Dr Hargundas Khanchandani

Courtesy Dr Raj Khanchandani

Dad was brought up in Sindh, which is now a part of Pakistan. Soon after Partition, most Hindus left, including my father’s family. 

His family were quite poor farmers so they couldn’t afford to educate him. He managed to win a scholarship to go to Grant Medical College in Bombay. After he qualified in 1951, he had a good practice in Bombay but he wanted to get a post-grad qualification. If you’ve got to be seen as a physician, you’ve got to have the MRCP, and you can only get it in England. So he came here in 1954.

Courtesy Dr Raj Khanchandani

Courtesy Dr Raj Khanchandani

He had two young sons and a wife whom he left behind clearly thinking, ‘I’ll go there for a year or two, pass my exam, and come back home.’ But unfortunately he never passed the exam and I think he didn’t want to come back empty-handed.

Image courtesy Dr Raj Khanchandani

"Dad started out working in a hospital in Wales. He was the only Indian in the town, he was obviously the only Indian doctor. For all of his life, he loved Wales."

Because Dad didn’t pass the MRCP, he couldn’t become a consultant. There was a grade lower than consultant and he couldn’t become that either because there weren’t enough posts in his particular field. He could see there was nowhere else to progress so he decided to become a GP. And in those days, general practitioners were really disrespected. They were the bottom of the league of the medical profession. True or not, that’s what hospital doctors thought of you.

In Luton at the time, there were a few hundred immigrants from India and Pakistan. And all of them were patients of my father. They all joined his practice because he could speak Urdu and Hindi. He was known as Dr Khan so the Muslims also took him to their heart. They knew he wasn’t a Muslim but they all liked him.

Dad's patient chair Courtesy Dr Raj Khanchandani

He used to leave home at about eight in the morning and do his paperwork and start seeing patients from 9am until about midday. There was no appointment system so people would just come and see you in turn.

Then he might do a visit or two, and he would come home briefly for lunch. Then he’d go do the rest of his visits. And in those days, GPs would do 8 or 10 visits a day. And then start his evening surgery at about four or five. He might have had time to come over and have a snack, then he would do his clinic till about 8:00 or nine in the evening. He might then have a visit or two afterwards, and he’d come home nine or 10. And then he was on call.

When he started there were two partners in his practice, and they would be on call every other night and every other weekend. 

Courtesy Dr Raj Khanchandani

My parents were separated for seven years when my Dad went to Britain. I don’t ever remember speaking to my father on the telephone during the time he was away. He wrote my mum letters twice a week. I don’t know how he managed all that time, to be honest. He didn’t drink. He didn’t eat meat. Try living seven years in Britain in the 50s on vegetarian food! He learned to knit and crochet. He sent me two pullovers in India, which I used to wear all the time, even in hot weather. But eventually he got mum and us kids to join him. 

To finally be together was a big deal. These are people who had gone through Partition and left their lands behind and then left their families behind in India. So family was really important. We spent a lot of time together at home doing DIY and gardening. Life in those days was mainly around work. Leisure was less of a priority.”

Told by Dr Raj Khanchandani