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Thursday, June 13, 2024
A true gentleman: Memories of ‘The Doc,’ respected NOTL physician Ranjit Ahluwalia
Dr. Ranjit Ahluwalia, with his wife Barbara, blows out a candle at a small gathering with friends in NOTL to celebrate his 93rd birthday in November 2021. He died this week at age 95. KEVIN MACLEAN

With the death of Dr. Ranjit Ahluwalia on Wednesday at the age of 95, Niagara-on-the-Lake lost a respected physician and well-loved member of the community.

A family doctor, he and his wife Barbara called NOTL home for more than half a century and raised their five children here.

The Doc, as he was affectionately known to friends, also was a gifted multi-sport athlete, top-level bridge player and gracious host, among many other accomplishments. He was born in Kenya, where his exploits as a cricket player were legendary.

With his ever-present white turban, he cut a dashing figure. The Doc was a colourful and kind man who personified the term “gentleman.” He was a friend to many, and he and Barbara were deeply involved in the community for decades.

He is survived by his wife, five children and four grandchildren. As was his wish, there will be no funeral. An obituary notice will appear in next Thursday’s edition of The Lake Report.

The family is hosting a celebration of life on Tuesday, May 21. Friends are invited to drop in to the NOTL Golf Club from 3 to 6 p.m.

We asked retired pharmacist Ward Simpson to share some reflections and memories of his longtime friend. 

*****

Ward Simpson
Special to The Lake Report

I was first introduced to Ranjit Ahluwalia in 1977, when he interviewed me about opening a pharmacy in the medical centre in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

With his professional manner and kind disposition, I knew I was in front of a gentleman.

With the consent of Dr. Julian Adams and other physicians practising in town at the time, I opened the pharmacy.

We moved to NOTL in 1978 and within weeks my wife and two kids were invited to the Ahluwalia home for swims, supper and friendship.

To all of us, he was known by the affectionate nickname of “The Doc.”

Over the years, even though The Doc was 15 years older than me, we became very close. The Ahluwalia family became our second family.

The Doc and I enjoyed golf sessions together, a few drinks and lots of laughs.

I really got to appreciate him on our numerous golf trips to Ireland.

His first trip with us — Paul Dickson and Brian McKillop — he quickly became known to the locals as “the man with the bandage on his head.”

His brilliant white turban was his trademark.

The Doc appreciated the recognition and became famous on our several trips that followed.

Years later, when The Doc could not make the trip, the locals always asked, “Where’s the man with the bandage?”

The Irish people loved The Doc. Who wouldn’t?

His family, wife Barbara, a former nurse, children Gian, Amrit, Rajinder, Kamla and Baldev, are a testament to the wonderful man we knew as “The Doc.”

I was very fortunate to have known Ranjit for more than 40 years.

His career as a physician was not only one of caring for his patients but of respect for other persons in the health care field.

He was one of the first physicians to consult with me as a pharmacist about certain medications and their interactions.

I was never hesitant to call him regarding a potential drug interaction with a new prescription.

His writing on an Rx was impeccable. He made the role of the pharmacist an important part of the treatment of his patients.

Socially, he and Barbara were the outstanding hosts. Their parties were the most welcoming, with exceptional food, usually with at least a tinge of Indian spice to tempt all palates.

They both are well-known around town and not only hosted many functions, but were invited to all the social gatherings around town.

Ranjit’s height, distinguished facial features and white turban made him easily recognizable.

We held a baseball fun day one year with the staff from the Niagara Medical Centre and The Doc was out in left field.

I offered him a baseball glove but he politely refused.

“I played cricket before and we never wore a glove,” he said. Sure enough, he made all the catches hit his way.

Speaking of cricket, he and Barbara invited me on a trip to Nairobi, Kenya, where The Doc grew up, where they met and where they were married.

The Doc had told me of his cricket prowess, but I was overwhelmed when he took me to a cricket club where he had played.

As we entered the club, the scene was like a wall of fame dedicated to Ranjit Ahluwalia.

Pictures of him were everywhere and as we walked into the lounge there was silence as heads turned and the patrons stood and applauded, instantly recognizing a past cricket hero.

I was moved to tears, having never before realized I was in the presence of a national hero.

The food and libations flowed, and we were not allowed to spend a shilling.

The Doc then took me out to the cricket field and showed me where he had cracked a window with a hit. It felt to me like “Field of Dreams.”

One year, on one of our trips to Ireland, we went to a function where Freddy Truman, a famous cricket bowler, was the guest of honour. When Truman finished his presentation, The Doc went up and introduced himself.

“I remember you,” Truman said. “You hit me for a six.”

They shook hands and had quite a cricket conversation.

If The Doc had a fault it was his lack of patience, especially on a golf course.

A talented player, he could hit the ball a mile with his cricket-style swing. But he never liked having to wait to hit it.

“Come on, Charlie,” he would calmly say if the group in front of us was taking too long.

As a matter of fact that phrase also applied to a slow waiter in a restaurant, a slow driver on the highway, or any situation where The Doc felt he had to wait.

But, honestly, I have never known a kinder gentleman, a more professional physician, a man who was more respectful of each person he met or knew.

In the past year, even though I realized The Doc was in a place that he did not want to be, the care he received was excellent, which made it a bit more bearable for Barbara and his friends to visit him.

I confess that at times, as Ranjit’s health declined, I wished the power above would take him away.

But now that he’s gone, I’m truly saddened. The world, and our community, have lost a good man.

May you rest in peace, my good friend.

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