As Dr Baliga's fame and practice grew, he began to acquire many friends and admirers. Among them were film stars like Raj Kapoor and politicians like Krishna Menon. Through Mr Menon Dr Baliga came into contact with Jawaharlal Nehru.


But Dr Baliga had always been politically-oriented. During and after the Quit India struggle, he played host to those who had gone underground like Jayaprakash Narayan, Achyut Patwardhan and Asoka Mehta. Dr Baliga himself wore white khadi all the time. But while he occasionally dabbled in politics and reportedly acted as go-between for Nehru and Soviet and Chinese leaders, his first love was surgery and in this regard he never compromised, and made no distinction between the rich and the poor.

Once there was a rich patient admitted in Bombay Hospital. He was to be operated for fistula and piles. Dr Baliga used to operate in Bombay Hospital, mostly in the afternoons, starting around 1 p.m. This patient was posted one afternoon for piles operation along with two other major cases, one of them being cancer of the oesophagus and the other hernia. The latter two patients were poor and had been accommodated in free class. Everybody, including the theatre Superintendent, the House Surgeon and others were sure that Dr Baliga would take up the piles case first, as the patient was rich and the other two patients had to be operated for free.

Dr Baliga arrived on time and as he was entering the operation theatre, he saw the piles patient being wheeled in. I seldom saw him so angry. He gave a proper dressing down to his assistants. "How can you take this case first? Don't you realise that this case, which is infected, cannot have precedence over a clean one? We will take the other two cases which are clean first. Never repeat this mistake with my list!”

The rich patient was wheeled out much to his annoyance. Unfortunately the first two 'clean' cases took a long time to be completed and the operation on the rich patient had to be postponed by a day. Predictably, the man complained to Dr Baliga. Dr Baliga, however, was ready with his reply. He calmly but firmly told the man that he would never do an infected case prior to a clean case and no exceptions could be made in the matter. The matter ended there. Dr Baliga was not one to compromise on principles.

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

The Guru Tradition - 4

The Guru Tradition - 5

The Guru Tradition - 7

The Guru Tradition - 8

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