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Asthmatics Say "Aaah!"

One of the world's largest alternative medicinal gatherings takes place annually at Nampally Exhibition Grounds in Hyderabad, usually on June 7 or 8. Just as the monsoon sets in and brings with it all sorts of seasonal respiratory illnesses, hundreds of thousands of asthmatics from all over India flock to the city to receive an unusual cure administered orally by the Bathini Goud brothers. A special herbal medicine, prepared by using water from the family well only, is stuffed into the mouth of a 2- or 3-inch murrel (sardine). The fish is then slipped into the patient's mouth, who swallows the slithering creature alive (the Gouds claim that the wriggling fish increases the efficacy of the medicine because it clears the patient's throat; for those who are strict vegetarians or particularly squeamish, a banana acts as a substitute, albeit a poor one). The result: For more than 162 years, countless people have reported relief from a variety of respiratory-type disorders. Said to have been given to an ancestor of the present-day Gouds by a Hindu holy man back in 1845, the secret formula has been passed down through the generations and administered free of charge in accordance with the saint's wishes. Visit www.bathinifish.com for details.

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