life was very primitive to start with. On 28th November 1926 I was
born in Gujarat in Punjab India, which is now in Pakistan.
early schooling up to secondary school, was in a small town. Electricity
was not available at that time so we used kerosene lamps.
an average student, very timid and always bullied at school. Resources
were very limited. I had very few interests in life at that stage,
except going to school, walking a couple of miles each way, every
day with non-existent extra-curricular activities.
mother was illiterate and my father was an insurance agent with
a strict disciplinarian attitude.
boarded a frontier mail train from Rawalpindi to New Delhi.
On the way, at each railway station, a bloodbath was visible
with dead bodies scattered all over the place.
We reached Delhi as refugees - devoid of all our possessions
and personal belongings.
my O Levels, we moved to Rawalpindi where I graduated with a science
degree. In four years I studied English, Physics, Chemistry, Biology,
Urdu and Persian.
was a very turbulent and traumatic time in my life - physically,
academically, socially, emotionally, psychologically and above all
was 14th August when Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India,
broadcast on the radio from New Delhi and announced the partition
dividing line cut Punjab into two halves. In four-and-a-half hours
time, Rawalpindi, where I was with my parents, brothers and two
sisters, was to be included in Pakistan.
announcement triggered communal riots everywhere. Hindus were killed
by Muslims and vice versa. Men
were tortured. Property was looted and gutted. Women were abducted
8.15pm, we boarded a frontier mail train from Rawalpindi to New
Delhi. On the way, at each railway station, a bloodbath was visible
with dead bodies scattered all over the place.
reached Delhi as refugees - devoid of all our possessions and personal
these dark days I managed to graduate in medicine from Calcutta
in absolute poverty.
with his wife and son Kush at Southampton General Hospital in
in Allalabad U.P. - the home and birth place of Pandit Johawar Lal
Nehri, first Prime Minister of India - and started my medical career
as a doctor.
only affordable transport to visit my patients was a bicycle and
I was married to Shakuntala on 17th January 1958. It
was an arranged marriage. We had not met or even seen each other
before the ceremony.
to England in April 1960 on my own. Our first son Kush, was only
three months old, so Shakuntala agreed to stay at home with him.
not have come but for the help of Shakuntala's brother, his wife
and mother. They were kind and courteous and gave me a place to
stay when I came.
sole purpose and only aim in coming to England was to pass my F.R.C.S
exam and become a good, caring surgeon. To do this I had to have
a job first and thankfully within a week I got a position in Nelson
Hospital in Wimbledon, as a junior house surgeon.
pay was seven pounds and eleven shillings a week. I had to surmount
environments were very difficult but by no means hostile. There
was no flavour of hatred but they always looked down upon me.
language barrier was a real problem. I had English Essay and Literature
as one of my main degree subjects and I considered myself literate.
I could speak fluently and write grammatically correct English.
But when I arrived, communicating in English was a real headache.
one embarrassing occasion when a bus driver could not understand
my pronunciation of 'Twickenham' to get a ticket. Despite
repeating it several times he could not understand my pronunciation
and I had to spell it out.
conductor, as well as the people in the queue, all gave me a dirty
look, but I had to accept it.
English people were soft spoken. I always spoke loudly and people
thought I was rude and ill-mannered.
not eat beef, being Hindu, but in the hospital on three out of five
nights, beef was served with meals. I had to live on boiled vegetables.
a next step I was admitted for a six-month course to study for my
FRCS exam at the Royal College of Surgeons.
I used to ask for omelette as a substitute dish instead of beef
for the dinner. It took ages before my dinner was served.
students, who came after me, had finished their whole meal and I
was still waiting for my omelette to arrive. It was quite embarrassing
but no fault of mine.
I found I could never mix with other friends, even Indians, because
I did not drink any alcohol. I never attended any bar or pub and
so missed out on any social gathering.
were at dance evenings but I could not and did not approach any
one for a dance, simply because I did not believe it was the right
step to take or right road to travel.
I was introverted and shy and above all being short of money, I
used to leave functions early, feeling miserable and lonely in my
room in cold winter.
remember many instances when I arranged to rent bed-sit accommodation
on the phone but as soon as I knocked at the door and the landlady
saw my face, she would say: "I am sorry it is gone" and slam
the door on me.
great difficulty was to find affordable accommodation. Colour bar
and cultural differences did exist in the 1960s.
many instances when I arranged to rent bed-sit accommodation on
the phone but as soon as I knocked at the door and the landlady
saw my face, she would say: "I am sorry it is gone" and slam the
door on me.
and Kush joined me in England six months later. At first we stayed
with her mother and father before we went to Edinburgh.
got a place in Edinburgh University with the Royal College of Surgeons
and Physicians for a post-graduate course in surgery. This would
increase my knowledge and academic qualities to enable me to pass
my FRCS exam - the one goal I came to England to achieve.
the first week in Edinburgh we had to change accommodation four
times because the landlords complained about our culture and about
Kush's crying disturbing them in the night.
the morning I used to leave at about 6am, in the cold and dark,
and would return at 7pm ready to move again.
of the neighbours, an old Scottish lady, took pity on us and gave
us a room in her house for three months. We had one room with a
sink, with a one-bar electric heater.
was ice and snow throughout this time. We used to boil hot water
in an aluminium kettle and that was the only source of hot water
for us there to wash ourselves, our utensils and even to wash dirty
source of the electric supply was a coined electric meter in our
a job was difficult and reaching the top was extremely difficult.
Black consultant surgeons were a rarity. Colour bar was apparent
in day-to-day working life in hospital at each step.
very intelligent but worked hard. I could always influence my path
like a hard-working donkey. One of my consultants said: "Avatar,
forget trying to become a surgeon. Black is black and white is white."
This was after four years of staying in England.
was quite a blow, as I wanted to become a consultant surgeon. On
13th February 1964 our daughter Poonam was born at Chester Royal
back from the operating theatre at 5.40pm and Shakuntala was in
labour pain. I took her to hospital and she delivered 40 minutes
next morning I left at 8am with Kush on the front seat (four years
old) because I had to go for an interview for my surgical registrarship.
not stay in the hospital with Shakuntala to look after her. She
was all alone with a new born baby and I was travelling 200 miles
from Chester to Leeds.
Kush was vomiting in the car but I had to carry on. Fortunately
I got the job.
Nath Duggal plays Santa at Dewsbury General Hospital, where
he worked from 1964 to 1967
11th January 1965 Luv was born. Again work got in the way. I admitted
Shakuntala to Dewsbury General Hospital and went to Edinburgh where
I had to take my final FRCS exam the next day.
was again alone - such was the misfortune of circumstances and miseries
of our hectic life.
my FRCS exam and started my early surgical career working in different
hospitals: London, Southampton, Batley Yorks, Dewsbury, Chester,
Edinburgh, Sedgefield, and Lincoln.
considered myself to be very intelligent and talented but I was
very favourite of my consultants simply because I worked very hard
day and night.
arranged marriage was successful. It was celebrated with full Hindu
rites and arranged between Shakuntala's elder brother and my parents.
have since lived as one unit, husband and wife, through thick and
was very hard bringing up a second generation. Kush did not settle
in any nursery school. My pay was seven pounds and eleven shillings
a week to start with and we did not have much to support the family.
could not work even though she was a fully qualified doctor. I could
not keep her and Kush in the hospital as it was only single accommodation,
so they lived in a separate bed-sit in Southampton at a rent of
£1 a week.
had to walk miles to visit me because we could not afford public
transport. We could not eat together as I had no cooking facilities
and in the hospital canteen they only served meat - she is vegetarian.
children had to change schools regularly because I was moving from
hospital to hospital to get different experiences in surgery as
a requirement for the exam.
decided to go into general practice and started at Rhondda Valley
in Wales, later moving to Swansea.
tried to serve my patients. They were all happy, pleased and grateful.
couldn't get planning permission for a surgery as some people
were determined to stop us from settling in Quedgeley. I met
against all sorts of obstacles - from all my English GP colleagues,
from the planning department and in particular the parish council.
1969 we came to Gloucester. I was quite successful in Swansea but
with Shakuntala working full-time as a medical officer in community
health in Gloucester, I had to travel every week to see my family.
she created a job for me here as a GP in Quedgeley. Coming to Gloucester
was a great help in uniting the family but I didn't like the village
to start with.
couldn't get planning permission for a surgery as some people were
determined to stop us from settling in Quedgeley.
made one appointment to see a lady about a property suitable for
conversion into a surgery. It was adjacent to another surgery, but
on seeing our faces after opening the door she said that the property
was sold. In
fact the property was not sold for 10 or 12 months later.
against all sorts of obstacles from every source - from top to bottom
- from all my English GP colleagues, from the planning department
and in particular the parish council. I was the only black GP in
with moral support from Shakuntala and my will to succeed, I eventually
overcame all the hurdles and built my own base and created a flourishing
practice as a caring doctor.
thanked me in various ways. I was very popular. We managed to open
a branch surgery in Ryecroft Street, Gloucester to serve the ethnic
ethnic patients were very demanding and did try to exploit me but
I accepted this as a small price to pay for eventual success.
Nath Duggal with his wife Shakuntala
after the opening of the surgery in Quedgeley in 1986
plays a big part in my life. I am a Hindu and pray every day. I
read holy books which are scarce and difficult to find locally as
most of them are in the Gujrati language which I cannot read.
had no problem whatsoever in bringing up our children, even as teenagers.
have to live within our means' was the motto engraved in their brains
from the very beginning.
are many good things in life that we wish to have, but if we cannot
afford it, we simply cannot have it, however good that toy may be.
this in mind, I remember a Christmas shopping trip when Kush was
only young. He wanted to show me something in a superstore and pointed
to a colourful, mobile band playing electronic toys and said: "These
are very nice, but Daddy, we can't afford it".
was not hurt, I didn't feel guilty, but I was touched and appreciated
that he did not ask for it. Kush, the eldest, the most intelligent
of the lot.
in 1960, he got a scholarship to The King's School in Gloucester,
the only private education institution in the city. He was the head
boy, always first in his class and secured nine O Levels and 3 A
Levels in Biology, Physics and Chemistry.
was offered a place at three medical schools and opted for Cardiff.
He eventually went abroad for research in Canada and at present
he is a postgraduate tutor of the Royal College of Anaesthetists
as well as a consultant anaesthetist at Salisbury General Hospital.
the youngest was also educated at The King's School and eventually
settled as computer consultant with IBM.
was educated at Ribston Hall Girls' Grammar School and is now married
to a tax consultant at the Shell Oil Company. We
are very proud of them.
occasionally now go to India to visit our relatives and friends
but we could never afford holidays in the UK or abroad during our
did we ever have any entertainment in our working life - we have
never visited any cinema or theatre and I have never had any hobbies.
only social occasions we enjoyed were entertaining our friends at
not go back to India to settle for my own personal reasons. I'd
love to stay in India because the climate suits me but India has
dirty politics and having lived in this country for 40 years the
standards of food, health and living is much better.
can die in India like animals. I have no home there and haven't
got much family there.
to stay here where I am suited and just go on holidays to warmer
late in life and have retired very late in life at the ripe old
age of 70 - by law a GP cannot work after 70 years of age.
never smoked in my life and I hate the company of smokers. I never
touched any spirit or beer between 1960 to 1978.
drink now, very, very moderately and only red wine, and only in
my house with Shakuntala.
indulged in any physical exercise due to the lack of time during
my working life. More accurately, I did not appreciate the value
and significance of exercise and the harmful effects on the body
of not doing enough exercise.
learnt my lesson and now I am retired I walk every day and we both
do the treadmill at home daily.
to England in 1960 as a young, budding, enthusiastic doctor, saturated
with ambition to reach the top and to look after the sick. I have
very satisfied and happy that the mission is successful. I have
very high living standards and have everything in life that God
would have given me.
have paid a very high price. I have used my all 50 of the
younger years of my life in serving others and not my own
country. I have grown old. I am alone. I have no relatives
My children live in English fashion, style and tradition.
They do not know their own traditions and culture. My identity
and family heritage will be soon buried forever.
a very well settled family and I am very proud. I live with my wife
in a five-bedroomed house, with nine colour televisions, five videos
and all the possible modern electric gadgets one needs.
couldn't afford a car for many years but now we own two Mercedes
and all three children drive their own Mercedes. I could not have
asked for more.
there is a price to pay for this all materialistic wealth and believe
me I have paid a very high price.
used my all 50 of the younger years of my life in serving others
and not my own country. I have grown old. I am alone. I have no
very little regular contract with my blood relatives. I have lost
my culture and above all my tradition. My children have married
locally.They live in English fashion, style and tradition.
do not know their own traditions and culture and their children
(my second generation) would never know anything about India. My
identity and family heritage will be soon buried forever.
my father and grandfather used to live in India and how I was brought
up is an extinct part of history for them. What
religion my grandchildren follow is not known to me.
is the price I have paid. But on balance, I feel that my 50 years
in this country has been gainful. I am victorious. I have achieved
what I aimed for.
not and could not have lived the life I have now in India. I could
not and would not have been able to educate my children to the standard
they have now.
my children's future is better here. Fifty years ago I took a brave
decision and it has paid off. I have no regrets.
'The Sikh Punjabi Community'