'Now who is there for us?' Hundreds mourn death of Chennai’s ‘20 rupees doctor’

Dr Jagan Mohan was famous for charging his patients between Rs 1 and 20, or even free of cost if they could not afford to pay him.
'Now who is there for us?' Hundreds mourn death of Chennai’s ‘20 rupees doctor’
'Now who is there for us?' Hundreds mourn death of Chennai’s ‘20 rupees doctor’
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Perhaps the gloomy, overcast skies hanging over Chennai on Thursday too are mourning the demise of Dr Jagan Mohan, fondly referred to as ‘20 rupees doctor’ by many – people not just from Chennai but from other places across the state. Dr Jagan Mohan passed away on Wednesday night due to age-related ailments; he was 78.

The one-way RK Mutt Road on which his clinic and house are located, wedged between a clothing store and a supermarket, overflows with people, many of whom have come to pay their last respects, unmindful of the weather.

“I moved to Chennai when I got married at 16. Ever since, I’ve always come only to him. He used to take Re 1, then took Rs 2, that’s it. Even if I didn’t have the money, he wouldn’t mind. He’d say, ‘Go now, you can pay me later.’ Now who’s there for us?” asks 67-year-old Selvi Amma.

“Once, my son had severe stomach pain. He had kidney stones and the pain was unbearable. It was 3 in the morning. I still remember, when we rang his doorbell, he answered, gave my son tablets and an injection and didn’t take any money from us. My son was cured soon after. He’s got that kai rasi (lucky touch),” she adds.

Selvi Amma is not the only one who has such stories to share of Dr Jagan Mohan’s goodwill. The number of people gathered outside his house on Thursday morning is proof of his kindness. 

Dr Jagan initially charged only Rs 1 for all his patients. His patients were mainly from the poorer sections of society and so he’d also treat them for free when they couldn’t afford to pay him the Re 1. Later he’d charge Rs 2, Rs 3, Rs, 5, Rs 10 and then, up until two weeks ago when he was still seeing patients, he’d charge Rs 20.  "Now people are calling him ‘20 rupees doctor’. For us he's rendu ruba (Rs 2) doctor only," says Selvi Amma.

“You actually didn’t know how much people paid. They’d give him whatever they could and he never really insist that they pay. I knew he charged Rs 2, when I was 10-years-old and saw someone drop the coin in a box on his table. Money mattered very little to him,” says 43-year-old Murali, a distant nephew of his.

“Now who’s there for us?” This question swirls around us on the street outside his house. Pakiyam who has been working as house help in a few houses in Mandaveli tells us that she was unable to sleep last night after hearing of his demise. “I wanted to come immediately. He is a very kind person. I came running this morning. I wanted to come see him before going for my work,” her voice chokes with emotion.

“He’d give us the tablets too for free. Blood tests were done for Rs 10 at his clinic. You should see how he’d cajole a child before giving him or her injection. There’s no one who’d be as kind as he was. Today, the least a doctor charges is Rs 200,” adds Thangamani, who has been working at his clinic for 15 years, sweeping and mopping floors.

That, Dr Jagan touched the lives of many is evident from the love you see around. Katheeja, 20 years old, has come all the way from Pallavaram to help in whatever way she could for his family. “Doctor was my father’s close friend. I’ve only been to him all my life,” she tells us as she sweeps the rose petals off the mosaic floor inside his clinic. 

Born in 1940, Dr Jagan Mohan set up his clinic in the early 1970s. A framed picture that hangs inside his clinic, shows that he’s from the class of ’69, having passed out from Stanley Medical College.

Rajendran of the famed Trouser Kadai in Mandaveli, whose shop is right opposite Dr Jagan’s clinic, recalls the days when the doctor used to drop in sometimes at his eatery. “Whenever he went out, he’d come tell me personally to also keep an eye on his clinic. Romba nalla manushan (a very kind human),” Rajendran tells us.

He goes on to share that Dr Jagan Mohan never charged any money for him and for all those from his kadai (shop). “I will miss his company,” he says with a weak smile. Rajendran also shares that Dr Jagan’s father too was a doctor in their hometown. “He used to tell me that his father too was generous and charitable with his practise. Maybe it’s in the family. Dr Jagan’s hometown is in Srivilliputhur, I’ve heard,” he adds.

Outside, people watch, teary-eyed as his last rites are performed. People of all age groups, coming from different strata of society have come to pay their respects one last time for this benevolent, kind human. Dr Jagan is survived by his wife, daughter, son-in-law and a grandson. 

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