Paediatrician K. Manonmani rewinds to February 1965 when she established her 15-bed children’s hospital on Cowley Brown Road in the city.
Relatives and friends asked her why she chose an isolated location to open her hospital. In fact, she was the first doctor to begin practice there.
Now, Cowley Brown Road is Coimbatore’s version of Harley Street in London. How? There are at least 100 doctors who are consultants in many hospitals and clinics on this road, says Dr. Manonmani, now 87-years-old and still a practising paediatrician.
To the north of the road is State Forest Rangers College campus, which also houses the Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding.
On the other side of the more than one km road is an imposing row of medical centres. From pathological laboratories to the clinic of a cardiologist or cancer specialist, Cowley Brown Road has it that makes it the city’s medical centre. Only the Uzhavar Sandhai, Nagarathar Sangham, Central Public Library are among the very few non-medical structures on this road. “I still remember the time when I was asked why I chose such a desolate spot. I used to work in my clinic without an assistant from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and then went to the Government Hospital for free service. That was a time when the autorickshaw fare from my clinic to the GH was only 50 paise. I used to do even night shift in the clinic then,” she said, suggesting that the “far away” tag for the location did not matter.
Curiously, material available with the forest rangers college mentions that the institution was three km from Coimbatore! Now, the area’s pincode is 641002, next only to the Town Hall-Ukkadam area where the heart of the city is supposed to lie.
Gynaecologist Sarojini Raman then opened Balaji Hospital and surgeon V.P. Subbaian set up Kumaran Polyclinic (in 1969). That set the trend for more doctors to choose Cowley Brown Road.
“There are 30 consultants in my establishment (named Kumaran Building) now,” says Dr. Subbaian. He recalls gastroenterology surgeon C. Palanivelu practising as a general surgeon first and then as a laparoscopy specialist. He now owns Gem Hospital on Pankaja Mill Road. “We now have on this road many dental surgeons, gynaecologists, ophthalmologists, cardiologists and specialists in many other fields and also a host of scan centres with state-of-the-art technology,” says the 87-year-old Dr. Subbaian who comes to the hospital every day and plays golf during weekend.
“This is one of the most eminent medical centres in this region,” says medical oncologist and Director of Sri Ramakrishna Institute of Oncology and Research P. Guhan. The institute’s city centre, with a tobacco cessation clinic, also functions on this road.
Dr. Manonmani says she was the first practising paediatrician of the city. Till then many children in R.S. Puram were being taken to an alternative medicine physician in that locality. “I belong to Vellore and am a product of Christian Medical College there. But, I made Coimbatore my home, especially Cowley Brown Road.
THE MAN BEHIND THE ROAD
IT was named after F.L.C. Cowley Brown, the Britisher who took charge in 1912 as the first principal of the Madras Forest College (renamed State Forest Rangers’ College on April 1, 1955). After moving out of the post in 1915, he was back for another stint in the post from May 1917 to July 1920.