While world news with its instant capsules hammers away its daily spiel, I sit in seclusion taking a few days off to calm down my bewilderment at how we lived through the year just gone by and how are we going through this one?

I am halfway through my regimen at an Ayurvedic Healing Centre and hospital called Arya Vaidya Chikitsalayam in Coimbatore, just 30 Kms from Kerala where Ayurveda existed from ancient times but formally began with the famous Warrier family, a hundred years ago.

You slice out a sliver of time and give yourself to a regimen that equips you for one year. One year of wear and tear which is the inevitable outcome of the life we lead. For the past eleven years, every year without fail I have spent two weeks of personal surrender to this place. When I arrive here from Delhi, I leave behind the harshest period of winter. My system has been thoroughly abused in eleven months. The last month of the year, which is when I leave Delhi, is replete with weddings and endless intake of food and drink. All of this baggage I carry on my body when I reach these precincts.

At night in the day

There is no magic formula here. The treatment given here is a combination of medicines, massages, lepam, potli and compulsory slow down. The typical day is never packed with a combo of oil, milk, mud, yoga, pranayam -- unlike what everyone reads in wellness resort ads. The place is not located in a dreamy pastoral setting. On the contrary it is in the heart of town, a campus at the centre of Ramanathapuram where the real people live and work.

We, the patients, are at one time both engaged and detached with our surroundings. Small shops around the hospital begin to recognize and expect our daily visits. There is a woman who has a shack-shop by the hospital wall. She picks the best coconut for us from her pile which she slices on top and bottom and hands it with a straw. Her little daughter who she has named Sania (after a Pakistani serial) goes to school, takes tuition and helps her mother string flowers and leaves for temple garlands. Her husband, much older, with gentle, kind features lets the woman deal with customers. Most of the pavement sellers are women, fruit sellers, vegetable vendors, pakora-chutney sellers. They sell briskly under the benign gaze of a huge Amma hoarding. This one shows the Chief Minister of the state, a young J Jayalalithaa holding a garland in her hand, while her mentor, a much older MGR looks on; appears more like a film than a political poster.

Some people may find this noisy life with which we are surrounded as irksome. Personally, I like it. There is only one word to describe it, a word which has no English equivalent. And that is the word raunaq. I would rather take my treatment in this hub of active life than lie alone surrounded by rolling greens and silence. Long ago I read a line 'O solitude where are the charms that sages saw in they face?'

At night in the day

The presiding deity of this Ashram is Dhanwantri, the Goddess of health. In the Centre of the hospital is her temple which attracts people from all over the city. On January 1 there is thanksgiving to the Goddess in celebration of the new year and new health. We are always here at the time and watch with wonder as more than a thousand people from the city are fed a meal of rice, daal, vegetable, papad and payasam, courtesy of the deity. The food never runs short.

Early in the morning after my daily namaz, when I sit on my balcony I see people coming to the temple. Women of all ages in saris, hair wet with a string of flowers, bare feet. Men with white shirts over white or black mundus, children in school uniforms. White ash is streaked over some foreheads, some wear small bindis. For me saying my Islamic prayers to the sound of temple bells is very soothing. Nothing jars, all is harmony.

What I witness from my balcony every day becomes for me the evidence of a dying culture. A young girl with long hair and a string of flowers stops to greet a grey haired woman who has just emerged from the temple. She bends to touch her feet. The woman gently raises her up and touches her head in blessing. They talk, the girl, a 15 year old, I would guess, answers shyly. I think of old women in many parts of the world who shuffle up and down streets while youth passes them oblivious of their existence

My friend who has been my companion on my visits over a decade, has started using a walking stick. The care with which she is treated anywhere we go here is a lesson in itself. Strangers stop to help, to open doors, to offer chairs, to give a hand. Culture which is becoming extinct in metros all over the world survives here exuding a whiff of hope. For me this is yet another part of my cure. With just a few days left I am thankful for the blessing of health I have received without harsh medicines or invasive procedures. What more can one ask for?