A Story of His Life By a Man Who Has Never Gotten Anywhere: Robert Lincoln Watkins, M.D., 1863-1934. The Doc Meets Shrimant Sanpatrao, the Gaekwar of Baroda.


I, an unknown American, once met the Gaekwar of Baroda, a native Indian state, Prince Shrimant Sanpatrao. It was said his income was $18,000,000 per annum.

He was stopping at the Grand Hotel on Broadway and 30th Street. Handing my card to the woman clerk, she said, “Room 30, first floor.” I said, “Did you phone, and did he say to come up?” (I did see her telephone.) “No,” she said, “he left word that anybody at all who wanted to see him should be sent up.”

On going up and knocking, a voice called out, “I”m taking my bath. Try again.” I didn’t try there again, but went to a restaurant where he was to dine this evening, on Eighth Ave. near 46th St.

Handing my card to the attendant, a Hindu with turban and costume of chintz, he soon returned and led me in. It was a plain place, and the seats and table in the front seemed to be empty.

Behind ordinary screens, one of which the lady attendant pulled to one side, the Prince, a handsome, coal-black, curly-white-haired man of medium height, arose and said, “I am entertaining my friends,” and, in a polite introductory manner, as I sat down on a settee which was pulled up near his, “What can I do for you?”

His friends were all black or brown women and men. They bowed, but remained seated, about a dozen all together.


I replied that we would like him to pay us a visit, as we understood he was a  Mason. He replied in perfect English, “I am very sorry, but early tomorrow I sail for England. I knew President Roosevelt, and visited Mr. Bryan in Nebraska, and I would be pleased to visit you but for the fact of my departure. When you come to London, come to see me or my brother. You will also be welcome in India.”

Then he handed me his card, and as I departed, he sat down. I noticed he and his guests were eating what appeared to be rice and tapioca. There were no meats on the table. All of those present were dressed in ordinary American or English costume, with no hats on.

[Background: here’s the preface, forward, and notes from the editor of R.L.W.’s memoir; here’s his account of his upbringing through medical school;  here’s when he self-inoculated with tuberculosis and went off to Paris with a charlatan; here’s where he  treated typhoid, learned to dance, theorized, and sutured guinea pigs together; here’s where he contracts cholera and hooks his uncle up with testicular juice; here’s his misadventures in self-publishing while treating a slow-motion suicide-by-drinking; here’s where he hangs out with a magician and a vaudevillian; here’s where he recounts his singing career; here’s his ode to a Fulton Market butcher; here’s where he explains his profound love of music; here’s an account of a hard-partying man named Emrich; here are his escapades with a reporter take him to Carnegie’s house; here’s where he gets rooked by a crook of a partner; here’s where he loses his shirt working on an invention for 15 years; here’s where he travels south during the World War and becomes a DuPont physician who’s present for a mass industrial accident; here’s his description of complications involving his patients and practice; here’s his take on syphilis, polio, avoiding impositions, and the nature of success; here’s his description of making a coats-of-arms lantern-slide lecture; and here’s a piece I wrote for New York Press upon first reading the memoir.]

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