K B Grant: Pune’s ‘Young’ Medical Architect

Pune’s ‘Young’ Medical Architect

Despite braving many odds, Dr KB Grant, Founder and Managing Trustee of Pune’s Ruby Hall Clinic never dithered from his purpose of providing the latest medical technologies. Rita Dutta trails the journey of this 87-year-old patriarch.

It would be no exaggeration to say that Dr Keki B Grant’s (87) heart beats for Pune. He has indeed accomplished much in terms of the latest in medical diagnostics and therapy for Puneites. The Ruby Hall Clinic (RHC), which he founded, has flourished due to his pioneering in coronary angioplasty, CABG, CT, MRI, image intensifier X-Ray and cadaveric organ donation. And a year back, he was instrumental in conducting the first Image Guided Radio Therapy (IGRT) for cancer in India.

Indeed, for Dr Grant, age has nothing to do with accomplishments. It is the determination of mind and youthfulness that is more crucial. Even today, he is in office everyday at eight, is involved in daily administrative work, meets patients, obliges relatives of patients with discounts in bills, and at six, walks the seven kilometres distance to home. And he says he is not afraid to amble amidst the bustling roads, even after being knocked down twice followed by prolong hospitalisation. For this workaholic, strict fitness regime prevails over all fears.

Despite his tall achievements, Dr Grant, fondly called Hector (after the Trojan hero), comes across as a humble person. Lt Col Ernest Cruze, Nursing Super-intendment, RHC, says, “He is the most wonderful boss that I have ever had. His dedication, modesty and vision are rare to find.”

Why Medicine?

The young Dr Grant

The achievemnst are something to marvel at when one learns his social heritage. His father worked for the Railways and at that time, this seemed to be the profession he would enter. But physician Dr EH Coyaji changed all that. When the 15-year-old Dr Grant paid a visit for a check-up, Dr Coyaji inquired about the profession he plans to take up. “I told him I wanted to become an engine driver in the Railways. I thought that with a little influence I could get a job,” he grins. What made Dr Coyaji suggest the noble profession to the young boy, I curiously ask. “I suppose, he was impressed with my handsome face,” he says, bursting into a peel of laughter. To convince me, he directs an assistant to bring out a photograph of a young Dr Grant, where he looked a dapper young fellow.

The other reason to take up medicine is rooted in a childhood incident. On his visit to an ophthalmologist, Dr Grant was deeply agonised by the plight of poor people waiting for treatment. “I then wanted to become a doctor to attend to these people,” he recounts. Suffering severe pain when he had bouts of rheumatic fever, measles, mumps, typhoid and whopping cough in his childhood also strengthened his decision to provide solace to others.

After his MBBS from Grant Medical College and pursuing an MD, he started practising with Dr Cowaji at his clinic for a stipend of Rs 200 per month. A year after, he moved with Dr Cowaji to Jehangir Hospital (JH) in Pune. Simultaneously, he started teaching at Sassoon General Hospital. For specialisation, he then completed his post-graduation in cardiology at Mass General Hospital Boston in Massachusetts. After his studies, he resumed working at JH.

Rapid Fire

What does Ruby Hall Clinic signify to you?

It is the reason for my existence.

Any regrets?

Yes. Unable to have spent enough time with my family.

Vacation

When my wife was alive, I used to travel once or twice a year. I have seen the world, except South America. I like San Francisco, London and Vancouver.

The car he drives

I own a Honda CRV, but these days I hardly drive. I used to enjoy it earlier.

Favourite Book

He likes reading history and autobiographies. Winston Churchill’s account of World War is quite fascinating.

From Pune to Boston

Sometimes, the fruition of a dream commences with a quirk of fate. After being associated with his mentor Dr Coyaji at JH for 14 harmonious years, who would have thought that simmering differences between the two would arise? “I wanted to use X-ray and advanced lab technologies at Jehangir and when I was not allowed to do that, I decided to start on my own,” he recollects. But did it not lead to any tenuous relationship between the mentor and disciple? “No. The ageing Dr Coyaji realised he had his own shortcomings and did not grudge me for branching out,” he clarifies.

Hunting for a Loan

The first step towards building a medical hub for Pune was to decide on a place to start his practice. While in Pune, he had always been fascinated with Ruby Hall, the palatial home of former Governor-General David Sassoon’s wife, Ruby. Even though it had changed many hands, Ruby Hall had retained its name. He decided to take the place on rent. At that time, it had only one consulting room and two beds. That was in 1959.

As practice picked up, he realised the need for a bigger place. He thought of buying RHC, but shortage of money was a hitch. Banks at that time refused loans as he did not have enough collateral. Then as luck would have it, CV Jog, MD, Bank of Maharashtra lent him Rs 5 lakh without a guarantee. Maybe Jog remembered Dr Grant as he had treated his mother. “Years later, Jog explained the reason for trusting me. He had never known a Parsee to cheat on anybody,” he beams.

Dr Grant rolls with laughter while narrating his interface with the owner of RBH, MC Patel. “He was a typical ‘bawa’ and insisted only on a Bank of India cheque. Jog had to call up Bank of India and arrange for the transaction,” grins Dr Grant. He thus bought Ruby Hall for Rs 4.5 lakh in 1964.

The Ruby Story

It is said that Dr Grant would ask people to look at the old bungalow and see what they saw. When colleagues would say, ‘the hospital, the cottage,’ the visionary would retort, “No, a seven-storied glass and steel building.”

The original Ruby Hall fell to bulldozers. Though the hospital retained its original name, the name of the trust managing it has changed. From Pune Medical Foundation, around five years back, the name was changed to Grant Medical Foundation. “I did not want the hospital to belong to me and hence formed a trust,” he says.

Today, the hospital has put Pune on the medical map of India, but the journey to build it to its present stature was not easy. It required constant defying of traditional beliefs and taking decisions fraught with risks. When patients could not afford Rs 50 to pay for an X-ray, Dr Grant without paying heed to protests from colleagues, bought a CT Scan for Rs 80 lakh and fixed Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 for a test.

A series of large loans were continuously needed and at times, Dr Grant wondered whether he would be able to re-pay the huge loans taken to expand his dream. “We were paying 23 per cent interest on loans in those days,” he sighs. Weekends meant trips to Satara, Kolhapur, or Meeraj for consultation that took 20 hours. “I used to leave the hospital by seven in the morning and reach home only by 11 in the night. The only motivation was building the hospital,” he recalls.

Even his staff were constantly on their feet. He insisted constant care of each patient from the moment of their admission. Tales abound about how he would drop in the middle of the night to check whether patients were attended to with utmost care.

It was only when his nephew, Bhomi Bhote, joined as the CEO and his son Dr Purvez started shouldering some responsibility of the hospital, that Dr Grant has been a little relieved.

His Personal Story

Dr Grant was born in Tamil Nadu in November 1920 to Byram Dosabai, an auditor with the Railways. He remembers his mother, Freny, a strict lady armed with a cane. He remembers being often beaten up by his mother for playing pranks on others.

When he was two, the family moved to Pune, and Dr Grant was admitted at St Helena (a girl’s school), followed by Hutching’s High School, and later at St Vincent. He completed his graduation from Wadia College, then went on to do his MBBS from Grant Medical College, Mumbai. “I wasn’t exceptionally bright in my early years. It was only in college that I began topping in class,” he reveals. He completed his education with a post-graduation degree in cardiology from Boston in Massachusetts.

In 1940, Dr Grant married Tehmi, a Karachi national. A microbiologist, she worked in the RHC, looking after its cleanliness and house-keeping.

“Tehmi was energetic, smart, a go-getter and always encouraging,” he says. A pillar of strength, she succumbed to non Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a malignant cancer, four years ago. The couple has a son Dr Purvez, a cardiologist at Ruby Hall, and daughter Zareen.

The Other Side

Behind the successful entrepreneur, lies a fitness freak, nature lover and survivor. Fifteen years back, he would cycle his way to office. Till a few years ago, he would jog for over an hour everyday. He is known to have jogged from Mahabaleshwar to Panchgani and back, 12 miles each way. His passion for staying healthy comes from his fear he developed at 40 to avoid CAD. He began eating frugally. For the last 40 years, he has a slice of papaya for breakfast, skips lunch, and has fresh beans and fish for dinner. “I can resist the temptation for all other food,” he asserts.

His house at Mahabaleshwar offered him another advantage — he could walk from Koyna Lake to his house, half a mile away. He has a chilling memory about one of his jogging expeditions in Mahabaleshwar. Once while jogging way back home, it suddenly started to pour. “I got lost and was stuck,” he recollects. He took shelter at Lingmala, below a tree. He was freezing and did not have the physical strength to respond to the call raised by a search party initiated by his distressed family. He remembers the snakes slithering across his body. It was only the next day morning, that the brave-heart doctor mastered the strength to search his way home.

He recalls another incident when on a vacation to Scotland. The doctor fascinated by the lovely hills began climbing it to reach a particular peak without as much as a coat or proper boots. After he reached the summit, the weather changed abruptly and it started drizzling. One wrong step meant rolling down the hills. But with much trepidation and freezing cold, he came down to a road and hitched a ride back home.

There is more. His most fearful memories that almost cost him his life was a terrorist encounter. Back in 1986, on his way from Mumbai to London, the flight halted at Karachi. Some terrorists had hijacked the flight. Passengers were told to sit on their haunches. Worse, the terrorists started shooting people; around 25 people died and 100 were injured. One bullet pierced Dr Grant’s left knee. “Initially, it felt like a mosquito bite, but later the pain was unbearable,” he shudders as he recalls. One lady who dared to open a door was promptly shot. However, people started fleeing and jumping from the wings. “The flight was a few storeys and I was apprehensive to jump. But with the help of my wife, I jumped,” he says. He was unable to walk for three months after that.

The Legacy Continues

But all this can be stoically faced when he realises the love people have for him. Often, Dr Grant finds people paying their respects to him in the middle of the road. “It’s quite embarrassing, but is the biggest compliment one can get,” he says.

However, he finds he has a long way to go in his achievements. Dr Grant now wants to start an endowment fund, which would fund surgeries for the poor. “Every year, we do charity of Rs 1.5 crore. Medical treatment has become so expensive that an endowment fund would definitely help,” he says.

Does this man plan to hang up his boots? “I fail to understand people’s idea of relaxation. Relaxation is enjoying your time. I am enjoying my work,” He points to his secretary and typist, Kanga, who even at 95 prefers to work.

With such an ambience and supporting staff, one can only hope that Ruby Hall goes from strength to strength, although the future of the institute might seem uncertain to a few after Dr Grant. Maybe a few years ago, Dr Grant would hesitate to spell out his successor. But now without batting an eyelid, he says, “My son Purvez will carry on the lineage with six other trustees.”

It is heartening to know that Pune and its citizens are glad that this man chose to build his dream in their city. He has truly transformed the city from a Pensioner’s paradise to a Medical paradise.

Original article here

  • Prashant Bhatt

    It was great reading the details about
    Dr.Grant whom I remember watching
    run with his dogs at Lullanagar-Pune.

    He was one of my first heroes and inspired
    me to take up road running.

    My father was an Army Doctor, and I spent
    most of my childhood in Golibar Maidan area.
    He was an Anesthetist in CTC.

    Watching Dr.Grant jog is one of our fond
    memories.

    Now I am in Tripoli-Libya..a radiologist.

    But whenever I jog, a small corner of my mind remembers Dr.Grant

  • Robert E. Swope

    All the best for him.