August 27, 2002
Indian’s Fast Gives US Food for Thought
by Shyam Parekh
Times News Network
Ahmedabad: When a 64-year-old Gujarati mechanical engineer went without food for 411 days, he provided some food for thought to American scientists.
Kozhikode-based Hira Rata Manek survived only on boiled water and sunlight from January 1, 2000, to February 15, 2001, causing Americans to wonder if they could develop a technique to enable astronauts to go without food for long periods.
Impressed by his logic-defying feat, a team of eight US doctors and scientists, including an opthalmologist, a neurologist, an ayurveda expert, an acupuncture specialist, a yoga researcher and a psychiatrist is now examining him. Eminent neuroscientist George Brainard, whose research on the effects of light on the human pineal gland is funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is also in the team.
Mr. Manek was invited to the US in June under ‘Project HRM’ to study his fasting technique. The team is studying ‘subtle energies’ under ‘Experiments with Solar, Thermal and Hydro Energetics in Human Subjects.’
Currently at Wilmington, Delaware, Mr. Manek has been fasting for more than two months and has established his genuineness, posing a challenge to conventional science and concepts about the limits of human tolerance to hunger.
“US doctors have completed the first part of the three-phase study, thoroughly examining his body with the latest equipment. The second phase of fasting is on,” said city-based neuro-physician Sudhir Shah, who has been appointed advisor and consultant to the US team.
A number of volunteers is helping the US team by undertaking similar fasts under a specially-developed protocol facilitating similar studies in the US and India. A panel of 20 doctors headed by Dr. Shah had monitored Mr. Manek’s fast in Ahmedabad. The panel also included general practitioners Prakash Doshi and P.G. Shah, surgeon K.K. Shah, endocrinologist Navnit Shah and neuro-radiologist Gargeya Sutariya.
They had scanned his body with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) before and after the fast, in addition to a plethora of other tests.
“Perhaps his body is undergoing ‘chronic adaptation’, learning to survive on very few calories as compared to the 1,800 calories a day required for normal persons.”
He said the most amazing part of Mr. Manek’s feat was that he was physically active and carried on all normal activities during his fast. “On the 404th day of the fast, he climbed Palitana hill (to reach a Jain temple). And believe me, he was faster than many who were eating plenty,” he said.