By Mohammed Hersi
Ina Lillah wa Inna Illahi Raji’un.
Dr Yusuf Kodwavwala, aka Dr Yusuf Dawood, was widely known to Kenyans through his Surgeon’s Diary column that had a permanent slot in the Sunday Nation newspaper. I knew him as a fellow Rotarian, a senior Rotarian for that matter. He was District Governor, which, to non-Rotarians, means he was president of all Rotary clubs in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. Uganda and Tanzania were later separated from the rest since the District had become too big.
I also knew him as my loyal repeat guest with his family when I was the general manager of Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort & Spa. He never missed a single festive period in December. It was always a pleasure to meet the surgeon in person. He would always book his holiday way in advance.
As soon as he had checked out, he would place his booking for the end-year again, and he did this religiously. He would always come accompanied by his better half, Mama Marie. They followed this annual ritual from when their son was young until he got married and moved to the UK. Dr Dawood would then come with his son, who now also had a young family. It was always such a joy to host three generations of a family at the same time.
Dr Dawood was always relaxed. You would always see him walking around the resort barefoot, wearing only a pair of swim shorts. He would engage the guests who recognised him in the resort. He was a man full of humour and that could be one of the reasons he had such a long, joyous life. He was not a fussy guest and was easy to please, as most Rotarians are.
As he continued to age gracefully, he decided to get close to his son in the UK and he reluctantly left Kenya, a place he called home since he moved from India. We kept in touch with him through the Rotary Club of Mombasa WhatsApp group.
While he was no longer able to write as much, he was still able to send us best wishes all the time . My club, Rotary Club of Mombasa, was his favourite to make up any time he was at the Coast. He was also a major donor to Rotary and he would bequeath most of the royalties he earned through writing to good causes of Rotary.
This was a small man in terms of physique but a giant at heart in giving . He was generous to the core and I am pretty sure he kept giving even in his final days.
When I used to read his column before meeting him, I actually thought that Dr Dawood did not even exist and that my favourite paper, the Sunday Nation, was running a fiction column.
When I finally met him at a resort where I was general manager, it was such a wow moment. By then, I had also joined Rotary. He was not only my guest but also a fellow Rotarian. As Rotarians, we have this very special union of brotherhood and family that binds us together.
When Dr Dawood breathed his last, the Rotary Club of Mombasa was one of the first to be informed about his demise. His son, Jaan Yusuf Kodwavwalla, sent this message to his Rotary family in Kenya including his dad’s favourite club, the 3rd oldest club in Africa: “My Dad slipped away from us in the early hours of this morning (28th Jan). May his soul rest in peace.”
Well, you will be greatly missed, Daktari. To his son , better half Marie and family, Kenyans grieve with you since Daktari had made many friends through Rotary and his gifted hands both as a surgeon and as a writer.
Dr Dawood, aka the surgeon, will be sorely missed. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
Mohammed is a Mombasa-based Rotarian