Being Gandhian Jul24


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Being Gandhian

A humble man with an aura of divinity walks amongst us every day! Punctuality,
dedication and simplicity are some of the hallmarks of his ‘GANDHIGIRI’.
This Khadi clad monsieur, is none other than our beloved –
Anatomy genius – ANBALAGAN SIR; often described as an amalgam of

We are pleased to share an account of one memorable evening, on the 3rd of March 2012,when we had the privilege of meeting our ‘unsung hero’ at his beautiful
residence as he shared his life’s saga.

Every student who attends your class is left entranced by the
teaching; it always makes a mark!
My first class was in Punjab, I was asked to take a lecture on Neuroanatomy.
Though I didn’t know the local language, I proceeded with the class
and taught what I knew…. I was appreciated after the class….
it’s when my journey as a teacher started, I realized my passion for teaching. The
inspiration to teach comes from my students… Life evolved during my 25 years
of teaching at Sevagram.


Sir do you miss Sevagram? Could you tell us something about
your life there?

Yes I miss it…my whole family miss life Sevagram… Initially we had difficulty in
adjusting to the Gandhian way of life, later we acclimatized, and it became part
and parcel of our life. I still wear khadhi. (With a proud note)
About Sevagram… MGIMS as a medical college came into being by the unyeilding
efforts of Dr. Shushila Nayar (Health Secretary in Morarji Desai’s government)
who wanted to fulfill Bapuji’s dream of a medical college in a rural set up.
The community there lives by the Gandhian principle of Shramdaan (Self Work)
& vegetarianism, wearing Khadi, as well as prohibition of alcohol are some of the
rules that are strictly adhered to. Students who enter the institute are encouraged
to stay in the ashram (established by Gandhiji) for the first 15days, so that they get accustomed to the Gandhian way of life. The whole community in Sevagram lives
together as a family with community prayers, get-togethers and other memorable
occasions. One learns to be contented and life becomes complete. I had to leave
the serene life for my mother and family….

Sir lets wind back in time to your childhood days
I’m a native of Pondicherry… I was brought up by my motherand my beloved
sisters. My school days were at ‘Petit seminar’, one of only three matriculation
schools at erstwhile Pondicherry…

Tell us about your school friends Sir:
…. We were a group who always topped our class… and of course tagged…
‘padips’ ( No surprises there!!) We still keep in touch with one another…

Any mischiefs that we should know of:
(He smiles and shakes his head)…. Nooo. My mother being a single parent
was quite strict….. she left no space for any mischief.
(Sir did admit he missed the frivolousness of childhood…)

Sir,was Anatomy your passion?
Not really. I didn’t expect that I will be joining anatomy, in fact I was totally
against medicine… there was a complete lack of guidance during my days.
I completed my graduation ( Zoology) in Chennai and took up anatomy in
JIPMER. It began with slight hesitation, but my teachers Dr. Sameer Mitra,
Dr. Lakshmi, Dr.Indra Bharga played a great role in alleviating the fear and
initial days of hardship.
(All of a sudden the chorus interrupts…)

We remember Dr. Sameer Mitra; we had
the honor to be taught by him.
Dr. Mitra is a wonderful teacher. He is one of my mentors
(Others being Dr. Ghosh of Sevagram & Dr. Lakshamanan of JIPMER).
His systematic and methodological approach makes anatomy simpler. I learnt
all my line diagrams from him.

We couldn’t resist asking the master dissector
himself about his first dissection?
Terrible…I couldn’t sleep for days..

Sir, How did you develop your interest in Histology?
We had an excellent team at Sevagram; Dr. Ghosh, my colleagues and I set up a
well-equipped lab in our department and microphotography became possible
with high-resolution microscopes. The state of the art workspace and the
encouragement for research led me to attain my Ph.D. in Histology.
( Probing a little deeper…)

Anbalagan sir other than a teacher?
I’m usually quiet and keep to myself. I’m particular about punctuality and
perfection. When things don’t turn out to be right, I get annoyed.
I don’t usually get angry. But ‘Jab Gussa atha hain toh bahut atha hain…’

Strict father?
‘Bahut’ Very strict..
(Mrs. Anbalagan promptly answers )

But sir , You are not strict as a teacher
(We too promptly enquire ): As a teacher I’m not strict but I expect that all the
students should acquire basic knowledge and the skill and when it is not
achieved then I’m forced to be strict…

Sir How did Ma’am enter into your life?
My mother was seeking for my better half, the first didn’t materialize.
Later when everything was assured I was informed about my wedding
date… (He smiles and continues)…I arrived just two days prior to my wedding.
She (looking at Ma’am) has supported me through all walks of my life.
She is responsible, and even during my busy years she never let my absence
be felt at any time.

Sir tell us about your children?…
I have two sons both of them engineers
(Sir never forced them to join medicine)

Sir we heard you’ve been to France?
See.. I’m totally against going abroad. I had an opportunity to go to France
along with my friend. During the time we spent our short vacation with
my brother-in-law.

Sir we came to know that you suffered
repeated losses within a short period in your
family, how did you cope up with it?
Last year saw many uneventful happenings within short intervals of time. ..
(Sir pauses)… I read some books by famous Anatomist Dr. Manu Kothari’s

Cancer: Myths and realities of cause and cure
Death: A New Perspective on the Phenomena of Disease and Dying

It changed my perspective of death and created acceptance to the fact that
‘The death of a person is destined the moment he is born; our life is just a
small part we play in between’. Death comes to us whenever wherever in the
moment destined. Escaping death narrowly merely means we were destined
to die another day.

Sir Its time for the rapid-fire session:
Any pets – Had a dog
(Sir was very attached to him but he had to be put down due to seizures)

Divine voice – I believe in God.

Best cook – Wife/ Mother/ daughter- in- law?
The delicacies of my mother still linger on my taste buds, my wife and I still
fail to achieve her excellence. But, indeed my wife is a good cook.

Enchanting musician–The Maestro Ilayaraja

Best destressor – Watching T.V
(Sir loves all the infotainment channels like National geographic, Discovery,
Fox history, Travel and living…)

Most Cherished moment –
(Muses) Me & my family along with my mentor Dr. Ghosh had the privilege to
dine with Dr. Sushila Nayar who rarely accorded the privilege of inviting guests
for dinner. Her simplicity and dedication inspired me. I enjoy each moment in
life, why even this moment with you students is special (We were honoured)

Most Funny Incident –
(Thinks) It was on the night I first set foot in Punjab. Those days I couldn’t
speak Hindi. On arrival at the railway station I had to take a rickshaw to the college.
My friend told me that the maximum fare would be 3 rupees. This was
how the scene went…

Rickshawala: kidar jana hein?
(Where do you want to go?)
Me: Medical College
Rickshawala (demanding): Daid rupaiya.. (1.50
Me (refusing): Nahein..Nahein… Theen rupaiya..
(3 rupees)
(Sir laughs out)

Peering into Sir’s perspective we proceed to ask him…
How would you describe yourself?
Initially I struggled and took life as a challenge now I am contended with the
progress I have achieved. In the ocean of Anatomy we are just a tiny fish;
yet we have attained enormous amount of knowledge and I’m contented with
the knowledge that we impart to our students.

Sir Your message to students?
Be humane, serve humanity

Must know about sir:
He is a su-do-ku master whose day begins after solving the daily puzzle of su-do-ku.

Sir reads a minimum of 10 books before he takes a class.

Sir scored a centum in mathematics during his matriculation.

Sir has a flair for Languages (He is proficient in English, Tamil, Hindi, Punjabi
as well as Marathi)
Three of our professors are Sir’s students.
(guess who !!!..)
In an era of modernization where the elegance
of simplicity is lost to sophistication, our Hero
upholds our hereditary virtues of simple living
with strong family ties. His ever approachable
nature and his love for students, makes him
one among the most sought after professor
in Anatomy. Despite his various achievements
he maintains a low profile. Sir indeed is a true
Gandhian with ‘simple living and high thinking’.

Interviewed by
Divyang Mongia, Keerthi Jain, Thasneem
Jainulabdeeen, Arun Mitra, V. Surendran.