Chapter  5, Pt 3 of 4


I often came home and laughed over that last remark. Did a doctor’s wife get better and quicker attention than the other patients? I think not. For one thing you had no suitable time to tell him about your troubles. In the morning he was always in a hurry to get ready, have a quick breakfast, and start in his surgery.

He was never in a mood to talk or listen to anything at that time. The lunch hour (sometimes it was hardly half an hour) came and went quickly: he probably had to answer a couple of telephone calls while he ate his food. You could not tell him anything about yourself then. You waited until teatime, when he came home later than usual and wanted his cup of tea left on the desk in the surgery.

He got through surgery at about 9.30 p.m. and even then his work was not always finished. You had supper together and afterwards when he was sitting down in his easy chair and starting to look through “The Times,” you plucked up courage and told him about your ailment. He did not hear you at first. He thought he had finished with illnesses. You repeated it and then he woke up to the fact, and seemed rather concerned. But you knew he was too tired to bother about anything. It was a shame to worry him and make him get up and mix something for you. So you told him you would take a couple of Aspros later on and hope for the best. And this is how it went on. But of course if you were really ill and helpless, then it was a different matter. Something had to be done quickly.

Miss Butcher told me that a doctor’s wife, an acquaintance of hers, got so tired of her husband’s indifference about her ailment that she actually embarrassed him by going through the waiting-room to get proper attention!

Of course, Sheel was doing two doctors’ work at that time and that is why he never had a moment to spare. He used to get thoroughly exhausted mentally and physically at the end of the day. I was greatly relieved when he eventually decided to put an advertisement in the“British Medical Journal” for an assistant.

The first doctor who came to us in that capacity was Doctor Banarji. He was slightly built, very agile and full of humour. He would often relate to us some of the funniest remarks he had heard from patients from time to time. “Oh, doctor, I am aching all over. Doctor, my dog has eaten my chicken and I want a bottle of medicine.”

Doctor Banarji had a hobby of stamp collecting. He would often sit (usually squatted on the rug) in his room, sorting out these precious bits of paper until past midnight. He smoked one cigarette after another at the same time, and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his recreation.

Though comparatively young, he was an able and very sympathetic doctor, and the patients thought a great deal of him. As a matter of fact, one young lady whose father he had been attending for a month or so nearly created a problem for him. She wrote a letter to Sheel (my husband) telling him that Doctor Banarji was the kindest and the best person she had ever met and she was sure that she really loved him and not her fiancé to whom she was to be married in a month’s time. Now under the circumstances she did not think it was fair to go through with the ceremony. “Please do not think that Doctor Banarji has given me any encouragement because he has not. He has behaved like a perfect gentleman.” Sheel showed me the letter and afterwards wrote and asked the young lady to have tea with us on Wednesday when he knew Doctor Banarji would be in London.

She came, we had tea and then I left them alone to discuss this delicate matter. Sheel evidently put her mind at rest by pointing out to her that one could love and admire people in different ways: that her feelings for Doctor Banarji were nothing more than she would have for an affectionate brother. He told her definitely to go ahead with her marriage as planned, and not to get confused over these sentiments.

When I saw her off at the door she seemed much relieved and thanked me no end. Not long after that, two neatly done-up parcels were delivered to us by hand. One was addressed to Doctor Banarji and the other to us. They were small tokens of appreciation from the newly married young lady and her husband.

Sheel had two more assistants after Doctor Banarji left for Calcutta, but they only stayed with us for short periods. Then we had Doctor Naqvi, an Indian Muslim, who had come to England to get a Diploma in Public Health, but to support himself he had to do assistantships. Before coming to us he was employed by a doctor in Wales, who paid him £4 a week all found. He had to pay for his own laundry and often had to spend money on food as well, because the housekeeper, who was supposed to cook his meals, seldom gave him enough to eat. His last meal was served at 6.30 p.m. and he got nothing more after that.

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