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The demi-god of reconstructive surgery

Royapuram in northern Chennai has been close to a large concentration of industrial units. Grievous accidents were common and frequent at the industrial units. There is an additional contribution to dense traffic.

The government’s Stanley Medical College Hospital had a constant rush of such accident victims at the casualty ward. Many of the accidents caused severance or damage to the vital limbs, especially hands.

The pioneer…

Surgeon R Venkataswami was deeply concerned with this. He had trained under the legendary Dr. C Balakrishnan at Nagpur Medical College and took his MCH in Plastics Reconstructive Surgery. Unfazed by the limited resources available, he worked on maximizing the available facilities and focused on reconstructive hand surgery. This he achieved by constant upgradation of the facilities earmarking increasing areas for hand surgery.

Aware of the urgency of attending to this (the severed limb had to be preserved and brought within six hours of the accident) he looked at such simple steps as hassle-free access to hand surgery ward from the casualty entrance. He attended to the victim first. His advanced training in microsurgery helped reconstruct the severed limb through hours of painstaking and intense surgical procedures. He followed up such surgery through physiotherapy, helped the patients to return to healthy work life.
Dr Venkataswami is thus considered the Father of Reconstructive Hand Surgery. In quick time he perfected the systems and procedures and also trained a large number of surgeons to emerge as experts in this field.

Several grateful disciples of RV organized a function to facilitate their guru receiving the Padma Shri award from the President of India. It was a pleasant sight to see a couple of hundred guests gathered to applaud the dedicated great work of this microsurgeon.

The Gandhian…

A few days earlier, my wife and I dropped in at his residence to offer our congratulations. RV and his gynecologist wife Sivarani referred with a passion to the work being done at Gandhi Niketan Ashram near Madurai. In his cell phone, the good doctor showed the plan to construct a new block of buildings that would further expand facilities at the Ashram that provides education to around 3000 children from the rural neighborhood. The Ashram founded by Gandhian, G Venkatachalapathy, Dr. Sivarani’s father, has been nurtured with abundant care and passion by RV and his wife.

In his acceptance speech at the function, RV made moving references on getting mentored by his father, his teacher Ayyavoo and Swami Nishkamananda of Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya. At 84, RV is still a consultant at Apollo First Med Hospital, Chennai. Looking at the six-decade-plus spectacular contributions of RV, a thought lingered in my mind: should not such demi gods receive their awards early and also be considered for a higher level – of a Padma Bhushan?

CR’s mango diplomacy

Vanitha Ramani and Alarmel Valli threw a surprise party to their uncle, C Ramakrishnan (CR) turning 90. Around 50 of the close friends of CR turned up. In attendance were his illustrious tennis mates including Ramanathan Krishnan, friends from the bureaucracy, media, and others. The Cambridge-educated senior lawyer is multi-faceted. His interests range from business to agriculture, from Thirukkural to learning Sanskrit and philosophy.

CR is a trustee of several temples. An expert on orchards, especially mangoes, he raises twenty-seven varieties at his farms in Chunampet and Vennangupattu. I admire him for his mango diplomacy: his sending neatly packed delicious mangoes to hospitals, orphanages and to friends!

He set apart a large acreage, engaged Lalitha and Vijayan of the Salim Ali Foundation, procured saplings of over 400 species of trees from across the country and set up an arboretum at Yerrangadu on the guidance of former finance secretary K P Geethakrishnan.
I also admire his continuous quest for the acquisition of knowledge. His regular attendance at lectures on Hindu philosophy, his learning Sanskrit and Thirukkural exemplify that age is no barrier for learning. I also have a personal reason. He argued my case before the Madras High Court and helped win the right of a journalist to be critical of the bad performance of companies, a valuable contribution to safeguarding media freedom.

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