When he was fourteen, he witnessed his father’s first seizure. After his father passed away, he thought of becoming a cricketer, a pilot or an architect, but, it was his destiny to become a doctor.
At sixty-two, neurosurgeon Dr Aadil Chagla, with a great love for cricket, is in pursuit of giving back to society by setting up trauma response centres along the Goa-Mumbai highway.
Medicine for Dr Chagla is not about money but about improving the quality of lives of people and curing diseases. He says, “I like not to play God but to give maximum hope to the sick, unlike in the West.”
Medicine in India is on the same page with technology, and Dr Chagla, who has the highest number of successful cerebral aneurysm surgeries in the country, feels he is one of those doctors who “rode the wave of advances in neurosurgery that helped the pathological understanding of brains”.
“The country has seen some tremendous advances in imaging. There was a time when getting a CT scan was difficult. Today we can get an MRI done within days, and if we go to a private laboratory, within hours,” muses Dr Chagla, HOD of the Neurosurgery Department of Nair Hospital in Mumbai.
From the over 6000 surgeries he has performed all over the country, Dr Chagla signals a case of how he helped his neighbour, who he detected to be sick when she was three, as his best intervention.
“I noticed there was something wrong with my neighbour when she was around three, but her parents were in denial. As she grew older, her seizures increased, and she started getting worse," says Dr Chagla, who offers consultations at a private hospital in Goa every month.
"When all doctors had given up, I took up the scalpel. After a twelve-hour surgery, today I share happy memories with her,” he continues.
“I won’t rate myself because the sky is the limit and rating is for others. We always try to excel, and the moment one stops, you are dead meat. One has to be better than the best as it is about seeking perfection,” says Dr Chagla, who completed his MCh in Neurosurgery from Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology in Kerala.
Dr Chagla does not measure success in terms of surgeries performed or the number of lives saved but on an individual’s capability to be constantly open to give. This has pushed him to start the Shaukat C Chagla Trust started in memory of his father.
“We have started a trauma response centre in Kambla, near Mahad on National Highway 66, so that first aid can be available in quick time. Surprisingly, after the centre was started, the number of accidents on the highway has decreased. Whatever the reasons may be, the start is good,” says Dr Chagla, who intends to open such centres within 75 to 100 kilometres of each other on the Mumbai- Goa highway.
The idea, according to him, is to get a doctor to the accident spot in quick time to save lives. “We are resting with God, asking God for time. If you give time to others, God will give you time,” believes Dr Chagla.
Professionalism, according to him, “means to allow the head to disconnect with emotions”, and when not wearing a lab coat, it means wielding a cricket bat.
“I was never selected for the Mumbai team because they always thought I did not need to be part as I was studying medicine,” confesses Dr Chagla, who even at this age gets in a game of cricket.
“When the blood in your veins returns to the sea, and the earth in your bones returns to the ground, perhaps then you will remember that this land does not belong to you, it is you who belong to this land,” is a thread of thought that pulsates through one’s mind as Dr Chagla gets ready for his flight back to Mumbai.