Mission Delhi – Vinod Kumar Jain, Paharganj
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is evening. The man in mask is patiently looking out into the street through a curtained glass window. He is dressed in a three-piece suit, complete with a tie (and a winter season pullover). The 70-year-old Vinod Kumar Jain — MBBS, gold medallist (MGM College, Ranchi University, Jamshedpur, 1979) — awaits his next patient, here at Hem Raj Clinic in the hotel district of Paharganj in central Delhi.
A “general practitioner”, Dr Jain has his establishment opposite the now-closed Imperial Cinema. It is soaked in the ambience of a previous world. The wood-panelled walls date back to 1953 when the clinic was set up by his father, Sumer Chand Jain. The senior Jain, too, was a “general practitioner” — he had named the clinic after his father who was a hakeem in a village in Ambala.
The interiors look like the cosy lobby of a family-run hotel, though it is as minuscule as a neighbourhood grocery shop. Glass cabinets are lined with well-preserved wood. There are also two chambers — one is labelled ‘Dispensary’, and the other is ‘Examination Room’.
Dr Jain’s patients tend to be preoccupied with general illnesses such as fevers and aches. Visiting the doctor in their vulnerable states, most of them might be too preoccupied with their ailments to note the formal dignity of his clinic, and his dress. It is uncommon in this city to come across a doctor’s establishment as venerable as Hem Raj Clinic, and a doctor as immaculately attired as Dr Jain. “This is how I dress everyday… this way, I feel happy and confident.”
The doctor lives in the nearby town of Faridabad and commutes daily (except on Sundays) to Paharganj in his chauffeur-driven car. This moment, he is quietly watching the street life outside the window. “But patients keep me busy,” he says in a voice as gracious as his personality. Dr Jain keeps himself occupied in his spare time by poring upon newspapers, magazines and medical periodicals. The doctor attends to patients from 9am to 12.30pm, and then from 4pm to 7pm. He spends the intermediary hours resting in the two-room apartment upstairs. “That’s where we lived before moving to Sector 14 [in Faridabad] 10 years ago.”
These days, due to the pandemic, Paharganj, which used to teem with western backpackers, is reduced to a ghostly look. Nothing looks as it used to. Except for this clinic and its doctor. The only alteration is in the doctor’s wardrobe, now appended with a mask.
“I think I will continue to work for another ten years, when I will turn 80,” he says, in a murmuring tone, as if sharing a secret.
[This is the 469th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Dressing to heal