For a man who has never popped a pill in the last 62 years of his life, his inability to stand on his feet was killing. Mumbaikars once feted him like a god, but only a handful know that Govind Ragho Khairnar is recovering from the most traumatic phase of his life.
In April, the 64-year-old Khairnar, who went hammer and tongs at Dawood’s buildings, underwent a surgical procedure for spondylitis of the spine. Initially, he was admitted in KEM hospital in February with a different problem. He was found to be critically low on essential salts, probably because of overdosing on naturopathy. It was only when he was discharged on March 17 that he found he couldn’t get up.
“We were in tears when he had to be lifted up the stairs into the house,” says his wife, Ashalata. Timely intervention by well-known orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Nandu Laud, ensured that he landed in Sion Hospital for a check-up.
“The dean (Dr M E Yeolekar) explained to me the pros and cons of getting operated upon. He said there was no guarantee of getting cured, but without surgery, it could get worse,” recalls Khairnar.
Khairnar despaired. “In my nervousness, I interpreted it to mean that I won’t come out of it alive,” he says After consulting two specialists from JJ and Jaslok hospitals, he decided to go under the scalpel.
The surgery worked. Now, he can sit and walk a bit, though his legs are still weak. But the experience has left Khairnar disheartened. Dubbed ‘Demolition Man’ during his heyday as the deputy municipal commissioner of Mumbai, this hyperactive ex-officer, who spent all his post-retirement time helping others, had never dreamt that he would have to depend on someone else for his needs.
Family support and the goodwill he has built up over the years has kept him going.