Chapter 3, Pt 1 of 4
INCIDENTS CONNECTED WITH THE SURGERY AND PATIENTS
It was during December when the cold winds and the drizzling rains were becoming more regular and I had been in Laindon for nearly four months, that Sheel’s Senior Partner decided to retire from the Practice altogether. He gave Sheel the first choice to buy the whole Practice. They had been on very good terms for over two years now, Sheel had treated him almost like his own father and for one whole year of his assistantship (with Doctor Gilder) when he lived with him, he never even failed to clean his shoes, along with his own, and these needed some cleaning. They had to be washed every night and dried by stuffing newspaper into them so that they were ready to polish in the morning. No wonder then that the old man wanted no one but Sheel to be his successor.
His terms for the Practice and the house, lenient as they were, Seemed a tremendous undertaking, and Sheel and I realised that we would be under Doctor Gilder’s debt for ten to twelve years (if not longer) to pay off altogether. However, within an amazingly short period of time, the Deeds were signed and on the 1st of January 1933, we moved into “Daisybank” which is a much bigger house, and the centre of our Practice.
Sheel had to start work at quarter to nine: did three surgeries before lunch and two in the evening. In between he had to finish his visits.
His work was strenuous because many of the roads were unmade and he had no alternative but to walk to his patients’ homes. He often thought of keeping a horse for that purpose, but this plan of his never materialised.
Even after his evening surgeries he often had one or two urgent calls to do and it was usually about eleven at night when he finished his day’s work and hoped and prayed that nobody would need him during the night. I only saw him at meal times when he had so much on his mind he hardly spoke a word. At night-time after his supper he fell asleep as soon as he relaxed in his easy chair. There was no time even to play his favourite gramophone records, and I had to be content with the rhythmic sounds of his snoring instead. It was obvious that he was putting all his energies into his work, he was determined to keep his Practice together and to gain the confidence of all his patients.
Though there were no surgeries on Sundays yet Sheel always kept busy during the mornings, attending to cases he could not cope with on the weekdays, and also testing eyes, doing insurance examinations and even tooth extractions. We had no resident dentist in Laindon then and Sheel was quickly getting the reputation for doing painless extractions. We stayed in most Sundays, to attend to the emergency calls.
I realised his position and tried to shoulder my share of work without worrying him. Naturally, my work had also more than doubled. I had a much bigger house to look after, had to clean the three rooms of the surgery every day, to answer most of the telephone and door-bells, and hand over several bottles of pink, yellow, brown and green medicine at the door. Then I had to be very punctual with the meals too. Nothing annoyed Sheel more than unpunctuality. His lunch had to be ready on the stroke of one, and busy as he was, he very seldom came late for that. I made every effort to get things done in time but did not always succeed.
In comparison with English people my movements were very slow. Most of the time I thought about my work instead of getting on with it, and could not cure myself of the bad habit of putting off doing things. It might have been all right if I had really believed in the virtue of being slow and steady, and had confidence in myself that I would surely win the race at my own sweet pace, but I lacked that confidence and wanted to be like the rest of the people around me. Consequently I threw my lot with those hurry-scurry individuals who try to do too many things at once and become flustered and worried in process of doing them.
I have since heard a few of my English friends say to me that they would like to cure themselves of this bad habit of hurrying, which has done them nothing but harm. ” It is only the Eastern people who can teach us to take things calmly,” they said. So there you are, it seems to me that we humans are always seeking new experiences. We are never satisfied.
However, to return to my story. Our coming to Daisybank and Sheel’s unreserved devotion to duty brought us many advantages and pleasures as well as the hard work. Sheel began to get well known, and hardly a week went by when we did not receive a letter of thanks and appreciation from some patient or other.
More money was coming in and although we had heavy commitments, our future seemed bright, and that meant a lot to us. We were always told by our parents to take care of the future. Very cautiously we started spending small sums of money on the improvement of the surgery, on buying a few things for the house and for ourselves.