German national Carina Miorin’s passion for ayurveda brought her to Kerala six years ago. Today, as an ayurveda practitioner, she speaks about her joy in learning Sanskrit and a new culture
Six years ago Carina Miorin from Ravensburg, Germany, made a unique academic choice — to study ayurveda in Kerala. It caused consternation among her family and friends but she was convinced about her choice. Today at the completion of her Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS), at the realisation of a dream, she is busy enjoying every bit of her internship at the District Hospital in Kacheripady.
Carina is perhaps the only foreigner to have pursued a course in ayurveda in Kerala. “I believe there were an Iranian, who quit soon after joining, and a Russian who has recently come on an exchange programme to Thiruvananthapuram,” she informs. Carina’s other distinctions are of having completed her course with flying colours, of topping the Sanskrit exam and winning the first prize for a flute rendition in the western music category at the Ayur Youth Festival in Cherthala. “I played a French composition and an Irish melody,” says Carina, disclosing her other love, music.
Relaxing after a day’s work where she “must have seen least 100 cases”, Carina looks back at her singular choice and journey.
Her tryst with India began in 2003 with a sabbatical year of voluntary social service in Varkala and in parts of Tamil Nadu. It brought her, for the first time, in contact with ayurveda. A nagging skin condition that had raged for seven years was healed. She wished to discover this indigenous system of medicine.
Back in Germany she opted for Cultural Anthropology and Indological studies which introduced her to Sanskrit, but found the going tough. She quit and began working on her desire to learn this science of alternative healing. She applied for the course, pursued it with the German Embassy and reached her destination.
“Kerala is easy to an outsider, green and tranquil, but the course was not easy,” says Carina about her graduation from Sree Narayana Institute of Ayurveda Studies and Research in Puthur, Kollam.
Her period of acclimatisation was fraught with loneliness and frustration. There were times when, alone in the hostel, she would be depressed and wondering about her choice.
“But I never cried,” she recalls with a smile and talks about her friend Athira G. from Alappuzha who would tutor her daily, after class, and with whom she spent many Onams. “Socially Westerners are raised differently. We are quite independent and though close to our family we draw support from our friends.”
Here Carina missed hanging out after class with pals, enjoying the odd glass of drink and her music classes. There were boys in her class whom she did not speak to in all the five years!
But she made up for that with a few good friends like Athira. Some of her teachers too have left an indelible mark in her heart, like Unnikrishnan sir. “He never taught from the text book. He made us all think. He was a real inspiration,” she says. Carina would wish for a more flexible pattern of education here and has surprised even herself by studying in a completely foreign environment.
Food was never an issue, nor was homesickness, but learning Sanskrit was. Yet she gave her heart to the subject and discovered the richness of a new language and culture.
“The original texts are written in Sanskrit and it is deep in philosophy. It teaches a way of life,” she says and wonders at the coincidence of her taking Sanskrit classes way back in Germany. “There is a reason for things to happen. Kerala has become a part of me,” she says.
The next big decision that Carina is faced with is about practising ayurveda in Germany. She speaks of a “pharma lobby” that tries to scuttle the practise of alternative medical therapies. She is aware of the problems of providing the efficacy of this Indian system of healing in western life. Practising ayurveda there will require Carina to undertake a course to get a license, besides “importing the medicines”, which, too, would need official permission.
Yet all this does not deter her. If she has come so far, disproving her detractors who jeered at her “mad” choice, she is ready to spread the goodness of a healing system she feels is holistic.