A Message Of Hope And Reality

HARILAL RAISHI RUPSHI SHAH( 14th April 1943 – 11th June 2014)

Harilal Raishi Rupshi Shah was an iconic Kenya cricketer of the 1960s to 1980s ( Photo shows Harilal R Shah, extreme left wearing a blazer, with Her Excellency Queen Elizabeth II on the extreme right. Others next to the Queen are her husband Prince Philip, and her eldest son Prince Charles).

Born in Thika, brought up in Nairobi and educated in the UK, he was a good sportsman – tall, slender, agile – good at any sports – badminton (school days), cricket (school/clubs / Kenya / coach/selector/ career) and golf (post cricket & later, helped revive administratively a major golfing club in Nairobi). In his cricketing days, he went on to be the Captain of the Kenya cricket team.

Then at the first-ever Cricket World Cup in England in 1975, this gentleman led East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia) cricket side. He was a sportsman off and on the field, a fine mentor, a role model, a Kenya cricket selector and later for 17 years on the International Cricket Committee – the first and the only one from Kenya so far on ICC ever. He had a great sense of humour and he said he had begun to understand the transition from a cricket bat to a golf club and in the last couple of years to a walking stick.

The Kenyan cricket star had been suffering for about three years from signs of the disease called PSP – Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. This disease is a form of atypical Parkinsonism. In this atypical condition, the disease mimics some (not all) symptoms and signs of Parkinson’s disease. Falling backwards is a clue to the possibility of PSP.

All the same, he was under very good medical care, taking many nutritional supplements and some medicines. He had 24-hour male nurse attendant care and a lot of therapists helping him. He also had some counselling and he even had ophthalmological care in the previous month. He was regularly seen by his neurologist with a family member.

The PSP scenario described above was happening as PSP was spinning an invisible web as it were! The disease took its course and as I said several times in a nice way, to Harilal Shah the occasional frustrated PSP sufferer, sadly, that you are no longer the leader, the captain – PSP is!!  It took him time to realize and accept the almost unacceptable turn of events – tough for anyone and an independent person like him – one who never wanted to hurt anyone and could let bygones be bygones. He was such a good sportsman.

And it was so good we had relatives, doctors, caregivers and friends around him during this neurological reality and learning curve.

He even participated in several meetings of a voluntary patient group called the Parkinson’s Support Group (PSG) which is active in Nairobi for PD patients. Details of PSG are available from the Africa Parkinson Disease Foundation website.

Harilal donated 14 of his priceless encyclopedias to a secondary school near Makindu. This inspired us and sparked off a charitable donation of 1760 syllabus textbooks to this school (which hitherto had no textbooks for its 160 students!).

Harilal featured in the past 50 years Kenya Asian sports personalities documentary film completed in May 2014. He could not speak clearly but the commentary taped at his flat about cricket and him, is clear.

Special thanks go to all those who stood by with Harilal  For the many who played their part in his PSP care – be it known that Harilal (means ‘son of God’) knew that! The Lal (son) is with Hari (God) now and without PSP shadowing him. His story should give hope and succor to anyone afflicted. There is help. You are not alone. If a relative or friend is suffering, seek a neurologist and patient support groups like Parkinson’s Support Group (PSG)

Dr Harshvadan Maroo, FPSK, FRPharmS 

Dr. Harshvadan Maroo is a cousin to Harilal Raishi Rupshi Shah

He is a renowned and respected Senior Pharmacist based in Nairobi, Kenya. He is also an active member of the Parkinson’s support group PSG in Nairobi.

Author avatar
Hellen Mwithiga

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