An Illustrious Life

It was his love for surgery that took Dr Peerzada Abdul Rashid to London. But his heart beat for his people back home. After spending six years abroad he came back full of ideas to restore the ailing health system. Ruwa Shah catches up with retired surgeon to look back at his illustrious career and life.    

PeerzadaEvery morning seventy-eight-year-old Abdul Rashid Peerzada, a retired surgeon takes along his small radio set for a morning walk. He would walk 12 kilometres from his residence in Qamarwari towards north up to Tengpora and back. One can easily pin-point Peerzada among enthusiast athletes who swarm the empty roads in the morning. Dressed in clean ironed shirt and trousers Peerzada looks like a gentlemen who is on his way to a board meeting. He is often stopped by young ladies who seek his advice on weight loss and other fitness related issues.

Born in Khankah-e-Mohallah area of downtown Srinagar, seventy-eight-year old Dr Peerzada was adopted by his maternal uncle, Peerzada Ghulam Ahmad, first appointed Chief Secretary of the J&K. Peerzada completed his primary education at a government school near his home. He was counted among studious students at SP College Srinagar. Being a meritorious student Peerzada was sent to Gwalior for pursuing MBBS by the state government. After completing his training he came back to Kashmir and joined SMHS hospital Srinagar.

But he had an urge to specialise in Surgery, for that he met then Prime Minister of Kashmir Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad in1962 and asked him to provide a fellowship for his post-graduation.

Peerzada had also worked at a mission hospital in Rainawari where Dr St. Petry taught him some English manners with which Peerzada got fascinated.

“They were clean and disciplined people. I loved the way they behaved. And I learned a lot of things from them including the basics of surgery,” remembers Peerzada.

After Bakshi’s intervention Peerzada got Fellowship for Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) in London, which was considered a prestigious degree at that time. His dream was about to get fulfilled.

Peerzada recalls how he was treated in London on his arrival. There was a Kashmiri in London, Dr Mohiuddin, with whom he was supposed to live. But to Peerzada’s surprise there  was nobody to receive him at the airport. “Mohiuddin has left a few notes at the airport to guide me to his home,” recalls Peerzada. When he reached Mohiuddin’s house he found his behaviour unfriendly. “I felt like intruding into their lives. They were not happy with my presence. They used to serve me just three teaspoons of rice and some curry for dinner,” remembers Peerzada.  In order to stay with Mohiuddin’s family Peerzada had to follow some rules. “I was not allowed to stay at home during day time. I used to spend my days at a nearby library,” he says.

Peerzada recalls having a cup of coffee with the sandwich during his trip to library to fill his half-filled stomach.

Soon Peerzada got a job as surgeon in a London hospital. “It gave me a reason to stay at the hospital,” he says. Peerzada’s dedication impressed hospital authorities whom he claimed paid him more than what others at his level were getting. “My salary was hiked from ten pounds to twenty,” he said proudly.

Later he qualified his primary examination from Ireland and spent about a year there as well. After specialising in surgery, and living the English life for almost six years he decided to come back to Kashmir and serve his own people.

“The life in London didn’t suit me. They are socially cut-off and they value no relation not even the very precious relation of a parent and his child,” Peerzada said.

By the time he came back medical college was already established in Kashmir. On his arrival Peerzada was approached by Dr Ghulam Rasool and Dr Girdari Lal, and asked him to join hospital.

Finally Peerzada joined as an assistant professor at Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar. “My ways of teaching was different. I taught them what I had learnt in London. Although people had issues with my way of teaching but I continued the same way,” Peerzada told Kashmir Life.

Peerzada devoted all his life to teach students leaving no time to practice privately. He wants hospitals in Kashmir to be run on same pattern as in London.  “I made some important changes here which I had learnt from Royal College London,” he said.

During his tenure at SMHS hospital Peerzada successfully convinced authorities to construct an emergency causality ward. “During 90s, at the peak of turmoil in Kashmir, the new emergency ward proved to be beneficial.

At times we used to operate even four patients there. It helped in saving many lives,” he said. Peerzada retired as Head of Department of Surgery from SMHS.

Peerzada spends almost six months in America with his daughter and rest six month he stays in Kashmir. “I still visit hospitals in London and notice all the latest technologies which could be beneficial to improve the civic life here in Kashmir,” he says while greeting a local shopkeeper on his way home.

(Ruwa Shah is recipient of Jawhara Shawl scholarship) 

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