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Biography of a Soldier Doctor

Biography of a Soldier Doctor

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Biography of a Soldier Doctor

124 pagine
2 ore
Jul 7, 2014


This is a true biography of a village lad who grew up to be a doctor and joined the Indian Medical Corps in 1942 and served in the Burma sector during the Second World War. Later in 1947, he gave up a lucrative career in the army to serve his people in a remote village that lacked any medical facility in those times. He served the poor people of the area for sixty years, charging a very nominal fee for his services. This book describes his experiences during the Second World War and later as a rural doctor providing primary care to about one hundred adjoining villages. He was the Dr. Albert Schweitzer of India.
Jul 7, 2014

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Biography of a Soldier Doctor - Parampal Singh Coonar




My early childhood days

I was born in village Hindupur in Patiala state on March 20th, 1920 in the family of S. Saroop Singh, a middle class farmer. Hindupur had ¾ populations of Jat Sikhs and ¼ Muslim Gujjars. It was a cluster of about 100 families, who were engaged in farming. Muslim Gujars besides agriculture, reared goats & sheep. Most of the people lived amicably in the village. This village was also called Hajipur but the popular name was Hindupur. The approach to this village was through Kutcha tracks as metalled roads did not exist then. The nearest town was Sirhind, about 10 miles away. Another small town was Bassi Pathana and it was also same distance from our village. People depended on these two cities for their daily needs. My grand father S. Saroop Singh and his two brothers Hira Singh and Sunder Singh lived as a joint family. The eldest brother, S. Hira Singh was a bachelor and managed all the family affairs. He was a man of wisdom & the village elders took his advice. He was very fair & impartial but a strict disciplinarian. S. Saroop Singh had two sons. Elder was Shamsher Singh & younger S. Joginder Singh. S.Sunder Singh had one son named Dalip Singh.

My father S. Shamsher Singh qualified as a doctor. He got his education in the village school & passed his middle class from Sirhind. When in eighth class, my father did not want to study further. He told my grandfather’s elder brother that ‘Tayajee I do not want to study further’. He said ‘Alright, if you do not want to study then you will have to work in the agriculture fields’. He called my grandfather and his helper in agriculture and told them to take my father along with them for de-weeding the fields, and not to let him off from work the whole day. After two days of work in the fields, my father realized his mistake and told his Taya jee that that he could not do farm work and would prefer to continue his studies. He was sent to Khalsa High School Ambala City from where he passed his matriculation. My father was married at an early age to my mother Partap Kaur in village Dumna, near Morinda.Later he got admission to Medical school at Agra in 1917 as a military pupil and got his licentiate degree from there after four years of study. The military students had to serve in the Indian Medical Department as Sub Assistant Surgeons, in the rank of Warrant Office. After five years service, they were given the rank of Viceroy’s Commission Officer. His early service was in North West frontier cantonments and these were mostly non-family stations. After a year’s service, in April 1022 he was posted to Nowshera and moved to Jamrod in October 1922. Later my father was sent to serve in Iraq, which was then called Mesopatamia. It was under the control of the British Empire through Government of India. There he remained till February 1926.

All this time, my mother and I, lived in the village in the joint family of my grand father S. Sarup Singh, which included my younger brother and my uncle. My mother had to work hard performing household chores like fetching drinking water from the village well and cleaning the house. The ladies also prepared the meals for all the members of the household and took the food to the fields to serve to the male members tilling and working in the fields. A Chapati made of gram and wheat flour mix called ‘Berda di roti’ was a hot favourite in winter with a yoghurt drink called lassi. The ladies also helped with farming during the cropping season, like hand picking crops like cotton and chillies. During spare time, the ladies would spin cotton yarn and weave bed linen called Durrees at home. I had an elder brother who died in infancy. Thus I spent 4-5 years in their company, as there was no school to go. There was only a middle school in Sirhind which was about 20 Kms away. One tailor master named Chirag Din lived in nearby village of Badali Ala Singh would teach 3-4 children privately. He would teach children Urdu alphabets. My grandfather’s brother S. Hira Singh once took me to him for studies. I only went there for a few days and stopped going after that.

I would spend most of my time playing with most of the village children. Some of my playmates were Raunki Ram, Banta Singh, Ram Singh. The muslim population of the village mostly comprised of Gujjars and they lived separately in one part of the village. The children would often play hide and seek game and game of Chor Sipahi. In this game, one of us would become a police personnel and some other would become a thief. Then the police would try to trace the thief and catch him.

I loved my uncle Joginder Singh. He was about 15 years elder to me and he often took me along to attend weddings. Weddings were big affairs and joyous occassions. The weddings would last for many days and would be celebrated in the bride’s village. Once he took me to a wedding and we did not return for a few days. When we came back my grandfather was furious and he gave a good bashing to my uncle and pulled him by his hair. Sometimes he would also take me to my maternal uncle’s house in village Dumna. There I would play with the children of my maternal uncles and also liked to listen to gramophone records. This gramophone was bought by S. Baldev Singh, who was my maternal uncle. He had bought it on one of his official visit abroad. Incidently, he later became the first Defence minister of India. His father Sir Indra Singh was an engineer and had a steel mill in Tata Nagar in Bihar, which was popularly called Kali miti. He was a big industrialist and had employed a lot of people from his village Dumna in his factory.

It was only when India got Independence, Sirhind and Bassi Pathana were connected with Morinda by a metalled road. Before that there was a mono Rail running between these towns and this was drawn by two horses. One of the wheel of this monorail used to run on a single rail and rest of the wheels were wooden and moved on the track. The horses used to pull the cart at a great speed and it was a quick and efficient means of transport and served as bus service in those days. Once during this period in 1927, my mother along with our neighbour, Kartar Singh Grewal’s family and my uncle, took me to Amritsar for visiting the Golden Temple. S. Kartar Singh was a rich man and he owned a chariot called Bughi drawn by horses and had a camel as well. In those days he had hired a servant to look after his son. His wife was a very good friend of my mother. We went to nearby train station of Sadhoo garh to catch a train for Amritsar and it was my first chance to see the train being pulled by a steam engine. It being my first trip and I was very excited. I had a glimpse of the crowds at Amritsar and also visited Nankana Sahib, the birth place of our first Guru Nanak. I remember hearing the name of Baba Gurdit Singh of Kama Gata Maru fame. People were keen to see him and came running to have a glimpse of him. After visiting Amritsar we reached our village at night as the trains usually reached late.

Whenever my father came on annual leave, all the villagers and friends would come to our house to meet him. He would bring grapes from Peshawar and we all enjoyed these grapes and the visitors were also served these grapes. One of my father’s friends, Sardar Rajinder Singh was from a neighboring village called Jameetgarh and was a police officer. He was fond of hunting and he would kill a deer and cook it at our house in a big cauldron. I remember a small incident of my childhood life. Once when he came to meet my father, he lifted me in his lap and kissed me. I hurled a nasty abuse like other village children. My father gave me a brisk slap for abusing his friend. Since then I have never abused any body in my life.

After completing his tenure of duty in North West Frontier province, my father returned to India and was posted to Maldive Islands. We did not hear anything from him for the next two years. Once in a while we would get his letters, which used to be censored and we could not write back as we did not have his address. In 1925 he was transferred to Mesopatamia, now called Iraq. In those days Iraq was under the control of British and was ruled with the help of Indian troops. There was a Military hospital in Basra, where Indian doctors were posted for two years tenure. There were a few other Sikh families of businessmen living in Basra then. They had built a small Sikh Temple there. All the Sikh families would get together on week ends for prayers. I have a very rare photograph of these prominent Sikh families in front of the Basra Gurdwara. This photo was taken in May 1925 and the temple is seen as a small mud structure. The names of all the prominent people of the time, sitting in front on chairs are written at the back.

On completion of his tenure in Basra, he was posted to Meerut cantonment as in-charge of a section hospital and allotted family quarters. He took my mother and me to Meerut Cantt in the year 1928. One of the boys from my village, S. Mal Singh was also taken along as he wanted to join the army. We all took a train from Sadoo garh for Meerut and reached Meerut at night. This was the first time that I saw and travelled in a train to Meerut Cantt. After settling down, I was admitted to a school and started my primary education. In the morning I was sent to the school and some person would always escort me to school. In the afternoon teacher would come

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