In his scientific categorization of the two types of geniuses, probability theory pioneer Mark Kac distinguishes between “ordinary geniuses” and “magicians”. Dr. Ali Jan can easily be classified as a “Magician”. Dr. Ali Jan is one of the most celebrated doctors of the Kashmir. He was a champion of medical knowledge so effective and so beloved that he has generated an entire canon of personal mythology. And yet he held uncertainty at the center of his intellectual and creative life.
Dr. Ali Mohammad Fazili –
Dr. Ali Jan was a Kashmiri doctor. I’ve gathered fragments of his life story from my mother and her mother before her. Dr. Ali Mohammad Fazili lived from 1914 to 1988. He held MBBS, DCH, MRCP degree. Till date, Ali Jan is considered the finest physician Kashmir has ever had. A legend of modern medication and mystical healing.
My grandma was a big fan of his. “Beyi wothya kanh Ali Jan”, she used to say. Such was an impact that he left.
My grandma was a very timid, fragile and mostly, weak woman. When I say weak, don’t misinterpret me. She was the strongest woman I’ve ever met. She fought asthma all her life and lived a healthy ripe life. Soon after I grew up to my senses, she developed a family tradition of narrating the stories of Ali Jan whenever she visited us.
The nature of the mythical persona generated around Dr. Ali Jan is not unfounded. There are incredibly high chances that the reader might have even heard a tale or two. The diagnostic skills of Dr. Ali Jan could be compared to the modern day “House M.D.”
Recollecting one of many grandma’s stories, there used to live rich family in Britain way back in the 1950s or ’60s. Their daughter suffered for the most part of her life. They referred to her illness as “an untreatable disease”.
Her father, a very wealthy and influential man met someone in Britain who mentioned Dr. Ali Jan. This English man came to Kashmir along with his daughter to meet with Dr. Ali Jan. His daughter had developed a food intolerance. She used to vomit soon after having a meal. No doctor could diagnose her sickness or cure her. This resulted in making her daughter weak and feeble.
After hearing this, Dr. Ali Jan invited them over for a dinner. The invitation was modestly refused yet upon insisting- they finally agreed. The daughter obviously couldn’t eat much without throwing up. To which, Dr. Ali Jan asked her father to light a cigarette. She wasn’t a smoker but she was asked to take a drag. Then she began to eat. Again. No vomiting. No nausea.
She was a victim of passive smoking or second-hand smoking. The science of passive smoking wasn’t much developed back then. Smoking made her body keep down the food and this became her salvation.
I am not sure of the authenticity of this incident, but I believe my grandma couldn’t make up something like this. There are a lot many tales surrounding the persona of Dr. Ali Jan – tales which border on myth and genius, yet, it’s a sad fact that not much is known about the life of Dr. Ali Jan.