A Matter of Faith (3)

On March 13, 1958, I took the bold step of starting surgery at the Kondhwa Leprosy Hospital, seven miles from Pune. Naturally no one was willing to be the first guinea pig for this young doctor who wished to operate in a small room without the benefit of electricity, running water, a steriliser or an anaesthetist. I myself was scared not only of working under these conditions but also of contracting leprosy. But there was no other alternative, as my famous Chief, Sir Harold Gillies, had left Rs 100 at this Leprosarium for Dr Antia to start a Plastic Surgery Unit! A few months later came a letter from England to enquire as to what I was planning to do with his money! And so, start I must, and start I did. The first operation was for closing a hole in the nose of an old woman, Aminabai. (Read her story here:; Nabi was another (Read his story here:
Varyan Singh was another severely deformed leprosy patient who had undergone multiple operations at the Tata Department of Plastic Surgery at the J.J. Hospital. His rehabilitation was deemed complete when he threw his leprosy chappal at me declaring it was not good enough for him! Though the rest of the staff was aghast at his 'ingratitude', to me there was no better demonstration of the transformation of a diffident beggar into someone who had regained his self-respect and confidence and demanded what he believed was his right!

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