Published on July 1, 2021

Doctor’s Day

Ahmedabad: Do you remember going to your ‘family doctor’ and being fascinated by the rows of clear bottles, containing tablets of myriad colours at the dispensary? The doctor would write a prescription and you would wonder how he knew which medicine was which. Today, even as consulting physicians with MD degrees are present in all corners of the city, hundreds still visit these small clinics that has the bare minimum furniture: a table, a couple of chairs, and an examination table hidden behind a white curtain. These health facilities are run by MBBS doctors who braved all hardships during the pandemic to serve people in some of the most underprivileged neighbourhoods.

Dr Jaswantsinh Darbar, a GP from Maninagar and former president of Ahmedabad Medical Association (AMA), said that there might be about 250-odd GPs above 55 years still practicing in Ahmedabad. “We have been working without break ever since the start of the pandemic. In fact, many have witnessed a rise in patients due to telephonic consultation,” he said. “Some have also lost lives and many have got infected, but the senior GPs are still the go-to persons for many who are ailing.”


A doctor in Baha’i Centre area for past 50 years, the septuagenarian knows majority of his patients not only by their names, but their fathers’ and grandfathers’ names! “Earlier, there were more infectious diseases like malaria, falciparum, etc. Now, these have been replaced by lifestyle disorders,” says Dr Sanghvi, who still travels twice a day to his clinic from his home near Paldi. “We saw a huge bulk of Covid cases in the past one and a half years, and yes, it has changed the old ways. I used to put thermometer in patients’ mouths – which is now been replaced by a temperature gun.” The doctor said that the importance of a GP is not going to diminish.


Dr Lala, who has been practising for over four decades, now sits behind a plastic curtain and wears a face shield while checking patients. “I never used tele-consultation or digital payment system but the pandemic has taught me even that, along with the new terminology of viral infection,” says the septuagenarian. “We still don’t rely much on tests, unless necessary. Family history plays a major part in diagnosis along with the patients’ surroundings,” says Dr Lala. What has changed in past few years? “Earlier, patients would not pay if we gave them only advice, and no medicine. But now that has changed,” he laughs. “We also need to reinvent ourselves to be in sync with the changing medical landscape.”


Dr Shah started his practice in 1971 as a government doctor. After a decade, he started working in the then buzzing Calico Mill area, which he has continued even after three decades. The patients still get both diagnosis and medicine at one go. “I know if they won’t come here, they won’t go anywhere else. Covid has ravaged not only people’s bodies, but also bank accounts. Majority of them are daily wagers who can’t even afford basic medicines We try to support them,” says Dr Shah. “Several of my patients are from third or fourth generation of families I treated, and it always gives me a sense of satisfaction,”

says Dr Shah who still attends to about 200 patients a day.


Like many clinics of yore, Dr Shah’s open clinic hosts over 50 patients at a time in a singular file that moves slowly as the doctor checks one patient after another. “I know my patients are not from upper economic strata and cannot afford many of the procedures. I only charge them for the medicine’s cost as they cannot live without regular medicines for several diseases,” says Dr Shah, who is in his sixties. “I have also arranged a system with a medical store opposite the clinic to provide medicines for free. If they have to pay for it, they won’t come. By God’s grace, my work has not stopped due to want of money.” He says that after more than a year, now they see more patients of diseases other than Covid.


“I did not close my clinic even during the 1974 Navnirman Andolan, communal riots or natural calamities. In a way, my clinic has been witness to the history of Ahmedabad,” says Dr Shah, adding that many who have left Pols of walled city are still in touch with him and even consulted him through phone or video calls during the pandemic. His clinic on Gandhi Road is a landmark in itself with many generations going there for treatment since 1975. The entire population has changed over the decades, but Dr Shah still attends to patients — from Bengali workers to Rajasthani traders. “My son is a doctor who suggests that I can now treat my patients through technology but if I don’t feel pulse of a patient, how can I treat?” asks Dr Shah.

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