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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 14, november 1-15, 2009
Our Readers Write

Doctors of Old Madras

We always looked forward to the visit to Mambalam and would pile into the old convertible Ford or the late 1949 Nash (left hand drive – and with Airconditioner and Radio!) when my mother Mrs. Sushila Indersen would go for her eye test to Dr. Durai Swamy’s Clinic. It was an outing which allowed us to watch the local electric trains go swiftly past to either Beach station or Tambaram. It was an outing which took a long time. There were long benches on the Doctor’s verandah where patients waited for 20 minutes or so, after drops were put, to have their eyes tested. Many mango trees and other trees gave shade to the huge compound where we would play cricket.

Dr. Srinivasan, another eye surgeon, was in Triplicane near the Parathasarathy Temple. Here, examining the wares of the pavement vendors was a good way to pass time.

Dr. Rangachari’s Nursing Home (opposite Swagath Hotel, Royapettah) – now the Provident Fund Office – was haunted by us as it had a very large garden where we played cricket with a tennis – or, occasionally, a hard ball.

Dr. Lakshmanaswami Mudaliar’s Nursing Home (opposite Nehru Park) was where Mother underwent an operation or two. While she was there, we would go to nearby Hotel Dasaprakash to eat butter masala dosas.

Saroja Nursing Home, mainly for women, was next to the Monahan Girls’ School on Peter’s Road, next to the Royapettah YMCA. The charm of sneaking into Royapettah YMCA and play cricket was an attraction.

Other popular Nursing homes of repute were Dr. Rama Rau’s on Poonamallee High Road, the Dr. Pandalai Hospital on the same road, Dr. Krishna Rao’s at Thambu Chetty Street, Dr. Sridhar Ram, the dermatologist in Vepery, next to the YMCA, and Dr. V.T. Chari in T. Nagar near Rajkumari Theatre.

A foreign dentist, Dr. Freeman, practised in Bharat Insurance Building, opposite Higginbotham’s Book. He had a clinic in Kodaikanal during April and May. Next to Buhari Hotel was Dr. B.N.R. Rao, another dentist. At Khaleel Mansion (now Agurchand Mansion) was Dr. Chopra, yet another dentist.

For X-rays, it was Dr. Duraiswamy’s on Edward Elliot’s Road. He was the only doctor who had a Cobalt plant for treatment. Further down the road was Kalyani Hospital.

How we knew on our fingertips the names and locations of those doctors! A few of these exist, most don’t. I am sure readers will remember many more doctors from the past who rendered yeoman service.

Bharat Hiteshi
L-404, “The Atrium”,
Old No.22, Old No. 49,
Kalakshetra Road,
Chennai 600 041

Not certified!

Not only has the family doctor vanished (MM, October 1st) but today you have to run from pillar to post to get a doctor to come home and certify the death of a person. We struggled for six hours to get a doctor for the certification of my father-in-law’s death. Government and the Medical Council should make it a law that no doctor should refuse to go to a house to certify the death of a person. As such a certification is a necessity at cremation sites, doctors should not be allowed to refuse to come and issue the certificate.

S.R. Rajagopal
7/12, Peters Colony,
Chennai 600 014

Home visit scheme

The reference to family doctors (MM, October 1st) was thought-provoking. For want of a GP, my family and I go to Salem once in two months to see our family doctor who knows our history. But how many can do that on a regular basis?

Today, whether it is a simple cold/fever or TB we have to go to an MD who charges Rs. 200 to Rs. 300 every time we visit. We do not know where to go for a simple blood pressure check.

There is definitely a void in this area and I think NGOs can step into this gap and revive the Family Physician concept. Some corporates could support this cause.

The worst affected are the elders. Perhaps health insurance companies can think laterally and come out with a Homecare/Home visit scheme.

Y. Dandapani
2, Chandrabagh Avenue,
Chennai 600 004

T’Nagar GPs

Old T’Nagarites would remember three doctors, who served in the 1950s and 60s with distinction as GPs in the area (MM, October 1st). Most importantly, they were private practitioners and their fees were nominal.

Dr. A.S. Ramachandran would be always clad in an obviously self-washed, hand­loom dhoti, half shirt and a towel, and would be sitting in a small room in his house with a wooden stool in front for his patient.

On the verandah outside there used to be a wooden bench or two on which sat the patients with their escorts, if any. However sick they were, they would sit in a row in disciplined fashion. And befitting the place of visit, they would keep quiet too.

Dr. ASR had no assistant to help him usher in the patients; you went in once you saw your predecessor come out.

Once inside, you did not have to narrate your illness. Dr. ASR would examine you with the three classically mandatory diagnostic tests of feeling the pulse, looking into the eyes and at the tongue, and gently patting on his left hand that covered your chest. He might thereafter start a soft, brief conversation with the patient. Might, I said. Often he would listen to you in studied silence. Then a prescription would be scribbled for the medicines to be bought in a pharmacy of your choice and the regimen to be followed. It work take only five minutes for an ordinary ailment. You went home and got cured in exactly the time the dosage and the regimen were prescribe for. The consultation fee was just Rs. 2. The ASR consulting room was in one of the streets on the eastern side of South Usman Road.

Then there were the duo in the Lakshmi Clinic: Dr. Rangachari and Dr. Srinivasan. It was an outpatient hospice on South Usman Road with a compounder and a pharmacy for immediate service. Here again you got very personal attention. One would be on duty, if the other was on routine or emergency family visits. The consultation would invariably start with an affectionate kuchalaprasnam, how-are-the-others kind of thing. The fees including the multicoloured mixtures were nominal. The compounding was meticulous. One’s curative success rate was as phenomenal as the other’s.

You might wonder if my family had the luxury of two GPs. Yes and no, because it wasn’t a luxury in the financial sense but the luxury of personal and affectionate medical attention was there in abundance. And that is what a person looks for in a physician.

It is a sad story that we no longer have such GPs and it is sadder still to know that the species is becoming extinct.

V. Thiruvengadam
28, Phase 2,
Heritage Vijayendra Nagar,
Chennai 600 096

Doctor in the house

MMM’s lament (MM, October 1st) about the extinction of the specie of general practitioner (GP) aka “family doctor” in Madras/Chennai brought to my mind two absolutely divine doctors of the type mentioned.

The first was a Dr. Ramasamy who was the resident-physician at surgeon Dr. U. Mohan Rau’s Surgical Nursing Home on Poonamallee High Road. Dr. Ramasamy doubled as family doctor to some VIPs (very important patients), one of them being movie star Sivaji Ganesan. Once, when Sivaji’s mother’s condition was alarming, Dr. Ramasamy dashed at one or two in the morning to Sahib Singh’s on Mount Road for some drug and saved her. Sivaji presented Dr. Ramasamy with a Standard Super Ten by way of fees!

The second doctor was eminent physician Dr. Al. Anamalai’s assistant Dr. S. Shreekumar. Dr. Shreekumar, a bachelor, was a FRCP in general medicine and was often deputed by Dr. ALA to the houses of the rich and famous as in-house doctor. One such patient in 1969 was the then (also the present) Chief Minister who was having a mild touch of flu.

Like Project Tiger, the Government should revive the GP through a Project Sawbones. Otherwise we will have to sell our property to meet costs of medical treatment.

C.G. Prasad
9, C.S. Mudali Street,
Chennai 600 07

A 1945 shock

Believe it or not, on January 1, 1945, my morning news­paper’s front page headline read:

Rajagopalachari and Gandhy Knighted.

Are you as shocked as I was? But when I read further I discovered the recipients were S.P. Rajagopalachari, Dewan of Gwalior, and Jehangir Gandhy, a Tata associate.

S. Srinivasan
12 (F-1), Ananda Road,
Chennai 600 018

The right ways

Customarily, the broader end of a plantain leaf is to the right of the diner and not as shown in the illustration for a-MUSING (MM, October 16th).

* * *

With reference to the letter from K. P. Mahalingam in the same issue about removing staples from stationery, what many users of staplers have not fastened onto is that at the non-business end of the machine itself there is a projection with which you could take off staples quite easily.

C. G. Rishikesh
A5, Madhurima,
20-21, Conran Smith Road,
Chennai 600 086

Three generations

My father was Lala Inder Sain Chandhok, one of the leaders of the Punjabi community when it settled in Madras (MM, October 1st).

Our family has been very active not only in the field of education but also in motorsports. My grandson Karun Chandhok is a third generation Chandhok to take part in races.

Indu Chandhok


In this issue

Minjur desalination plant...
Can Town Hall be...
Tribute to Devadasi...
The Gandhian way...
Historic Residences...
Other stories

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


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