For more than a decade, Dr G.M. Phadke, Dr A.V. Baliga and Dr Shantilal Mehta dominated the surgical field in Bombay. I was personally associatedwith these surgeons as their anaesthetist and witnessed some of their memorable surgical work. (Read about Dr.Phadke here)


And now I want to say a word about Dr R.V. Sanzgiri.

Dr Sanzgiri, along with Dr Coelho, is rightly considered the father of Paediatrics (child specialist) not only in Bombay but perhaps in India. The present generation of Paediatricians are all his students. Famous doctors like S.M. Merchant and Udani will attest to this. Dr Sanzgiri was one of the senior most consultants attached to the Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children at Parel. He was an institution by himself. He was instrumental in inducting so many brilliant students to take up Paediatrics as speciality. This was a new specialised branch then and only later did it have a full fledged Faculty

As a student I was attending a paediatric term under Dr Sanzgiri in Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children. A child in a rather serious condition was being examined and Dr Sanzgiri asked me to write down on a piece of paper all the medicines that were to be given. I made a note of them and as we were leaving the ward I saw the child's father and handed over the note to him. He was a poor man and did not even wear chappals. The banian he wore was torn and poverty was written all over his face. He was looking at us as if we were his last hope.

I had just handed over the prescription when Dr Sanzgiri noticed it and snatched it away from him. And then he turned to me and said: "What do you think you are doing? You think you have done your job by asking him to buy all those drugs for his child? The moment we are gone he will tear the note into pieces because he has no money to buy the drugs and he will feel all the more miserable. That is all that we would have achieved by examining his child!"

He then took out a hundred rupee note from his purse and told me to accompany the man to the chemist's shop just opposite the hospital and buy the prescribed medicines. He then instructed his House Physician to start the treatment immediately and to see that there was no break in the continuity of the treatment for want of funds. The House Surgeon could always draw on him. Then he turned to me and said: "Our duty is not ended with examining a patient and prescribing treatment. It is our moral duty and obligation to see that the treatment is carried out, even if outside help is called for", I ask how many medical practitioners have even given thought to this aspect of medical treatment and relier?

Then here is another incident

The year was 1956 or 1957. I was staying in a one-room tenement in Girgaum, Occupying an adjoining room was one Mr Kumta (fictitious name). He was working in a textile mill and had lost his job. He could not afford to pay the rent and had to shift to Chembur to stay with a relative.

One morning I got a telephone call from Mr Kumta that his 3-year old son was seriously ill. He was having fever and convulsions. I told him to contact me again in the evening so that I could arrange something. I contacted Dr Sanzgiri. He heard out the medical story, and then he asked. "Who is the general practitioner treating the child?" I said: "Sir, Mr Kumta is too poor to take his child to a doctor". "In that case" Dr Sanzgiri replied, " I am sorry I will not be able to see the patient. You know I do not see a patient unless he is referred to me by a general practitioner".

I was taken a back and said: "Sir, in that case please treat me as his general practitioner".

Dr Sanzgiri replied: "I am sorry, you can't be his general practitioner. You are an Anaesthetic Consultant" and he put the phone down.

At that point I was, to be honest, a little more than annoyed. I left for my work hoping that by evening I would be able to do something for Mr Kumta's child. I had hardly returned home from my work about 5.00 p.m. when the phone rang. It was Dr Sanzgiri. "Bhojraj, how's your patient?” "Which patient, Sir?” "Mr Kumta's child!” I said: "Sir, I do not know. I have just returned home and I will contact Mr Kumta and find


"Oh, there is no need for that" came Dr Sanzgiri's voice, "I have already had the child admitted to the Wadia Children's Hospital and he is under my care and is being treated!”

He continued "You know, Bhojraj, after telling me about Kumta's child, you thought you had done your duty by your friend. You forgot all about it and went about your work. I could not rest. I had no general practitioner I could call to direct him to bring the child to the hospital or to direct a line of treatment and to let me know the child's progress from hour to hour. That is why I do not see a patient without a general practitioner. Obviously you could not be his G.P. because even as of now you had no idea what had happened to the child. After receiving your call I therefore went in search of the child at Chembur. The child was seriously ill and I had to transport him myself to the hospital. Never mind now. The patient is being well looked after".

I was overwhelmed with shame. That was my teacher. That was Dr Sanzgiri.


Compilation of professional reminiscences of specialists - edited by M.V.Kamath and Dr.Rekha Karmarkar