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Fiji and NZ days

Read at the Memorial by Sunil Patel


My father was born in the Fiji Islands on May 9, 1942. He was third in the line of ten children- 5 boys and 5 girls. His father was an Indian businessman and his mother a homemaker, both of whom moved to Fiji from Gujarat in India. My father was educated in English by the Marist Brothers, a Roman Catholic order of Teachers. These schools were normally reserved for serious students. In early times, the family was of limited means and opportunities for higher education required that my father win a scholarship.


My father graduated from high school in 1959 and secured a scholarship to study medicine in NZ, when his high school test results placed him at the top of the island’s graduating student body. His teachers recall him as a “quiet and serious student, who was always obedient and well-mannered.” One of his teachers, currently retired in NZ, stated that he used to ask challenging questions and was a role model for the rest of the class.


He traveled to Dunedin, NZ for his medical studies in 1960- a complete vegetarian from a tropical climate and was transplanted into a cold environment, where the majority of the people were non-vegetarians. He lived in a university residence, named Selwyn House, for the first two years before moving into an apartment with five other classmates. He studied at Otago University in Dunedin, New Zealand for five years and received his medical degree in 1965. After his graduation, he married Vimla Lodhia, a science student at Otago University. In 1966, he was an intern at Dunedin Hospital and in 1968, he was a resident in medicine. In 1969, he moved to Melbourne, Australia to work on a PhD with Professor Henri Burger.


My father’s fellow students in NZ were stunned by the news of his early death and recalled many warm memories of their time together. The words they wrote were “we all respected him for his industry, patience, and tolerance.” They remembered his slightly wicked sense of humor, his neat dress. They also remembered that he carried and used an umbrella. His classmates said that he was the star of their graduating class. A number of his classmates will be gathering in Wanaka, NZ on Feb. 17 and they will be thinking of the memorial service for Yogesh.