As the northwest monsoon strikes India in the first week of June, people from all parts of India, and abroad, make a beeline for Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh. They all have one thing in common: they suffer from the disease of asthma and gather in Hyderabad for a unique herbal cure. The medicine is stuffed inside the mouth of a three-inch live murrel fish which the patient is made to swallow. Once inside the body, the fish releases the medicine. Those who gather the courage to take the cure find that it works.

They Make you Swallow a Fish for a Herbal Cure
They Make you Swallow a Fish for a Herbal Cure [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]
This herbal medicine is distributed free by the members of one family, the Bathini Goud family, which has held the secret formula for the medicine for several generations. Once every year, they administer this medicine to anyone who comes to their huge camp. The event coincides with the onset of the monsoon every year, according to the Hindu calendar.

There is an interesting story behind this practice. It is said that the secret formula for the herbal cure was given by a sage to a Goud ancestor on the condition that he and his descendents must give it away free. If they ever decided to use the gift for commercial gains, the medicine would not work.

It is said that if the fish medicine is taken at a stretch for three years, it cures the patient completely. For a disease that has no known cure in modern medicine, it seems a good alternative. Of course, the patient has to prepare himself or herself for the strange way of taking the medicine!

This year, too, on June 7, all roads led to the huge Exhibition Grounds in Hyderabad. The distribution of the medicine started early morning at 5.30 and went on till the last patient was attended to.

At present, the formula is known to the three surviving brothers of the Goud family and their elder sons.