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'Legendary Raj Kapoor didn't want me to confine my knowledge only to doctors'

Thursday, December 21, 2017
Photograph By Azad Shrivastav

A man with a plethora of experience, not only in his profession, but a real do-gooder and a genuine well-wisher for the medical fraternity and medicinal education in India, the very humble and eminent physician, M.D, F.R.C.P(EDIN.), F.R.C.P.(GLSG), Dr. Kapoor started treating his patients as he visited the JJ and Grant Medical College (GMC) as Honorary Professor (and Physician) of Medicine in 1955, and in capacity as an honorary Physician at Jaslok Hospital and Bombay Hospital. Dr. O.P. Kapoor talks to Dev Kotak in a no holds barred session.

The Octogenarian talks of his unending love for teaching, his evolution from a bathroom singer to a live ‘performer’ and his hunt to make it to the Guinness World Records book someday.

As I stroll into the lush green campus in South Bombay’s elite Willingdon Sports Club to meet this larger than life doctor-teacher and now even a ‘singer’ personality I am greeted by the lovely sight of golf courses where caddies moved around offering clubs to golfers. Just when I reach the reception I am escorted to the bar by his son, who tells me the medical fraternity’s ‘dronacharya’ is waiting for me.

When I enter, he is seated and the 86-year-old stands up and greets me with a handshake and an infectious smile, making me a fan of his simplicity and respectful etiquette almost instantly. As we settle at the table, he jokes with the bar manager ‘aaj hum tumhara pehla customer hain’ (we are your first customers today), a sign that the place had just opened up for the day. He quickly takes lead in ordering beers before we get started.

Someone who seemingly at large is comfortable in his own skin and generally at ease, the medical professional with six decades worth of only teaching experience is a content man and feels professionally great with the kind of path-breaking work he has done for himself and his students, is purely laudable.

The professional curve
An eminent physician, M.D, F.R.C.P(EDIN.), F.R.C.P.(GLSG), Dr. Kapoor  started treating his patients as he visited as Honorary. Professor (and Physician) of Medicine in JJ and Grant Medical College (GMC) in 1955 and in capacity as an honorary Physician at Jaslok Hospital and Bombay Hospital.  
Having practiced for more than 30 years, he wasn’t willing to let go off practice and teaching.

“One day a letter from GMC came in a tone asking me not to come from the next day onwards. I was surprised. It was a big shock to me in my life. From the next morning onwards I had nothing to do. I worried about what would happen to my teaching?”, says Kapoor with a poker face as if sad, hiding behind his red tinted frames.  

The ‘guru’ji of Indian medicine
Armed with a sense of social service and selfless contribution on his mind and in his heart, the senior doctor has coached medical students for over 60 years (now retired) for free. In a bid to produce quality doctors-as he taught students of Allopathy, homeopathy, ayurveda, and GPs (General Practitioners) and physicians alike. His lectures and teachings were a huge hit, owing to its largely popular fanbase.

The teacher’s lectures have impacted over 50,000 medical personnel all over India through marathon sessions. He has also conducted free marathon lectures for six hours at a stretch for 212 lectures, spanning eighteen years in a public auditorium.

He proudly says “First at GMC, I started teaching only on Fridays from 9 am-5pm. The class used to be full, but later at auditoriums in a 1000-seater auditorium, 1500 students would be packed. The rate at which I was going I will break some record easily someday. Even the then JJ Director ask what magic I’m doing that these students stick around for so many hours (6-7)?Now I teach only GPs, teaching students can be strenuous. At my age, I can’t stand for that long now.”  

Filmy and Stylish
Dr Kapoor's love for the famous Bollywood family is reflective of the fact that he has named his son Shashi and grandson Rishi. His association with the patriarch of Bollywood’s first family goes back to the late ’60s, when he was asked to diagnose what was wrong with Prithviraj Kapoor. He then became good friends with Prithviraj’s son Raj who even took singer Mukesh to him.

Dressed in a dapper checked blazer and a red shirt and cool red glasses on, I tell him that he reminds me of the ‘evergreen’ Late Dev Anand saab and he laughs harder when I tell him “Sir only the golf cap is missing.” His love for clothes is evident when he blushingly tells me “I am fond of clothes, not even food or cars. I like dressing up. I even ask my staff, my wife to dress up properly.”

The Guinness anticipation
Guinness has been a let down, he feels as the book of World Records continues to elude and overlook him and his stellar efforts culminated with great achievements.  But he still does not regret being in it as he mocks and laughs “At this age I am training 500 doctors for 5 hours at a stretch. I am disappointed by them. These records change every year, but I break records every year. I should have been on it several times. I am Sultan (Salman Khan reference to the movie). I want to break my own record. These guys should be honoured they are getting records,” as he woefully explains that they merely want money, but are not interested in someone’s records, a result of their years of hardwork.
Academia and Literature
"It was Raj Kapoor who, 26 years ago, gave me the idea of writing a book for the general public. He did not want me to restrict knowledge sharing to only those from the medical fraternity," Dr Kapoor had said in 2014 at the part II launch of his book 'Kapoor Family Medical Guide', which advises people on disease prevention and good health.

To his credit he has more than seven hundred publications in various medical journals and is the author of 12 books including the famous Guide for General Practitioners and a Monograph on Amoebic Liver Abscess.

The singer graduates...finally!
The ‘singer’ has come a long way from being called a bathroom singer to a ‘performer’ as he has performed at his club a few times, where he earned fans and praises. He says the trick to hold your audience is ‘start with a interesting medical talk’.  Music is like meditation for me. I spend about two hours everyday singing and listening to classics of yesteryear legendary singers Kishore Kumar, Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh, K L Sehgal, Manna Dey, Hemant Kumar and now even singing like them,” he says with childlike enthusiasm. Music is his pooja and religion both. “Ab toh ye nasha ho gaya hain. Beer (pointing to the half empty mug) bhi nahi chadhti,” he passionately says.

“I imitate multiple musicians and singers (he has performed with an orchestra), but these young singers today are like superspecialists who know only one type, but I am a physician. In one hour I can do a lot,” he prides as we high five.

Singing for the mind and vocal chords, and tennis to keep his physical health in check as he signs off by saying “I want to continue singing and teaching. Teaching helps me remain a good doctor. It’s double benefit you see”.

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