Beyond Visiting Hours At Hospitals In Mumbai



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Meher Mirza recalls her time spent as a patient and relative at Mumbai’s hospitals.

When people talk about their happy childhoods, they bleat about time spent climbing trees, being cosseted by their grandparents, escapades at school, and such like. Not me. My childhood was pockmarked with countless hospital stays, and that’s what I remember. Not that I didn’t enjoy those stays – I saw life outside the hospital as abrasive, and squalid and it was easy for me to succumb to its dubious charms. Mostly, I was swept into Breach Candy Hospital with a swirl of sirens, a hospital I still feel very fondly about.

Breach Candy Hospital was certainly not the charnel house people seem to conjure up when they think of hospitals. After my first operation (I was maybe six? seven?), I was wheeled into my room and was startled by how posh it all was – no noise, an entire air-conditioned room, a telly all to myself and a splendid view of the sea and Breach Candy Club. The food was sadly indifferent (once, before another operation, I was handed a large slice of boiled, unseasoned pumpkin) but the canteen downstairs made up for it. Most fun was had when doughty relatives visited, duty and virtue shining through their faces; then I would show them my freshly-wrought stabs and stitches and laugh boorishly as they lurched away in disgust. I was a most unpleasant child.

Their rooms overlooked its efflorescent gardens, so beautiful and peaceful that I know healthy people who made walking within a regular evening activity.

Years later, as I grew older and healthier, my mum’s knees gave up the ghost and we had to scurry to the orthopaedist’s office; it turned out that she needed an operation and the best place was Kokilaben Ambani Hospital. Kokilaben Hospital is more mall than hospital – a food court, an upscale “fine-dining” restaurant, a Subway counter, a coffee shop, a bookshop, even a gift shop (yes!). It was said that Bollywood stars languished in their suites upstairs, accessible via a special lift that was not open to hoi polloi. It is that kind of place.

Quite recently, a different sort of shadow fell upon my family. A procession of elderly Parsi relatives started staggering into Parsee General Hospital for assorted illnesses. Their rooms overlooked its efflorescent gardens, so beautiful and peaceful that I know healthy people who made walking within a regular evening activity. Far more affordable than its neighbouring Breach Candy Hospital, Parsee General had another trump up its sleeve – its handsome building houses a tiny RTI on the premises. This is where harried relatives often escape to – the crusty chicken pattice soothes nerves that have been shot to pieces by peevish, elderly relatives.

But this story ends sadly, as befits one about hospitals. Because last of all, there was Jaslok hospital where my delightful granny was admitted after a debilitating stroke. She was not very old but the stroke was severe and we sat around helplessly, watching her life ebb away. Doctors sauntered in and out of the room, sibylline nurses murmured around her bed. My granny seemed suddenly fragile, less vivid, less herself, more frightened. There was no reprieve, we were told; this was the final glide down an icy slope. In the face of so much intractable grief, I don’t really remember much of that hospital. It had all the usual hospital accoutrements – a decent canteen, a frenetic lobby and apparently excellent facilities for foreign tourists (including translators and airport pickups). I remember walking around a lot, trying to distract myself, tire myself out enough to sleep. But no matter where I went, I would find myself encased within the same shell, stewing in my own sad air.

Breach Candy Hospital Trust, 60 A, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Mumbai 400 026. Phone: 022 2366 7788

Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, 15, Dr. Deshmukh Marg, Pedder Road, Mumbai 400 026. Phone: 022 2353 3333

The B.D. Petit Parsee General Hospital, Bomanji Petit Marg, Cumballa Hill, Mumbai 400 036. Phone: 022 6118 6118

Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Rao Saheb Achutrao, Patwardhan Marg, Four Bunglows, Andheri (w), Mumbai 400 053. Phone: 022 3099 9999

Feature photo by xy –

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