Dr.Ramesh R. Varier speaks about the art of balanced living
Stepping into this 15-acre campus complete with manicured lawns and flower beds, fountains and foliage, stone pathways and tiled walkways, Kerala-style cottages, marble foyers, swank rooms with flat screen televisions and lushly upholstered sofas, and fine dining with organic food, you may wonder whether this is a hospital or a luxury hotel.
The man behind it likes to call it the “Ayurveda Village”, where you are assured of a health overhaul. “You will be pampered and nourished here,” says Dr. Ramesh R. Varier, Managing Director of the AVN Arogya Healthcare Ltd. “Our oils, medicines and therapies are designed to boost your energy, drive away your fatigue, stress and ailment, detox your body, improve your concentration. You will step out completely recharged and rejuvenated.”
Dr. Ramesh would like to take his Ayurveda Village on the outskirts of Madurai to new heights, along with the state-of-the-art unit he has established to manufacture and market over 200 classical medicines and 20 proprietary formulations for specific ailments.
The conversation with Dr. Ramesh automatically veers around Vata, Pitta, Kapha and the way the human body functions in direct sync with nature. “But ayurveda needs to move beyond its stereotyping,” he says. “It is heavy on testimonials and light on statistics. It should be in the spotlight.”
It was his idea to bring the herb forest into the research lab and establish a modern manufacturing unit, and also package and market the products attractively. “Earlier nobody took this as serious science. There was no scientific way followed, no logic applied. Even my father would come up with the most precise formulations that would cure his patients but he could never explain how and why it worked. Realising Ayurveda’s strengths and limitations, I dug deep to integrate modern scientific principles with traditional ayurvedic concepts,” he says.
His maternal grandfather was Dr. N. Rama Varier and his father, Dr. P.V. Raghava Varier, was a direct disciple of vaidyaratnam P.S. Varier, the founder of the Kottakal Arya Vaidya Sala, more than a century ago. While his forefathers successfully brought ayurveda into clinical practice in the early 20th century and also spearheaded the formulation and development of many disease-specific special Ayurvedic medicines, Dr. Ramesh wants to create awareness about the need for a paradigm shift in health-based medical systems.
“I am a doctor first, a pure academician and also a bit of a businessman,” he says. He headed a team that successfully converted traditional Ayurvedic liquid kashayams into tablets. Today, AVN products sell across Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Odisha and are also exported to Germany, Malaysia, Australia and the USA.
“The focus is now on patient empowerment,” asserts Dr.Ramesh. Since it is easier to swallow a pill rather than to measure out the concentrated kashayam and dilute it with water for every dose, he explains, the availability of ayurvedic tablets has turned around the industry.
Since no system of medicine today can limit itself to just treating diseases, Dr. Ramesh advocates a closely integrated approach using holistic and compassion-based health coaching, yoga and meditation, besides the knowledge to combat chronic and other diseases, to become a balanced, vital and happy person.
Tailored health plans
After taking over from his father in1986, Dr. Ramesh created new wellness modules based on teaching patients the principles of health and personal transformation. “Examining patients in OP, I increasingly came across people lacking in time to make health changes in their life until they are struck by something devastating. There is a symbiotic relationship between the diseased physical body and the imbalances of the mind and the treatment is all about reconnecting the two healthily. The most important benefit of Ayurveda is to relearn how to love yourself, by listening to your body and nurturing the awareness through diet and lifestyle.”
The AVN Swasthya village was his brainchild. “I conceptualized this as a spot where the ancient Indian sciences, ayurveda and yoga would be practised without any compromise,” he says. “Based on the diagnosis, we design patient-specific comprehensive health therapies using our indigenously produced medicines and oils. Massage, lifestyle and diet recommendations, panchakarma detoxifying and cleansing treatments, yoga and breathing techniques, beauty and fitness programmes are used to treat people for specific and chronic ailments. Various packages like anti-ageing, women and senior citizen’s health, convalescence that help people to relax in exuberant beauty of modern and traditional amenities and architecture are also offered.”
Dr. Ramesh is a super orator and you can see him use his gift of the gab to convince patients and practitioners of other medicines to create what he calls “hybrid services”. Name a disease and he instantly recites in chaste Sanskrit the symptoms, the process of treatment, the recipe of preparations and how it has to be applied. “Every chapter in ‘Ashtanga Hrudayan’ that codifies the content of Charaka and Susruta has more than one lakh shlokas. It is this science and philosophy of ayurveda and its depth that fascinates me.”
The first centre in Madurai was started by Dr. Ramesh’s grandfather in 1920. Those days mostly villagers came to the clinic and when Dr. Ramesh took over, he saw 20 patients on an average day. Today, with three centres in the Temple City and one each in Bangalore, Mumbai, Kochi and Chennai, the profile of patients has changed from rural to urban and educated, and the outpatients number 150 a day.
His own stress-busters are Stephen Covey’s writings, badminton and tennis, mrudangam and kanjira, Carnatic music and the songs of Jesudas and Unnikrishnan. He worries about seeing more people stressed out these days because of lack of motivation and not being heard.
“Ayurvedic healing is about self-awareness and then taking action to heal,” says Dr.Ramesh. “I talk for hours with my patients to bring them out and make them understand real self-empowerment.” That self-empowerment, he believes, begins with every individual taking an active role in nurturing and nourishing a healthy lifestyle.