- Khwaja was a brilliant operator, a clean bloodless dissector, cool, calm and collected under the most trying emergencies which often arise in the operating theatre.
- Parekh on the other hand was a very knowledgeable, academic surgeon, famous for his bedside teaching, especially his pre-examination tutorials which attracted students from other units.
During my surgical training I worked under a few gurus who were great motivators and became my mentors and I owe a big debt of gratitude to each one of them.
Recalling them is a study in the diversity of human nature because they were totally different personalities but they had one thing in common: they left indelible imprints on me.
After qualifying as a doctor, I did my mandatory surgical internship on the firm of Mr Khwaja and Mr Parekh at the JJ Hospital attached to the world renowned Grant Medical College (GMC) located in what was then known as Bombay, but now Mumbai.
They both contributed in their own way to put me on the road to becoming a surgeon.
Khwaja was a brilliant operator, a clean bloodless dissector, cool, calm and collected under the most trying emergencies which often arise in the operating theatre.
Parekh on the other hand was a very knowledgeable, academic surgeon, famous for his bedside teaching, especially his pre-examination tutorials which attracted students from other units.
His counterpart in the Obstetric & Gynaecological department was Mr Saraiyya, whose bedside teaching was equally popular.
He was a chain smoker and always smoked cigarettes manufactured in Britain. Since India was fighting for independence from Britain at the time and boycotting British goods, every time Saraiyya lighted a cigarette, his topical refrain was, “Burning British goods!” His revision tutorials also drew a large number of students, due to appear in the final MBBS examination. At the last session his comforting remark was.”Don’t worry; everybody passes the examination – sooner or later!”
His senior on the firm was Miss De Sa, known amongst the students as “Madam.” I can’t leave the topic of GMC without confessing what happened at the final MBBS examination in the subject of obstetrics and gynaecology, in which I was trying to obtain a medal.
The main part of the midwifery examination involved a clinical assessment of a full-term pregnant woman and for the candidate to be asked questions on his findings. The Madam left me to examine the woman and went for her coffee break. One of the instruments to listen to the foetal heart sounds, known as foetoscope is an hour-glass shaped gadget, one end of which is applied to the woman’s gravid abdomen and the other to the examiner’s ear.
It was lying on a stool in the cubicle and I was sure that Miss De-Sa would ask me to demonstrate how to use it. Stressed by examination nerves and the intense desire to win the medal, I just could not remember which end went where. I looked down from the window of the first floor where the examination was held and saw a dustbin invitingly looking at me.
I remembered the saying – Out of sight, out of mind – and quietly dropped the foetoscope in it. When the examiner came, true enough, she looked for the essential gadget and not finding it there remarked. “Well it is not here, so please use your stethoscope and tell me the foetal heart rate.” I quickly complied and did obtain the gold medal but the incident has irked me since and I feel partly relieved now that I have made a clean breast of it!
From Bombay after bagging my MBBS degree, it was an exciting flight on BOAC - British Overseas Airways Corporation - as British Airways was known then - to London. The flight was on a super-constellation and took 24 hours, with fuelling stops in five places, Aden, Damascus, Nicosia, Rome and Dusseldorf, in that order.
In those days when there were no security problems, passengers were allowed to get off at every stop. In England I worked under a few specialists but will touch on three of them, two working in the same hospital for their idiosyncracies, and one, a great teacher at Guy’s Hospital, where I did my final FRCS course.
I worked with Michael Oldfield and Henry Shucksmith, in Dewsbury near Leeds, as their Registrar, a middle grade trainee position. They both were attached to Leeds Infirmary, a teaching Hospital and were visiting surgeons to Dewsbury Hospital. They were like two lions in one jungle and they had to decide which one out of the two was the king. Personality-wise, they were as different as chalk and cheese.