought and they are made into concoction by grinding it with water before they are finally bottled. One can see long rows of kiosks selling the concoction. Side by side, they also sell the leaves, the barks and even the sapling of the plant. Some enterprising sellers also hawk the dry leaves claiming it can cure sinus if smoked. And of course there is no dearth of customers.
It is not only the herb sellers who are doing brisk business. There are food joints, motels, toilets and even second hand shops who are laughing all the way to the banks. After all, people start crowding the hamlet as soon as night falls to have the concoction early in the morning the next day. The Saikawt playground and the Rengkai playground have become a place for their resting in the night. One can also see the non locals selling betel leaves which are otherwise banned in the State. Other items in their makeshift kiosks include zarda, talab and khaini. It seems all these ‘banned products’ are today smuggled to Saikawt.
I also happened to visit one Darhminglien, who claimed he was the first to discover the miracle plant. According to his version, Chawlien who was his cousin was his first patient. According to him, he gave the potion to his cousin as he was desperate. He said that he could bear to see the suffering of his brother. He remembered that in his childhood days, his father used to apply the potion from the plant on animals infected with fungus. Therefore, he thought if it can heal animals, it might heal even human being. Therefore, according to him, he prepared the potion and administered it to his brother for about three months after which he was cured.
The interesting thing is that Chawlien through the media claimed that he administered the potion all by himself and even called Darhminglien a fraud who wanted money and fame.
At Darhminglien’s place, we were made to witness the preparation of the potion. The volunteers wore gloves and the leaves of the plant after being washed thoroughly, was put into a grinder along with boiled water. After the grinder extracted the juice, it was filtered using a machine and then it was finally filtered with a tea filter. I had one full glass of the concoction. It was tasteless though it smelled of raw leaves.
Now it has become a concern for many experts that random use of the plant can lead to its extinction. It is also a concern that some big pharmaceutical company can apply for a patent. It has already been reported in the media, that some university professors have already vouched for the curative properties of the medicine. It is unfortunate that the State Government has not stepped in till date for preserving the plant and recognising the medicinal value of the plant.
It, is therefore, highly felt that this is the time to preserve the plant and give its due recognition to the world. After all, if this plant really has a curative purpose, then Manipur can be in the map of the medicinal atlas.