Early Life – humble beginnings
Eduljee Hormusji Coyaji was born in Surat,
India in 1889. He was the third child among 9 siblings (five brothers, 3
sisters). The Coyajis had their own family house, but were a family of very
Young Eduljee completed his basic school and college education in Surat.
Financial constraints notwithstanding, with a great deal of difficulty, he
finished his MBBS degree examination from the Grant Medical College in
His professional career started in Poona (now
known as Pune), where he took up medical practice as an assistant to a very
well known, wealthy doctor, Dr. Sorabjee Mody. For several years Dr Mody and
Dr. Coyaji practiced together. The professional relationship turned to a
personal one when Eduljee married Dr. Mody’s daughter, Goolcheher. They had
one son, Soli, who was born handicapped – a cripple and totally helpless
from birth till is death in May 1946.
Coyaji later established his own clinic at 10, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Poona.
He was blessed with an uncanny diagnostic skill and his treatment was always
simple, yet effective. This made him very famous and patients came to him
not only from within Poona, but also from nearby districts and villages.
Although he later went on to establish a hospital, this clinic still
stands. Today it is maintained and run by his sister-in-law Dr. Banoobai
Coyaji and her son Dr. Kurush Coyaji. Various prominent visiting doctors
come on specified days to administer medical treatment to the poor for
negligible fees thereby honoring the memory of a man who stood for service
above everything else.
Jehangir Nursing Home
So impressed were Sir Cowasji Jehangir and
his wife Lady Hirabai, with the dedication and zeal of this man that they
put their palatial mansion on Sassoon Road at his disposal and persuaded him
to start a hospital. The mansion was called Ready money Villa, but in 1944
when Cowasji and Hirabai’s son Jehangir died in an accident, the hospital
was renamed Jehangir Nursing Home in his memory. (Today it is called
Jehangir Hospital and Medical Center.)
the first few years, Dr. Coyaji managed the hospital single-handedly, with
visiting doctors from Bombay. He worked tirelessly from morning to night,
and in his lifetime not once did he attend a single social function or
celebration or festive occasion! His life revolved around his hospital, and
his service to his patients, who always came first.
visiting doctors were always his personal guests and enjoyed hospitality in
his own home. Noted medical luminaries like Dr. Rustom Cooper, Dr.
Billimoria, Dr. Katrak, would come from Bombay to Poona, stay with him at
his home, perform surgeries at the hospital and rush back to Bombay.
Postoperative care of all the patients was done by Dr. Coyaji himself.
Coyaji’s integrity and dedication were rewarded by generous donations that
poured in and the hospital, which was started with only six beds in the main
building of the mansion, gradually grew and wards were built elsewhere on
the huge property.
When the volume of work became too much for him to handle Dr. Coyaji
appointed two resident doctors. Later his sister-in-law Dr. Banoobai Coyaji
looked after the gynaecology department of the hospital.
Dr. Coyaji was a simple man. Apart from
service to humanity, his greatest passion was books. He eagerly devoured
books on medicine and on religion. Despite the long hours he put in at work,
he always found time to keep abreast of the latest techniques and
discoveries in the field of medicine. He would mark out the relevant
passages and then give the books to the doctors working for him, so that
they would be well versed in the latest developments in the field. His was
an ongoing quest for knowledge, and he instilled the same in the doctors who
worked with him.
Dr. Coyaji was deeply religious man - the
living embodiment of everything that a true Zarathushti should be. Good
Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds was the sacred Zarathushtrian trilogy that
he lived by. Selfless service came naturally to him. He never demanded any
fees from the poor for his medical advice. In his clinic he kept an open box
on his table. A patient could put into it whatever he could afford. Often
times the very poor even pocketed some money from that box! But he never
objected or admonished them.
The wealthy and the destitute were equal in his eyes – they were his
patients who needed his care and treatment. Often he not only gave free
medicines to the poor, but he would slip some money into their hands or
under their pillows so they could get nourishment to regain their health.
Such was the dedication and noble spirit of this man!
With such disregard for personal gain it is hardly surprising that he never
accumulated any wealth. All his life he lived in rented premises.
Coyaji died on December 11, 1963, leaving a great void in Poona. The people
of that city, especially the poor who worshipped him, felt orphaned when he
left them for his heavenly abode. His life, his work and the legacy he left
behind can be summarized in Yasna 51.21 of our Gathas:
“The man of devotion is beneficent to all.
He is beneficent because of his wisdom,
Because of his realization of truth,
Because of the goodness in his thoughts, in his
words, in his acts.
Unto him Ahura Mazda shall grant the Kingdom of
the Good Mind,
And verily, this blessing I too long for!”
(Y 51.21 - Irani
- This article has been written with information provided by Dr. Goolcheher
Coyaji, niece of Dr. Eduljee Coyaji. The author also wishes to acknowledge
the help given by her cousin, Tehmi Aspi Anklesaria of Poona, who helped her
get the information from Dr. Goolcher Coyaji.]