The strong smell of eucalyptus envelopes you even before you reach Karkhana Zinda Tilismath, where the iconic ‘har marz ki dawa’, or cure-all, has been made since 1920. It is a magical potion as the name suggests and Zinda Tilismath in Urdu literally means ‘living magic’, which can be consumed internally and applied externally to treat all kinds of ailments.
This tiny bottle with its dark liquid has only five ingredients — eucalyptus, which is the main ingredient at 70 per cent, and camphor, menthol, thymol and ratanjyoth (a bark of a tree, which lends the colour to this medication).
Before this product was launched formally as Zinda Tilismath by Mohammed Hakim Moizuddin Farooqui in 1920, he was running a clinic at Moti Market (though the market exists, the clinic is no more there) in the 1880s, where he would treat people for minor ailments such as cough and cold using the Unani tradition.
The then Nizam was impressed with the word-of-mouth review of this product and allowed Hakimji to use the Nizam’s cap (dastar), in the shape of seven kulchas one atop the other, as the registered trade mark when Farooqui launched the company in 1920.
Many companies used this as a trademark in those days to show their loyalty to the head of state. It was then that this magical liquid was commercially launched as Zinda Tilismath. The Nizam’s dastar still has its place on the package.
Even in those days a lot of planning went into getting a logo and the colour of the packaging. The bright orange has not changed for 98 years and neither has the logo of the strong African male armed with a bow and arrow.
“There were no advertising agencies then and my grandfather did not want to use an European nor any women to publicise his product,” says Saad Farooqui, the third generation working at the factory. “Those days the Siddis were the epitome of health and acting as personal bodyguards both for the Nizam and his family members. They were the symbol of trust, protection and good health,” says Saad.
These Siddhis were of Ethiopian East African origin and part of the Wanaparthy army who later joined the Nizam’s forces. So it was that the epitome of health and trust came to stay as the logo for this orange box.
Hakim Saab was born in Gulbarga, but his family was from Aurangabad which was then part of the Hyderabad state.
There are those who will swear by this medicine, from a youngster to a senior citizen for this liquid is a quick fix for issues like cold, cough, headache, stomach pain and many others.
It has now been confirmed by a laboratory at Pune that Zinda Tilismath is effective as a preventive for swine flu. “It has a symptomatic cure and acts as a preventive,” says Saad. The company sent hampers to Uttarakhand and Kashmir when they had floods, while every batch of Haj pilgrims also gets a free hamper.
“The reason for our survival is the strong belief that many people have in this tiny bottle. In fact, I used it when my daughter had a congested chest. As our domestic help said, ‘jaadoo ke jaisa chale gaya’,” he says.
This liquid medicine is unusual in that it can be used externally and taken internally, by adding a few drops (depending on the ailment), to a cup of milk or other drinks There are huge boards in the compound of the factory, which explain the uses of each ingredient which goes into the making of Zinda Tilismath, with a board showing the dosage that should be taken and in what manner.
“We bring school students to show around the factory and display the benefits of herbal medicine,” says Saad adding that pharmacy students come to conduct their studies at the factory.
There was not too much of advertising those days and Hakim Saab was his own marketing person. He would travel into the rural parts of Hyderabad state by train and carry a board with him made of cast iron which announced the products he was carrying. These boards have become collector’s items and have been bought by people living in the US through e-Bay.
Farooky toothpowder is synonymous with Zinda Tilismath and those who swear by one swear by the other. This toothpowder has 16 ingredients, including the five of Zinda Tilismath. It also has black cardamom, cinnamon, black salt and several products which are exhibited for the people to see.
Black dust envelopes the factory as this toothpowder is manually packed into cylindrical boxes of various sizes. This also has an attractive orange-red colour label with a shark for a logo. “Because the shark has strong, sharp and shiny teeth,” says Saad.
Though Kharkhana Zinda Tilismath had huge tracts of land, the family was large and the land got distributed. While the Zinda Tilismath factory retains the old building with its sunburst design, the factory name written in a beautiful green, the toothpowder is made behind in a small factory. It still has the old grinding machine, which is not being used now but is kept there.
With the younger generation getting into the business, there is a little diversification. The company has entered the throat lozenges market with Zint, as the product is called.
This year they launched delicious little mouth fresheners called Zint Kala Khatta Churan and Zint Mango Churan. Though it is called churan, it is in tablet form.
Apparently Zinda Tilismath has a toothpaste in the pipeline. According to Saad it would have the combination of the same 16 products used in the toothpowder. Zinda Tilismath also has a pain balm.
Hakim Saab was a great believer of Unani medicine and wanted that the locals work at the factory. While Zinda Tilismath was mostly made manually, these days there are machines to fill the bottles and label them. The toothpowder is stilled filled manually. The company has 69 employees and of these many have been with the factory for a long time.
Mohammed Hakim Moizuddin had 12 children and all of them were managing partners of the firm as per the Muslim personal law. Now the third generation of the family is taking the company towards newer products while keeping traditions alive.
While none of the ingredients have changed, the prices have increased three-fold. With herbal products coming back into fashion, it is a bit of a challenge for this ancient but small company. With a loyal customer base in the rural hinterland, the company has been sensitive about the pricing and has not increased it by much keeping in mind its captive market.