‘Everyone knew him’ Lowestoft’s ‘first Indian doctor’ dies aged 82
PUBLISHED: 17:05 22 February 2019 | UPDATED: 17:05 22 February 2019
The kindness of Lowestoft’s “first Indian doctor” has been remembered after the experienced GP passed away aged 82.
Dr Jitendra Kumar Kanjilal passed away surrounded by his family at his Dereham home on February 15 after a long battle with dementia.
The much-loved and widely respected doctor is believed to have been the first Indian doctor in Lowestoft, after arriving in 1977.
His daughter Mousumi Kanjilal Williams said: “It wasn’t unexpected but it is still hard. My brother and I are writing a speech and we asked on Facebook if anyone had stories about him and we have been overwhelmed by the response.
“We were the only Indian family in the town so everyone knew him. We didn’t experience racism we knew other family members were in London, and we really felt part of the community.
“There would be patients he would drop in on if we were driving past. He would just pull up and say he would be back in a few minutes.
“I remember him going to see a patient with her cancer results on a Saturday because he didn’t want to keep her waiting until the Monday.”
The husband and wife, as well as other members of their family, arrived in England in December 1968.
Mrs Kanjilal Williams said: “When he first moved to England there was this mythical idea of it being a dreamland, but the reality they faced in London was very different.
“They found it hard to rent houses in London because they were Indian, but when they moved to Lowestoft it really changed.
“They had moved to this sleepy town but they made friends and became part of the community.
“He grew up in Calcutta and was one of 10 children, so the family were quite poor. My grandmother realised he was quite intelligent and pushed him to get a scholarship and go to university and from there he went to Delhi.
“At the time, England were short of doctors and were pleading for people to ‘come to their commonwealth home’. He always dreamed of travelling and decided to move with my mother to England.
“He worked in various hospitals to start, but he like the continuity of getting to know patients and knowing their stories.
“He found it quite hard to get a job as a GP being an immigrant, and they ended up in out-lying parts that were hard to fill.
“They asked him in his interview why he wanted to move to Lowestoft and he told them it was because he liked yachting, which became a family joke because he never went yachting the whole time he was here.”
Dr Kanjilal spent 36 years working in the town after taking over the Alexandra Road Surgery in 1977 as a single-handed practitioner, then moving to Milton Road, where he stayed almost until his retirement.
He also served as a prison and police doctor, as well as working at the James Paget Hospital once a week. As well as his work as a GP, he was also involved in fundraising, including with the Rotary Club.
Dr Kanjilal is survived by his wife Manasi, sons Amitava and Shoumojit and daughter Mousumi, as well as son-in-law Stuart, daughter-in-law Gioia and beloved grandson Luca.
Mrs Kanjilal Williams said: “He was the most amazing dad. He really pushed us.
“His story was one of hardship so he had expectations of us and really wanted us to achieve. He encouraged us to travel and understand different cultures.
“My interest in politics comes from him because he always wanted us to have an opinion and wanted to discuss things with us, especially funding for the NHS.”
A funeral service will take place at St Faith’s Crematorium in Norwich on Friday March 1 at 2.45pm.
Dr Kanjilal’s family have requested light coloured clothing is worn to respect the Hindu tradition, while money is also being raised for the Alzheimer’s Society. To donate, go to: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jitendra-kanjilal.