e p i l o g u e
I began this story with Dr. Vijayan’s remark that he had learned the ‘‘true
essence’’ of Ayurveda by treating foreign patients. Now that I have traced
certain moments in the modernization of Ayurveda, this statement is
perhaps no less ironic but more clearly linked to a particular political
logic. Twentieth-century Ayurvedic practitioners redirected their practice
to a nationalist task of healing particular wounds of colonialism and post-
coloniality. In so doing, they sustained a tension between the modern
modes of medical knowledge that are meaningful to a national modernity,
and signs of ‘‘tradition’’ that are meaningful to a notion of Indian culture.
Since the cannon blast that ideologically excluded Ayurveda from a uni-
versal medicine, practitioners have alternately used and ‘‘ab-used,’’ re-
sisted and renegotiated, embraced and wrestled with the construction of
Ayurveda as culture. Upon considering a new job with an Ayurvedic
pharmaceutical company, Dr. Upadhyay commented to me that the com-
pany executives had not yet realized the importance of Ayurveda as a
‘‘concept.’’ By this he meant nothing less than the importance of Ayur-
veda, not just as e√ective medicine, but as cultural and philosophical
At the time of Dr. Upadhyay’s job interview, this pharmaceutical com-
pany was working to expand its markets in Europe and North America.
Increasingly, it is as much the consumerist desires of late capitalism as the
political desires of postcolonial nationality that encourage the develop-
ment of Ayurveda as a cultural product. When I questioned students and
practitioners about the future of Ayurveda, many of them replied that it
depended on Ayurveda’s acceptance by the ‘‘West.’’ In closing, therefore, I
return to my conversations with Dr. Vijayan, who o√ers Ayurveda as both
healing and cultural commodity for new generations of foreigners en-
gaged in medical tourism. For Dr. Vijayan’s patients, the commodifica-
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