Dr Khushru Mancherji Mehta

Dad was born in the town of Bharuch, in Gujarat in 1919,  a regional centre of commerce on the Namada River. His father, an accountant, ran a company importing coconuts. One of nine children he loved sport especially swimming, which he did surreptitiously against his parents’ wishes after a friend died of drowning.

He swam in the Namada river which is about a mile wide and would regularly swim across and back. In his will he asked that his ashes be scattered in the river, such was his attachment to it. He was keen to become a doctor and qualified in medicine in Mumbai. Whilst there he developed a life-long interest in politics. He joined the congress party and heard speeches from both Gandhi and Nehru.

After qualifying and working in hospitals in Mumbai he wanted to train further and become a surgeon, as the best place to do that was the UK. He raised the funds to come to the UK in 1945 and spent four years training to be a surgeon in Edinburgh and London.

During his first year he kept a diary detailing his experiences and thoughts of life in the UK.  After qualifying he worked at Wolverhampton Hospital for two years to gain experience and pay off his debts. One of his many duties included being the on-field medic for West Bromwich Albion Football Club.

During his first year he kept a diary detailing his experiences and thoughts of life in the UK.

In 1950 he applied for the post of Colony Surgeon in the then British colony of North Borneo. They were in desperate need of a surgeon and Dad was appointed to the position through the Colonial Office, however as a non-European he was offered lower remuneration. My father refused to accept this, not because of the money, but because he felt that he would not be respected if he was earning less than Europeans in equal positions. It took some months (and severe pressure from the colony) before the Colonial Office changed its policy. He arrived in the capital Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) in 1951 and immediately set about re-organising the very basic care that was available including the training of male and female theatre staff, and spearheading the building of a modern hospital. He achieved his aim and proudly opened The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in 1957.

In 1955, he married in Mumbai and in 1965, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire by the Queen in recognition of his work.

His contract with the colonial Office specified that he was granted six months leave every three years but that this had to be taken outside the country. Dad and family would relocate to London and he would work the NHS at various London hospitals including Harefield doing general surgery and honing his skills.

In 1966, he broke his wrist which meant he was unable to do Surgery so he took early leave to recover and got a locum GP position in north-west London. He found he enjoyed this so much, and concerned that he could never be as good a surgeon again as his wrist was not as supple after healing, he decided to resign his position in Sabah and take the GP position permanently. He worked as a single GP for over 20 years finally retiring in 1991. He’d always planned to stay in the UK post-retirement.

He had a relatively small one-man practice that he ran from the ground floor flat of a converted house. On arrival in the mornings there would be a small queue of local people waiting quietly by the front door. There was no appointment system and no receptionist so people would wait in the ground floor room and take their turn to go in to see him on hearing the buzzer. He would have a morning session then return in the late afternoon for a late afternoon and early evening session, after which he would visit people in their homes who were not well enough to come into the surgery.

In the last two years of his GP practice, he was unfortunately attacked by a patient and was persuaded to join a multi-GP practice. He disliked this, however, and found the constraints of patients having to make appointments and limits on the time he could spend too onerous. After one year he decided to retire.

Our dad loved to help people, he always used to say that 8 out of 10 people who came to him would get better no matter what he did! But being able to talk to him and have him listen to their problems made all the difference to their recovery. Dad always gave 100% and even though we’re sure he faced difficulties, he never complained. The feedback he got from his patients definitely helped him through tough times, and we found many thank you letters after his death.

Dad loved being active in the Rotarians, raising money for all sorts of causes. I remember at Christmas he would take me in the car as he drove around north-west London handing out food parcels to poorer families and the respect with which he always spoke to them.

My father loved India and always felt closely connected with it. He was a Parsee (Zoroastrian) which is a small close-knit community in India number less than 200,000. He was a founding member and trustee of the UK Zoroastrian society. Dad loved Classical Indian music and would often go to concerts in London when visiting Indian artists came. 

For our lovely Mum, Roshun Mehta and from their loving children Jim, Cyrus, Zeena and Roy.