Five times British parliamentarian winner talks to our magazine about what it was about Ayurveda that made him travel all the way to Kerala. In 2000 he was elected for Labour on the London-wide list to the London Assembly. He was elected to the seat in a by-election held on 22 June 2000. Upon his election Lammy became the Baby of the House. This young MP shares his romance with Ayurveda in Kerala and what it is about Ayurveda that he wants to take home with him.
Tell us about your tryst with Ayurveda?
I have had a very busy year in the UK being member of parliament. I represent Tottenham consistuency of North London which is a very busy and active seat with a lot of social issues. This year there was a general election in the UK were I won my seat for the fifth time. I am also seeking the Labour nomination to be the Labour candidate as the mayor of London. So in short I have had a very busy year and my family had not seen much of me. Hence I have chosen to come on a two-week break to Kerala.
My first experience with Ayurveda, however was in Delhi around 15 years ago. My wife and I got to experience Ayurveda in London too. It was a great feeling and from then we realized how authentic this medical system is.
Tell us more about your Kerala connection?
Back in the UK, I used to work with the UK-Kerala business forum to help promote Kerala business links in the UK. We hold events in the House of Commons in London with the local Kerala business men. Here, I try to promote several issues like that there is no direct air link between London-Heathrow and Kochi. This does not exist at the moment. Kerala was my destination because of a number of recommendations from my friends in The UK who belong to the UK-Kerala Community. I realized through my Kerala friends in the UK that coming to Kerala is an opportunity to relax by the beach and to experience nature very closely.
What/Where did you visit during your trip?
Our first visit in Kerala was at the Uadaya Samudra Beach resort in Kovalam. Then we went to Thekkady to see the elephants and have a ride on them. At Udaya Samudhra, both my wife and I had Shirodhara treatments with medicated milk and massages too. It was a 10 day rejuvenation package and it was quite relaxing. In Kovalam, it was interesting to listen to the rhythm of the fish and wake upto their chantings and songs. Also, we enjoyed the different sea food like, lobster, fish and prawns. At Thekkady, we stayed at the Spice Valley Resort. The ambience here was very good especially for the children who enjoyed the interaction with the animals. Here, they enjoyed the elephant ride and had a good time playing with the monkeys.
Tell us about other places you visited in Kerala?
Apart from Thekkady and Kovalam, we visited Kumarakom were we enjoyed the ride on the house boat. This was another beautiful experience and we enjoyed it thoroughly. Here, we also got to experience the tranquility of nature first-hand. And for a second I believed that this should be one of the wonders of the world.
How do you feel after the treatment at Udaya Samudhra?
The treatment at Udaya Samudhra was awesome. Both my wife and I feel stress-free. We had a good sleep and feel much relaxed.
Does this experience with Ayurveda keeps you wanting to come back every year?
Yes, definitely. We want to come back next Christmas. We would like to bring along my wife’s parents along with us. My wife’s mother has a deep appreciation for India. She had photographed the whole of India through an Indian tourist agent when she was 25. She is now 68 years. So it will be wonderful to come back with her. I have also found this trip culturally very rewarding for my young kids too.
Tell us more about your family?
Let me say that my family originally is from Ghana. This is a country with a large Indian population who left India close to 129 years ago. My maternal grandmother is from Calcutta. So, we have this deep Indian connect.
Could you share your experience about any of your earlier trips to India?
Earlier, I have been to India on three or four occasion generally with work. This is however my first visit to Kerala. And since Kerala is known as the home for authentic Ayurveda , it was a reason for us to visit this place.
Does your experience here trigger you to take this goodness home along with you?
Yes, that’s very interesting because Indians are at the fore front of medicine in the world and Indian doctors are world-renowned. Back in the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) would collapse if not for the Indian doctors. But what I think a lot of people do not appreciate is that the heritage and vocation to medicine is not just something that is arrived at with modern medicine and western concepts of medicine is something that is ancient, historic and old. I think that is probably were Ayurveda needs to step-in. Also, there is a need for a breakthrough moment when the west completely understands the full virtue of what India can offer. There is also an increasing demand for medical tourism in India and Ayurveda should also be put along-side with this. This could allow people to come to India on a combination trip which is very practical because of the expertise and experience India has for Ayurveda as well as for modern medicine.
Also, Indians have the knack to pull off both traditional medicine and modern medicine at the same time unlike the Chinese.
There is a ‘Prince Charles Foundation’ in London promoting alternative medicine. Can you say something about the activities in this foundation?
I hear a lot of activities happening at this foundation. This includes Acupuncture, Reflexology, Herbal medicines and a lot more under one single roof. But the biggest political point that I would like to make is that Ayurveda is cheaper anywhere in the world. It is cheaper for countries and governments to invest in alternative medicine than to pay the huge medical bills of western medicine. And actually, I think Ayurveda can help prevent a lot of ailments if had on a regular basis.
Many years ago, you were the Minister for Health in the UK. Considering this, is there any chance for you to introduce Ayurveda as an alternative medicine in UK?
There has been a push to promote alternative medicine in the UK, but it seems there is some difficulty in funding them, but there is a push to encourage people to take up this issue. Also, we need more Ayurveda practitioners in the UK.
Any suggestions on how to promote Ayurveda globally?
Ayurveda can always be promoted as a cheaper alternative to western medicine considering the soaring costs of western medicine in world all over. It should be understood that pharmaceuticals cost a fortune and technology is driving costs up. Consequently, it should be understood that alternative medicine needs to get a better exposure than what it is getting now. There should also be sharper awareness and reach for alternative medicines like Ayurveda.