Imagine you broke your femur. You go through a horrendously long operation in which doctors place a rod where your femur should be. You’re sent home in enormous pain and are instructed to undergo physiotherapy every day. A young trained physiotherapist appears at your doorstep. While you’re trying to be all bendy with your bionic limb and complaining of the pain, he tells you how this pain is nothing compared to what was experienced by Eklavya when he hacked off his thumb. Or by Ganesha while he was undergoing the universe’s first plastic surgery. While telling you to suck it up, your physiotherapist then decides to ease the pain by reciting verses from the Bhagwad Gita to you while you are wincing.

This is not a scene from my addled brain. This is simply me imagining a time not so far away, when the newest entrants to Bachelor’s programme in physiotherapy graduate from university. You see, thanks to our forward-thinking ministers and their keen eye on the education system in India, physiotherapy students will now have to study Indian epics and religious texts such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagvad Gita and the Narad Bhakti Sutras, which is a collection of religious discourses by the fictional and mythological Narada.

Why? Because the Ayush ministry says so.

This syllabus has been approved and prepared by a panel headed by no less than Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi’s yoga guru H.R. Nagendra. (Why all our prime ministers have deep relationships with their yoga teachers is an article for another day.) The Ayush ministry has approved these suggestions. And the human resource development (HRD) ministry headed by Smriti Irani has decided to show that they can be the string to Nagendra’s Dhanur Asana, and have reportedly requested the University Grants Commission (UGC) to give preference of admission to graduate courses in physiotherapy to those students who are experienced in yoga. The new syllabus which is available on the Ayush ministry website also gets bendy with what qualifies as science and includes ayurveda, naturopathy, unani, siddha and homeopathy.

The yoga committee was set up by the HRD ministry in January following a meeting chaired by Irani. The committee suggested that six courses be introduced at all central universities and a separate Yogic Art and Science faculty be created for it. Now, I must say that I understand the value of practising and understanding the benefits of yoga in a course on physiotherapy. I have practised yoga on and off, and it definitely makes you and your muscles and joints more flexible. It has helped keep my vertigo at bay as well. Various people I know have broken their clavicle, wrist, waist, leg, arm and other bones—and have found certain yoga exercises to be very helpful. So if a physiotherapist learns yoga, it can only help. So good on Nagendra and his merry men and women to come up with this addition to the physiotherapy course. I am hoping that students won’t be forced to chant “Om", but I’m not holding my breath about that.

My question is, how does learning epics and myths and urban legends help in physiotherapy? How does knowing that Rama questioned his wife’s fidelity or that all the Pandavas cohabited with one woman and were happy to share her bed, but didn’t feel it necessary to stand up for her rights when she was disrobed by their enemies, or that if you want a son you simply have to pray to whichever god you fancy help you be a better physiotherapist than someone who hasn’t read these books? And let’s not ignore the fact that these are not ordinary books. It’s not like the Ayush ministry and the HRD ministry have asked UGC to try to expand the literary horizons of the students. Or have balanced out this slew of holy books and religious texts by also including texts by Rabindranath Tagore or Amrita Pritam.

I am also assuming that only Hindus will not be applying to learn physiotherapy. There will be Muslims and Christians. So why is the Bible or Koran not included?

Because simply put, who cares about students from these religions, or about foisting Hinduism on them? What do the sentiments of non-Hindu students matter? Only Hindus have the right of way after all. It’s a subtle culling of the non-Hindu, which is almost impressive in its planning and underhandedness. But I would expect nothing less from our national upholders of all that is right and pure—and therefore, Hindu.

It’s also not like this is still in the planning stage. In May, UGC informed all Central universities in writing that the universities and their affiliated colleges should introduce the new syllabus into their existing physiotherapy courses. It’s amazing how quickly the government ministries move when they want to.

That the inclusion of these texts is discriminatory and frankly insulting to students of other religions is obvious. That the Ayush ministry and the HRD ministry do not realise this or refuse to realise this is the worrying part. That we must now prepare ourselves to be taught how to bend it like Nagendra and Narendra, while hearing the Gayatri Mantra recited to us, is doubly worrying.

If religious indoctrination one student and patient at a time is what the Ayush ministry and HRD ministry are aiming for, and want to convince us that from Mumbai to Bengaluru all Hindus know the score, I have a suggestion. Since we can’t beat the system, wouldn’t it be more fun for all of us—including the students—if physiotherapy is practised while this song is played in the background?

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