Planet Earth to Evanston: “We’re back.”
Yes, the store at 1129 Emerson St. with the greeting “Enlightenment…it happens here!” inscribed on the door, which has been closed much of the last three years, has reopened for business – at least for now.
A 2014 Yelp reviewer alluded to the mystery: “I’ve…called and stopped by at least a dozen times and finally gave up. It’s too bad, because from what I can see the store looks fabulous!”
It turns out the “metaphysical bookstore with gift items,” as owner Yousuf Bagban describes it, was shuttered while he traveled around the country ministering to wealthy clients. “It paid the bills,” he said.
When asked why he didn’t hire someone to run the store in his absence, he explained most clients came to see him exclusively.
In any case, tiring of the weekly plane trips and life on the road, he has returned to run the store, which sells self-help and spiritual books, CDs and tapes, as well as jewelry, gems, oils, herbs, vitamins, incense, candles, greeting cards, statues, artwork, and more. Mr. Bagban’s parents took over the store in 1995 (it was previously known as Isis Rising), after practicing the healing arts in Pune, India. Mr. Bagban’s grandparents and his father’s sister were also healers.
Mr. Bagban said he inherited the family gift “by osmosis…As a child in India I watched my family practice the healing arts. My grandparents would dig up leaves to make potions for people. They’d say, ‘Take this,’ and it worked. I thought everyone did this. Almost my first memory was helping my mother with hands-on healing. She could read in my charts that I had the gift. And I could see auras, colors surrounding people, like a cloud.”
Nevertheless, he said, his upbringing was very eclectic. “I am Muslim by birth, I went to Catholic school, I read the Torah, the Bible, the Quran, and the Gita. All religions say basically the same thing: love thy neighbor.”
Despite the family legacy, Mr. Bagban says he wasn’t always interested in healing. “I loved science, and I told my parents this [healing] is not my path.” Instead, he went to University of Pune, and he became an assistant professor of computer science at age 19 and at 20 opened his own business, the Indian Institute of Computer Studies. He has degrees in computer engineering and marketing. “But my father predicted I would return to the healing arts. He said, ‘We know what’s going to happen.’”
Sure enough, he eventually came to Chicago from Pune and worked at his parents’ side. His mother died in 2001 and his father in 2005, after which he became the store’s sole proprietor. He estimates he has worked with more than 5,000 clients over the past 20 years.
He practices many healing traditions, such as Unani, Reiki, and Ayurvedic, which he describes as “the ancient Indian holistic approach to healing the mind, body and soul.” His methods include healings, consultations, astrological charts and palm readings, and massages. He employs or recommends a variety of energy techniques and uses oils, vitamins, and diets. He focuses on opening up energy centers – a person’s chakra. And he will even, at times, dispense common-sense advice.
A recent visitor to the store, Jawad Ahsan, a cab driver from Des Plaines, has been undergoing healing exercises with Mr. Bagban to remedy back and leg problems. “I went to six different doctors, and they prescribed painkillers. Nothing worked, it only got worse. I could hardly walk.” Mr. Ahsan said. “When I came here Yousuf told me, ‘You’re going to be fine. Just give me two weeks.’ Three days later I was pain-free.”
Mr. Bagban says they worked on stretching exercises and he altered Mr. Ahsan’s diet.
Another frequent visitor is Mark Allegretti, owner of Allegretti Rug Masters in Evanston, who has been seeing Mr. Bagban for three decades. “He provides whatever I need: massages, readings, healing with stones. Is it effective? I wouldn’t have been coming back for 30 years if it weren’t.”
Mr. Bagban does not profess to be a healer, and he tells his clients up front that he is not a doctor and has had no formal training in western medicine. “A healer has the connotation of ‘faith healer.’ I don’t fall into that. I just utilize common remedies to help people feel better.”
For now, he plans to be at the store – most of the time. But he may continue to travel and the store may not always be open. He advises customers to call ahead at 847-570-0055 or email email@example.com to make sure he will be there.
Unless they can read the stars: then they’ll know.