When I received a mail telling me John Fielder was a “raw foodist” and had shied away from any form of medication for about 50 years, I was amused. But after meeting him, his conviction that has led him to debunk and subvert concepts of medical science, his air of complete contentment and his sense of inner bliss had me envying his self-belief.

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I met him at Earthcare Bookstore, 10, Middleton Street – a venue with an intimate, informal charm of its own – whose owner, Vinita Mansata, hasn’t, incidentally, taken any medicine for about 30 years. “I simply fasted for five days when I had malaria,” she told me. Getting Fielder to come down to Kolkata was her initiative to make people aware of an “alternative to medicine”, and not “an alternative medicine”.

With his floral- printed shirts and sand-coloured trousers, Fielder’s alliance with nature is rather stark. “How and when did you finally decide to change your lifestyle?” I blurt out.

He places himself in an armchair and takes me on a journey. As a child, he remembers being more at home than at school — he suffered from bronchitis. The medication given him, he believes, only gave him asthma. “I could feel that under medical control I got worse,” he said. He developed arthritis and migraine. “I suffered a gradual degeneration for 28 years of my life,” he laments. A tour guide by profession, his job required him to travel across Australia and it would be constant struggle to keep himself in good health. “In medicine bottles it’s written ‘poison’, so why do we consume the stuff? Basically you’re given poison to cure an illness. That sounds irrational,” he said.

He credited Martin Pretorius with his turnaround, lauding his directions to people on how to heal naturally. Pretorius had been invited to Australia to give a series of lectures that Fielder attended. “ So you were enthused to follow his directions?” I asked.

“I was inspired because I could see his methods were working,” he corrected me. There was a “prolonged” trial and error period for him – even though he had asthma attacks he refused to take medicines.

“It must have required immense self-control to suppress the urge,” I said.

“It was painful,” he replied. “You’ve got to suffer the pain. But you have to accept pain as a part of feeling.” So he reinvented himself, dislodged his previous knowledge and belief in medical science and became a raw food eater, giving up any form of the cooked variety. “I am not a vegan and I prefer being called a raw foodist,” he said. The process of natural healing, according to him, entails imbibing nature within oneself. Eating whatever nature provides, not cooking, boiling or sautéing it. Listen to the body when it does not want to eat, was the message. The process to a fever was simply to fast.

Was it so simple? “Well you have to believe, there’s that,” he smirked. He had an accident after which his body was infected with arsenic, so fasted for some days and then ate only grapes for 13 weeks, and then pears for four weeks. Gradually his body healed. “I did not take any painkillers. Depression is caused by such poisons,” he explained. Not long after that his jaw was infected and almost turned cancerous but “I put into practice everything I knew. It took seven years, but it healed. I believed it would heal”.

The body, he’d have you know, is an intelligent “being” with a natural process of healing even as medical science has made us accustomed to certain notions. Fielder lives on a 300-acre farm 35 km from the main city of Queensland. And its a sanctuary; he tends to it, manages it and grows his own food. He gets up at 5 am, spends an hour or two on the Internet and then gets down tom farm work. “Working in the fresh air, that’s my exercise, I don’t use sun block or a hat.” He then bathes in a river but uses sand instead of soap. His lunch includes: fruits in season, nuts, seeds and dry fruits. In the afternoon he attends to sick people who seek his help. For evening meals, he prefers salads, vegetables with avocados and no salt or sugar. “I do not eat breakfast.”

So was it possible for people living in congested, polluted metropolitans to heal naturally without medical supervision? “It’s possible to heal if you can change your lifestyle. The city would limit you, but it’s for you to shape your life. You have to really want it.”

He’s often asked about the treatment he provides and he explained that “I do not treat. I teach. There is no general process. A person’s body is constructed biologically distinct from another’s. Every person has an individualised process of healing. I cannot ask one person to fast when his system is not ready. You have to wait out a fever, lie in bed and rest and fast to allow the body to get rid of the toxins”.

According to Fielder, one of the easiest diseases to reverse is diabetes. Diabetics are strictly advised to not have anything sweet but he disagrees. “In the beginning they may eat less sweets and more vegetables, but after a certain period of time when their beta cells again start producing insulin, they can eat fruits.”