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“A Good Standard and Not Mere Pass Marks” – Indian Medical Students in the 1920s Part Two

Year photograph of students at University College Dundee c.1926 including several Indian students (image from University of Dundee Archives)

Having attended a “recognised Indian University” was not enough for a student to be accepted at Dundee’s Medical School. The Faculty of Medicine minutes from 1922 record that students from India wanting to study here would have to produce certificates to show that they had “passed the Matriculation Examination of the University from which they come or an examination recognised as equivalent thereto, and in addition the preliminary Scientific or Intermediate Examination in Arts or Science of their own University”, the subjects required being “included in the pass certificates.” In spite of these additional requirements, many students came from India to study medicine in Dundee.

In Part One we looked at students from King Edward Medical College in Lahore (now in Pakistan). In Part Two we look at students from other Indian institutions.

King George Medical College in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, opened in 1911, the King himself (as Prince of Wales) having laid the foundation stone five years earlier. At least one of the College’s students, Ajudhia Nath Nanda, came to study in Dundee. Originally from Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, he matriculated in 1921 and lodged at a house on 20 Rankine Street, where he lived with fellow Indian student Karam Chand Virmani. After graduating MB ChB with Virmani and Surendra Nath Lahiri in 1925, he registered as a medical practitioner at 5 Fraser Street. A few years later, in 1928, he registered again, moving to 39 Bruce Street.

In 1931, after attaining a Diploma of Public Health (DPH) from St Andrews, Dr Nanda was involved in a legal dispute involving unpaid medical fees incurred by a Mr Laing, wine and spirit merchant at 106 Dura Street, Dundee, and George Butters of 14 Cowgate. They were the trustees and executors of the late Charles Gloag of 4 Mains Loan, and according to the Dundee Courier, they refused to pay Dr Nanda because the “charges were excessive” and that he was asking for fees covering “a period of 16 months” that were not “rendered to the deceased by pursuer, although he was requested to do so.” They also claimed that Mr Gloag “did not need constant medical attendance” prior to his death. The Courier followed the case for several months until a settlement between the parties was reached; unfortunately no details of the settlement were divulged.

Later newspaper articles about Dr Nanda show him getting into further trouble. In 1932 he was caught without a driving licence for his vehicle, and in 1933 he was reported to the Dundee Insurance Committee for his prolonged absence from his practice. Sending a letter from India to the committee in his defence, Dr Nanda explained “that his sudden departure for that country was due to a cablegram notifying him of the illness of his mother. His prolonged absence was due to an attack of malaria, which necessitated his removal to a hill station. The letter was accepted without comment”.

Dr Nanda later moved to London, setting up practice at 8 Royal Avenue, Chelsea, but once again found himself in difficulty. In 1941 the Chelsea News & General Advertiser reported that he had been fined for causing traffic obstruction in Knightsbridge. In court, he apologised, stating that he was on an emergency call and “thought he would kept only five minutes, but the case was very serious, and he could not leave the patient.” In response the magistrate said, “You could have sent someone to see to the car.” He was fined 10 shillings.

Further south of King George Medical College was Allahabad University in Prayagraj, established in 1887 at the request of the Lieutenant Governor of the North Western Provinces, Sir William Muir. At least three students are known to have come to Dundee from there.

Surendra Nath Lahiri matriculated at the age of 24 in 1921 having procured lodgings in a tenement building at 174 Lochee Road. He did well in his 2nd-year exams but had to re-sit one exam in his 3rd year. Before he could graduate, he had to re-sit two of his final subjects. He finally graduated MB ChB in 1925 along with fellow Indian students Ajudhia Nath Nanda and Karam Chand Virmani. In 1937, he was awarded a DPH from St Andrews. By that time, he had enlisted in the Indian Medical Service (IMS) as a Temporary Lieutenant.

Also educated at Allahabad University was Yadu Nanan Lal, who matriculated in Dundee in 1922. He nearly failed to graduate in 1926 due to outstanding fees for his degree, having travelled home to India to see his unwell mother. Having earned his MB ChB, he was also awarded an LDS from the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons in Glasgow. He later moved to London and became a general practitioner at 672 Old Kent Road. In 1959 the South London Observer reported that a fire had started in his surgery caused by “paraffin vapour escaping from an oil stove”, which destroyed part of the room. Dr Lal died in 1970 at New Cross Hospital.

Before coming to Dundee, Bhavani Shanker lived in Ajmar in Northern India, who also had studied at Allahabad University. He matriculated in 1921 and lived in lodgings at 3 Hill Crescent in Wormit. Acquiring his degree was not easy for him. A year before graduating he submitted a letter of complaint to the Senatus stating, “he had been refused a certificate of attendance in the class of Diseases of Children through failure to obtain a pass mark in the class examination.” The certificate was not granted but the University recommended getting recognition of his studies from one of the hospitals for sick children in London. After failing his final exams twice, Shanker finally graduated MB ChB in 1926.

174 Lochee Road, temporary residence of Surendra Nath Lahiri and 274 Blackness Road, temporary residence of Mohan Lal Ahuja (photos by the author)

Government College, Lahore was established by the British Raj in 1864 and was affiliated with the University of Calcutta. Wajid Ali Khan Burki from Punjab had studied there before matriculating in Dundee in 1921. He lived initially in St Andrews at 7 Pilmour Place then later at 3 Hill Crescent, Wormit where Bhavani Shanker also lodged. After graduating MB ChB in 1924, he pursued an MD in the subject of Ophthalmology. He achieved this in 1925 with a thesis titled “Anophthalmia and Microphthalmia”. By the time of his graduation from St Andrews he was based in London undertaking further study at Moorfield Eye Hospital, where attained a Diploma in Ophthalmic Medicine & Surgery. In 1927 he enlisted in the IMS and was appointed Eye Specialist in 1933.

Last but not least, Mohan Lal Ahuja matriculated aged 20 in 1921. He was educated in Bombay (now Mumbai) but did not specify which institution he attended. While in Dundee, he lodged in a tenement at 274 Blackness Road and later at 3 Pine Terrace in Broughty Ferry, a house managed by Mrs Margaret Irwin. Irwin was a celebrated political activist who was involved in the formation of the Scottish Trades Union Congress and served as its first secretary. After a couple of years there, later Ahuja moved to Station Road, East Newport. In 1925, he graduated MB ChB, and the following year earned his MD with recommendation with a thesis titled “Serological Syphilimetry”. He was later awarded a DPH from St Andrews in 1936. He also enlisted in the IMS as a Temporary Lieutenant and in 1937 was made a Major.

One other notable Dundee alumnus who has not been detailed here was Dr Jainti Dass Saggar – his story is told in a separate blog on this site.

These are all of the medical students we know of that came to Dundee from India in the 1920s, but there may have been more. We would love to hear any further information anyone can shed on their lives and later careers.

Written by Johanna Steele


Dundee Courier (Various dates)

Dundee Evening Telegraph 18 August 1932.

Chelsea News & General Advertiser 28 March 1941

Geni, A MyHeritage Company

Government College University, Lahore,,_Lahore

King George Medical College

Margaret Irwin

South London Observer 22 January 1959

University of Allahabad

University College Dundee Matriculation Registers

University College Dundee

General Medical Council Education Committee, 28 November 1922 [RU676/1/5]

Minutes of Faculty of Medicine 5 June 1919 to 16 June 1924 and 19 June 1924 to September 1939 [RU676/1/5 and RU676/1/6]

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