V. Shanta (1927-2021)

The surgeon and the CM

File photo of renowned oncologist and chairperson of the Adyar Cancer Institute Dr. V. Shanta.   | Photo Credit: PTI

About 10 years ago, I received a phone call from the legendary Dr. V. Shanta, Chairman of the Cancer Institute, Adyar, who passed away on Tuesday. She wanted some advice on a book she was compiling. N. Ram, Director of The Hindu Group of Publications, was to write the foreword. Would I push and pull the contributions together? When I met her to discuss the project, the great doctor’s voice was so soft that I had to strain to hear what she was saying.

When did she want it?

“How about next week?”

Who could refuse Dr. Shanta?

A few months later, a coffee table book had to be written, rewritten, laid out and published. To accomplish that, I rolled out my far smarter friend, Malini Seshadri. She too had the most cordial exchanges with the Chairman of the C.I.

Dr. Shanta often called or wrote to ask about a quotation or to locate a poem she wanted and we fell to meeting once in a way in her living room-cum-library on the third floor of the Adyar Cancer Institute. She gave me many of her books and chatted about life in general. She was always anxious about her patients and of course, funding was a perennial concern.

One day she was all smiles as she told me about her meeting with Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. "I was desperate for money and had written her a letter of appeal. Her office called to say that they had fixed an appointment for me. When I sat down before her, I began to stutter and swallow. I don’t know why I was so nervous. Suddenly, she reached out, held my hand and said, 'Doctor, tell me what you want.'"

"I want a crore of rupees," I blurted out.

"It will reach you by this evening," she replied.

And it did.

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 12:20:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-surgeon-and-the-cm/article33610823.ece

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