“I wish death encounters me while I am examining patients.” This is a wish expressed by 102-year-old practicing doctor in Pune. The doctor is available for his patients on all seven days of the week, in morning as well as evening shifts.
Even at this age, Dr Balwant Ghatpande consults around 15 to 20 patients every day. He does not like being asked the question, on why he wants to practice even at this age. “What do you mean by why I want to continue? I like my profession and that is why I want to continue. I will continue my practice till the time I am alive,” he said. He always keeps his responses short and to the point.
The BJ Medical School alumni in Pune, Ghatpande completed his Licentiate in Medicine and Surgery, (LCPS) in 1941. He worked with British Indian Empire as government Medical Officer from 1941-1948. He was posted in few of the districts in Maharashtra. When asked about why he left government service, he said, “I was working in Patan (Satara district in Maharashtra) when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. There was a threat to my life, so I left my job and came to Pune.” For the last 69 years, he is practicing at his own clinic in Rasta Peth area of Pune.
He does not have any severe illness nor does he take even a single supplement. “I do not go to any other doctor as there has never been any such need.” When asked about secret behind this good heath, he said, “Even today, I exercise for an hour. I am a vegetarian and follow healthy eating practices. I do not eat outside food.”
You will never see him sitting idle. He likes reading and reads three newspapers every day, apart from reading medical magazines and watching television, he also enjoyed watching plays. “I used to go for watching plays in Pune. ‘Ekach Pyala’ written by Ram Ganesh Gadkari is my favorite one. I used to like listening to Sawai Gandharv, but now I watch TV most of the time and read news papers,” he added.
When asked about the contemporary medical profession, he said, “Now people trust specialists more. There is more commercialisation in the field of healthcare. I believe in charging a fee which is affordable to a common man. I have not taken ‘cut’ in my life nor have I given any.” He takes no consultation fee from poor patients and regularly donates part of his income to medical trusts in the city.
He trusts medicines of old brands. “Medical companies’ representative does not visit me now.” When asked if any young doctors had visited him for any consultation, he said, “No doctor has visited me for any advice. Young doctors are smart enough and they do not need me. Almost all my old doctor friends have died now.”
He walks with the help of a walker. All his movements are steady and swift even at this age. He does not take more than five minutes to examine any patient and prescribes them medicines. He does not have any assistant at his clinic. He maintains one rough note pad where he mentions what was prescribed to the patient. Once the examination is done, he mentions the name of the patient and takes the fee. Then he note down what treatment which was given to the patient in another notepad for future reference. The entire process he does not take more than ten minutes per patient.
Ramesh Soni, his regular patient, said, “My family trusts him. There is some magic in his hand. After his examination and taking his prescribed medicines, we all recover quickly. We are taking his medicine since the last 50 years.”
Dr Chaitanya Ghatpande, his grandson, who practices homeopathy in city, said, “Practicing medicine is his passion. He does not have any major interest apart from medicine. He is a workaholic.”