Scribbled in the margin: conversation with a Fulbright Fellow

I spoke to four Fulbright Fellows yesterday at a press conference held by the U.S. Consul General announcing the 2010 Fulbright-Nehru Fellowships, aimed a scholarly exchange between India and the U.S. specifically.

I was most interested in what Shiva Ayyadurai of M.I.T. had to say, because his personal experience coming back to India for professional reasons reminded me so much of my own: he was born in India, but lived in India only until the age of 7, and then moved to the U.S. So he essentially had grown up in the U.S., but he never forgot the traditional healing techniques used by his grandmother back in their village to treat neighbors. He studied modern systems biology in the U.S., which he explained is the “West’s attempt to understand the entire body from a molecular basis.” But remembering the Indian traditional healing methods back home, he applied for the Fellowship to study Siddha Yoga and the links between yogic remedies and Western medicine.

Til now, he said the West’s understanding of yoga is not even a tenth of the knowledge that is actually available in India. The Indian system of “guna” really does have implications in Western medicine. He explained that Indian medicine is so closely tied with spirituality and happiness, but there are chemicals released during these “happy” and healthy states. By figuring out the molecular break-down of those chemicals (which he says he’s pretty much identified), he can relate it to Western medicine and treatments.


The icing on the cake: this would be one solution to the health care crisis in the U.S. Citing R&D costs that have already been increasing 20-30 percent yearly since 1996, he said the government is setting aside a decent sum to explore alternative medicine (most attention goes to Chinese healing techniques). He suggested that natural treatment through yogic medicine could quite possibly be the solution to battling the high prices at which drugs are sold by U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies: “The molecular age can meet the yogic age.”

Plus, it was also nice to hear, on a personal note, of his experience coming back to India. After awhile you get used to the fact activities which used to be routine in the States are more labor-intensive and time consuming in India. To be honest, I feel the same way. After being here for more than three months now, I definitely see how we’re somewhat spoiled in the U.S.

As he put it, “In the West we talk a lot about sustainability. In some ways, people here [India] live sustainability already.”

When Shiva first got here, he couldn’t stand the heat or the “1-bucket” system of bathing, etc. Now, he says, he can definitely picture himself settling down here.

1 comment on “Scribbled in the margin: conversation with a Fulbright Fellow

  1. duuuude…my ophthalmology research is bringing back an ancient chinese medication that was once used to “heal” eyes…cool huh?


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