Jan and Jenny Dawood: The dad we knew

Yusuf Dawood

Dr Yusuf Dawood and his wife Marie and their children Jenny (left) and Jan (right).

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

As we all know, none of us get to choose our dads. Who we get is really the luck of the draw but as it turns out, we hit the jackpot.

Many of you will know our father as a surgeon, a Rotarian or a writer. We just knew him as Dad.

Here are a few stories that reveal who our dad was from our perspective; stories you won’t read in one of his many books or the “Surgeon’s Diary” articles.

When Dad proposed to mum in 1957, it was on condition that he first passed his FRCS (Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons) examinations. So, they booked Caxton Hall in London for  May 24, 1958, the day after his results were published. Thank goodness, he passed.

Dad always believed in doing things in the right order at the right time.

On holiday in Mombasa, we would have to first complete three hours of school revision every day before we could head down to the beach to play. As children, this was very hard for us to understand and accept, but as adults we have understood the value of self-discipline and the concept of work first and then play.

He loved his work. He was so dedicated to his patients that on one occasion when we were travelling back to Nairobi from Mombasa on the train, he somehow received a message from one of friends whose son had been involved in a car accident. Our train had unfortunately hit an elephant crossing the track and it was going to take hours to clear, so he found his way by foot to the Nairobi/Mombasa Road and then hitchhiked all the way back to the theatre at Nairobi Hospital.

His passion for his work kept him in his study working away on his two latest manuscripts until the day he was admitted to hospital on Tuesday, January 17, 2023. That sense of purpose was very inspiring.

We never knew what to expect when we got home from school. Dad would sometimes come back with chickens, a mountain of mangoes and once even a goat that didn’t like Jenny and would take every opportunity to attack her! When we asked mum where these animals came from, she would simply respond by saying they were gifts from some of Dad’s patients. It was only later that we understood that these gifts were in lieu of monetary payment which was harder for some of his patients to come by.

Over the years, we have made hundreds of sandwiches at various Rotary functions, witnessed remote villages outside of Mombasa being connected with water and discussing and sponsoring many projects as a Trustee on our family MRD (Marie Rahima Dawood) charitable trust that Mum and Dad set up and where all of the income generated from Dad’s writing went.

Dad was incredibly generous and always believed in giving back.

It was as important to treat the medical condition as it was to build a relationship with his patients with kindness, compassion and empathy.

Dad fluently spoke five Indian languages, English and basic Swahili and transcended three cultures: Indian, European and African. He taught us the value of relationships and that the quality of relationships in a world that is becoming increasingly time poor is the glue to being human.

Dad was a stickler for routine and time ruled his life. Jan’s family now takes the mick out of him as he will only do things at certain times of the day. How behaviour breeds behaviour!

Finally, Dad surprised us. He knew how to perfectly fold samosas, he was talented at table tennis and cleared us out at Monopoly.

Now it’s important we do not idolise our father; he was human after all. He could be very impatient, stubborn, fastidious and seldom compromised. Qualities that drove us mad, but we accepted. That’s what you do when you love someone!

These are values he instilled in us, and as we today live our lives by the same moral code, it makes us smile knowing he is always with us in body, mind and spirit.

Finally, we are overwhelmed by the volume of messages we have received from around the world and would personally like to thank everyone who has so graciously paid a tribute to our father. Your kind words have brought us much comfort at this very difficult time and will continue to do so in the coming months.

Jan is the son and Jenny is the daughter of Yusuf K Dawood


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