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Updated: May 26

Doctor Chowdhary's amazing life made such an impression on me that I was inspired to write a story which was based on him and how he affected those who knew and loved him, which was pretty much the whole community of Laindon at one time. I've got information from people who were his patients including his daughter who has written on Laindon & District Community Archive and information from other local history books. His daughter gave me her permission to write and publish this.

"Doctor Chowdhary will be so terribly missed! Yesterday, when his funeral procession went through Laindon High Street there were so many people wasn't there Polly? Crowds of us standing on the pavement, hardly a dry eye amongst us." Pa said with tears rolling down his cheeks.

"Yes love, he was one in a million. Sometimes he would walk many miles down dirt tracks to attend to a patient, people would call on him at all hours. I remember when next door's dog bit me when I was a kid, he said, "did you bite him back?" Ma laughed.

"My brother wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for him," Pa recalled. "Cliff was Mum's first baby and there were complications. She was in labour for over two days and he didn't leave her side! He wasn't just a doctor he was our friend."

Ma turned to me and said, "This happened in the 1940's and 50's, but Pa gets these flashbacks where he thinks he's still in his youth. I humour him as he gets quite upset when he realises what he's doing."

All my life Pa had held the family together, he was our rock. Pa never owed anybody anything, he didn't believe in being in debt. He was firm but fair, and always very kind. Unfortunately he is in the early stages of dementia and it is so sad to see his gradual deterioration.

Suddenly Pa started laughing and then went quiet, looking into the distance recalling some personal memory. We sipped at our tea and I switched on the television as I remembered that 'The Wright Stuff' was on. There had just been an advertisement break and Matthew reminded us about what today's program was about.

"Today we are talking about your experiences in your doctor's surgery. Do you have to wait for an unreasonable time to see your doctor? Have you got a good doctor/patient relationship or do you often get the stand-in locum?"

Ma and I locked eyes in disbelief, Pa sat watching, spellbound. Matthew continued, "I've got a call from Doreen in Birmingham, morning Doreen!"

"Good morning Matthew, I've called to say that I find it disheartening that I've had to wait up to forty minutes for my appointment and I don't think my doctor remembers me from my last visit!"

Pa turned to Ma and asked, "What year is it Polly?"

"It's 2016 love." She said, putting her hand on his shoulder giving it a loving stroke. Pa slumped in his chair looking very glum. He appeared bewildered and looked smaller than before within the large brown armchair. Mum had to become the strong one now, she'd taken over the finances and was gradually taking on more of a caring role. Ten minutes later he turned to look at me, he smiled as his mental fog seemed to clear.

"Amelia love, how are you?" He asked.

"I'm very good Pa, thank you." I replied, blinking back a stray tear.

I left soon after and decided I needed to go for a walk as watching Pa go like that, not knowing what decade he was in, let alone century, made me feel very sad. I arrived at my local nature reserve then wandered along familiar paths, it was springtime and what broke the dullness inside of me was the exquisite nature all around. It had been working hard, new leaves on each and every tree, colours vibrant and restrained - lime green, moss, ochre and jade. I looked to the sky, a soft grey, and a few drops of rain plopped on to the hood of my plastic mac from a branch overhead. I looked at the droplets on my fingers, feeling their cold, wet substance. I strode more purposefully through the woodland and looked to my left and breathed in the luscious, verdant landscape. I realised I needed to look on the bright side, adjust my attitude and be more positive. It wouldn't help anybody if I was gloomy. I had the seed of an idea growing which I thought was ironic as I was surrounded by seedlings. I needed to get home and do some research.

I looked up words like 'reminiscing' on the internet and made the discovery that there was such a thing as reminiscence therapy, it help the dementia sufferer as although their short-term memory is poor their long-term memories are stronger and the person gains a positive feeling and it boosts their mood, making them feel valued and decreasing stress. It could also minimize challenging behaviour like anger and wandering. I would have to tell Ma about this, I also found out that there were memory days at Laindon Library once a month, Pa would love that! Ma was excited about the reminiscence therapy and thought that going to the memory day was a great idea. It was on this Saturday which was a stroke of luck.

We arrived at the library at ten o'clock. The organiser was very friendly and introduced us to a few people who were sitting down in little groups. We sat down, and as the others were already chatting amongst themselves I decided to start a conversation with Pa.

"Pa, the doctor you were talking about sounded amazing! What was his name? Doctor Chowdhary?" He smiled and said, "Oh he was marvellous! You don't get doctors like that these days. Before the NHS started we had to pay to see the doctor and a lot of people were poor in Laindon. He would assist anyone medically despite their ability to pay and would accept produce such as eggs or vegetables."

At this point a few heads turned to listen. Ma then added. "That's the thing, in some places the doctors' weren't so generous and if you didn't have the money you didn't even get to see the doctor! I remember him giving my brother some coins when he had to have stitches, for bravery he said! Tommy was so proud of those stitches."

A lady with rheumy eyes cleared her throat to address the growing group of listeners. "Oh Doctor Chowdhary! I certainly remember him. I sent my children to Chowdhary County Primary School, which as I'm sure you all know was named in his honour. His wife, Savitri was lovely too, my mum was always telling me about how sunny and pleasant she was, and very supportive to the community."

Memories were shared, I sat back and looked at Pa who was in his element. I nudged Ma, she was beaming and gave me a wink. She was thoroughly enjoying herself too. "I don't want to over-egg the pudding," said Pa, "But we were so lucky to have the marvellous Doctor Chowdhary!"

"Hear hear!" Was the collective response.

As the cups of tea and coffee were being handed out an old man walked in. Pa stopped mid-biscuit dunk and stared. "If it isn't my old friend Ed! By George it's Eddie Potter, as I live and breathe!" The old man stood looking with his mouth wide open. I was thinking, 'go on, remember Pa please!' The next moment they were shaking hands and patting each others shoulders. Ma looked at me with watery eyes and said, "Thank you darling, it's been magic today!"

©️Lisa Horner

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