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5 amazing things I have learnt from the life of Dr. Yusuf Kodwavwala Dawood

If age is not judged by years alone, but by the intensity of life – the life one has crowded into those years and not merely the years one has lived – then I can claim to have had a long and fascinating life,” writes Dr Yusuf Kodwavwala, in his autobiography titled: Nothing but the Truth-The Story of a Surgeon with Four Wives.

On 17th March 2018, the Rotary family hosted Dr Yusuf Kodwavwala Dawood for a farewell luncheon. We fondly refer to him as PDG Yusuf. PDG in Rotary lingua means Past District Governor.

Yusuf relocates to England in April to join his children & grandchildren. He has been practising medicine for over 60 years having qualified as a doctor in 1953 and a surgeon in 1958.  In the peak of his career, he would conduct up to 700 operations in a year.

“We have gotten to an age where Marie and I can no longer take care of each other,” he told the room full of friends and Rotarians who had gathered.

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I sat keenly listening and watching Dawood. It is true, he is now frail, shorter, walks slowly and has lots of wrinkles. “I am even stammering now,” he said.

Yusuf is a husband, father, a surgeon, a writer and a Rotarian (philanthropist). His autobiography book Nothing but the Truth-The Story of a Surgeon with Four Wives, he writes about his life’s journey
as he pursues his passions- surgery, writing, Rotary and family, which he figuratively describes as his four wives. .

Dr. Yusuf Dawood turns 90 on September 13, 2018.

I grew up reading Surgeon’s Diary column in the Nation newspaper. I was very honoured when I met Dawood in person as a Rotarian. He and his wife (Marie) are an amazing couple.

Back in my younger Rotary years, Dawood was a master orator who would bring the house down with his humour. I will miss that. I attended all events where he was a speaker. He is an inspiration.

Speaker after speaker gave glowing tribute about Dawood. Some he has known for over 60 years! It was so touching when one gentleman narrated how Dawood was their family doctor. He has operated on his dad, mum, himself and his son! “I knew Dawood since I was born!” he told me.

Yusuf and all his three brothers ended up as doctors and lawyers. His only sister dropped out of school and married early because of social constraints. She later completed her schooling at a convent and spoke fluent English.

Dr Kodwavwala hails from Bantwa, a tiny town in Saurashtra, western India. His father was called Dawood Kodwavwala. He was born in a small village called Kodwav, near Bantwa – which explains the origin of the name Kodwavwala.

Due to the difficulty in pronouncing and writing his surname, Yusuf jokingly described it as a cross he has carried all his life. When he came to Kenya in 1961 to work at the Aga Khan Hospital, the staff chopped his name to Mr. K. The name stuck.

Dr Kodwavwala arrived in Nairobi in March 1961. In the photo, Yusuf is with Eric Kimani during a welness Rotary event.

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In the few years I have interacted with Dawood, I have learnt several important things from him:
1. You must invest in building lasting relationships with family and friends.

2. Life is a passing cloud. You are strong today and tomorrow, you are old and can barely climb the stairs.

3. Live with the end in mind. You are not here forever. Do what you have to do and exit the stage.

4. There is a lot of SATISFACTION when you look back and realise you spent your time on things that matter (family and experiences).

5. The things keeping you awake today or making you worry will not matter 10 years from now.

About Yusuf Dawood

He met his wife Marie in the UK. They have two children – Jenny and Jan who were born in 1964 and 1967 respectively.

Dawood was born on September 13 1928, in Bantwa, India, son of Dawood and Rahima Moosa. He arrived in Kenya on March 20, 1961, after studying Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, Grant Medical College, Bombay till 1953.

In September1948, his father was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus and succumbed three months later.

After obtaining his MBBS in 1953, Yusuf worked as a house surgeon at the JJ Hospital (Bombay) for a year. For his postgraduate, he went to the UK in 1955, where he attained his Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) in 1958, after successfully doing four surgical terms at Maidenhead,
Blacknotley and Banbury Hospitals and Drewsbury General Infirmary.

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