I have reason to be grateful to so many of my teachers, friends and well wishers for their many acts of kindness that I cannot ever forget them. One of them was Dr A.V. Baliga.

After completing my M.B.B.S., I was doing terms for M.D. (Medicine). I had done two posts in Medicine when Dr R.G. Dhayagude, then Dean of K.E.M. requested me to accept the Casualty Officer's post as he could not get any senior man to take on this extremely responsible job. At that time the Casualty Officer had to rotate as an anaesthetist in the operation theatre. This is how I came to be an anaesthetist. After a year as Casualty Officer, I was offered the post of Medical Registrar as had been promised. It was necessary for me to hold this post as I was appearing for MD in Medicine. As an anaesthetist, I found that my work was being slowly appreciated until one day, Dr Baliga called me aside in the operation theatre and told me that I should take up Anaesthesia as my career and give up Medicine. This, coming from Dr Baliga was almost like a command and I knew that, having given me the advice, Dr Baliga would personally hold himself responsible for the success of my future career. Dr Baliga was known to have moulded the destiny of so many deserving students and helped them become successes in their respective fields. I can mention the names of Dr G.S. Ambardekar, my senior in anaesthesia, Dr B.N. Sircar, my teacher and Dr L.H. Athle, the renowned Radiologist. All of them owed much of their success to Dr Baliga. Even Dr K.T. Dholakia who is today the most renowned orthopaedic surgeon and one whose contribution to his speciality has put India on the international map and can be called a living legend, owes his present status to the encouragement and timely help he received from Dr Baliga. I can name any number of topmost consultants in Bombay who would vie with each other to proclaim their gratitude for the helpful hand of Dr Baliga in moulding their careers. So when I was advised to give up Medicine and take up Anaesthesia, I was certain that Dr Baliga had taken upon himself to look after me and my future.

I was Casualty Officer and Resident Anaesthetist in K.E.M. for about six years and the salary was Rs 210 p.m. on which I could just about manage to maintain myself and my family. The Nagpur Medical College had just come up and in 1952, they advertised a post of Professor of Anaesthesia. I applied. In the interview I had put down as a condition that I should get Rs. 500 p.m. as a basic start. This I was refused. I returned to Bombay. One day, while I was in the operating room, I received a telegram from Nagpur saying that they could at the most give me a couple of promotions but the basic salary could not exceed Rs 450 p.m. With that telegram in my pocket, I rushed down to the Honoraries' Office in K.E.M. and I caught Dr Baliga just as he was getting into his car to leave. I handed the telegram to him. He read it carefully. Then he did something that I can never forget. He got out of his car, put his hand in his trouser pocket and took out a huge wad of one hundred rupee notes and placed that wad in my hand and said: "Look, here are ten thousand rupees. Forget about Nagpur. Proceed to England. This would suffice for your passage and stay and any examinations you may want to appear for. Come back and report to me. I will have you appointed as a Consultant in K.E.M." Saying that, he got into his car and drove away leaving me speechless! My hands were trembling. I had never seen so much money together in my life!

To cut a long story short, I left for London by ship. The ticket cost all of Rs 750. This was in 1953; the air fare was Rs 1,200 which I could not afford to spend. In London I did as Dr Baliga advised and was back home in six months' time and was appointed a Consultant in K.E.M. as Dr Baliga promised. One word from him and my destiny was moulded. How can I ever forget him and how can I ever cease to be grateful to him?

Read more stories about Dr.A.V.Baliga:

The Guru Tradition - 5

The Guru Tradition - 6

The Guru Tradition - 7

The Guru Tradition - 8

Compilation of professional reminiscences of specialists - edited by M.V.Kamath and Dr.Rekha Karmarkar