Cameraperson: Vinod Durge
Video Editor: Ashish MacCune
A jhola, usually a cloth bag, filled with medicines and his trusty cycle – that’s all Dr Ramchandra Dandekar needs every morning as he sets off travelling over 10 km, visiting his patients in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district. This has been the 87-year-old Dr Dandekar’s routine for around 60 years now.
“I wake up at 6 am every day and my daughter-in-law makes me tea. By 7 am, I leave for other villages. I take my cycle and visit two or three villages, give them medicines and then return home by 6 or 7 pm. Once I return home, I take a bath, have my dinner. But, if anyone calls on me even at night, I go to pay them a visit. People ask me, “do you not get tired?” I tell them that I like serving the poor and it doesn’t matter even if it is night.”Dr Ramchandra Dandekar
Even the COVID-19 pandemic could not deter the Homeopathy doctor from tending to his patients who live in remote parts of Chandrapur district. While his clinic is in Mul, door-to-door visits to neighbouring talukas are a part of the job.
“Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, I go to villages on my cycle and give them medicines and try to help them as much as I can. If they catch a cold or cough, I ask them to go to the government hospital and get themselves tested for COVID. I ask them to get me the report and then prescribe medicines. We have this homeopathy medicine called Arsenicum Album. I took a dose of that medicine and then I went to other villages and gave them preventive doses. I still do this. The number of COVID cases here have reduced slightly now,” he said.
The fact that Dr Dandekar hardly ever charges fees is a huge bonus for his patients. Tulsidas Kumbhare, a former patient of the doctor, explained that just the sight of Dr Dandekar riding his cycle barefoot and carrying bags of medicine lights up the faces of every person in the village. The 87-year-old’s commitment to his work has earned him the respect of the entire village, Kumbhare adds.
“We will never forget this contribution. We will respect him for as long as he is alive. He goes to every single household, even poor ones and asks them about their health. He never keeps a diary. When he does to treat someone at their place, he never asks them to pay fees or hand them a bill. He tells them to pay when they want.”Tulsidas Kumbhare, Former Patient
Inspired by their father’s devotion to his profession, Dr Dandekar’s children have followed in his footsteps. His son and daughter-in-law also practise Homeopathy and help in the clinic.
“My father-in-law has a lot of stamina. Even youngsters don’t have as much capacity as he does when it comes to making rounds throughout the day. He has stamina, the power to work through the day. In these 20 years, never have I ever seen him complain about body ache and become bedridden due to other diseases,” said his daughter-in-law, Dr Kishori Dandekar.
Undeterred by their worries, Dr Dandekar and his trusty cycle still hit the road every morning. His work gives him a sense of purpose, he proudly says.
“They keep saying, “Anna ji, you are so old now. You are 87, don’t go to other villages”. They try to convince me but my conscience doesn’t allow me. I tell them that I won’t achieve any peace till I see my patients.”Dr Ramchandra Dandekar