Then there is another instance of Dr Baliga's rigid adherance to principles. It was about 9 a.m. Dr Baliga was operating on a young girl of about 12 years. She was a poor gardener's daughter and was being treated free. It was believed to be a simple appendicectomy case that should not take more than an hour to finish. As the operation was in progress, the telephone which was in the adjoining consulting room rang. The secretary came to me and said that the call was from Delhi. So I picked up the receiver. The voice at the other end said: "The Prime Minister would like to talk to Dr Baliga". Asking him to wait, I rushed to the theatre and told Dr Baliga that the Prime Minister wanted to talk to him. Dr Baliga instructed me to tell the Prime Minister that he was in the midst of an stion and was sorry he could not come on the line but please did he have any message?


When I conveyed this to the Prime Minister, Mr Nehru asked me to tell Dr Baliga that Mr Krishna Menon had suddenly taken ill while

he was addressing a meeting at the U.N. and was being brought to India. Would Dr Baliga kindly receive Mr Menon who was due to arrive of 11.00 a.m. at the airport and look after him?

After the Prime Minister had finished I went back to Dr Baliga with the message. Dr Baliga looked at his watch and said that he should be able

go to the airport by the stipulated time. He finished the appendicectomy and as was his usual practice, put his hand in the patient's abdomen to make sure that there was no other problem before closing. Unfortunately he found some pathology for which he had to operate for two more hours. What now? The minutes kept ticking. At 10.45 a.m. Dr Baliga was still at his job. Looking up, he told me to ring up the airport officer whom he knew and tell him to personally receive Mr Krishna Menon and find out where Mr Menon was going to stay. That was all.

I have often wondered what some other surgeon would have done in similar circumstances. Here is a man who is personally requested by the Prime Minister-Jawaharlal Nehru, no less!—to proceed to the airport to receive Mr Krishna Menon when he is operating on a poor patient-free of cost. The operation is almost over. The surgeon could easily have asked his assistant to complete the work and gone. But no, the ethics of the profession and the conscience of the professional won the bout. The poor patient received the total attention of Dr Baliga. Prestige could wait.

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

The Guru Tradition - 4

The Guru Tradition - 5

The Guru Tradition - 6

The Guru Tradition - 8

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