Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dr. Aravindan Nair - may the torch pass on

As I write this on a friend's laptop in the heat of the Vellore night, at the end of a long and emotional day, I am filled with feelings of wonder and gratefulness. Wonder, to know that in the world we live in which has glorified the individual as God and self-gratification as the ultimate goal, there lives among us a man who has made the service of others so obviously his primary goal even at personal cost to himself. And gratitude, that I was blessed with the opprotunity to have worked with him. At the end of the day when the surgery department of CMC, Vellore felicitated Dr. Aravindan Nair for his years of work and service I feel privileged to have been able to attend the programme. And more privileged to have known and learnt from this great man - more than just a teacher, a father-figure.

Dr. Aravindan Nair, for those of you who do not know him was the head of the department of Endocrine Surgery in Vellore and the head of my parent unit (where we spend the maximum time) for my PG. Today, as different people shared their experiences of Dr. Nair, there was one recurrent and resounding theme - extreme service and humility and a readiness to do whatever it took for the welfare of others. A few examples......

One of the hospital attenders had an operation. At the end of his time in hospital, one of the surgeons asked him when he would be going home. He said - I will go in the evening. Dr. Nair has offered to drop me off at home. A resident said the same thing had happened to him when he had an appendicectomy in his first year of medical college.

One of the previous heads of the department who lived at Ambur, 30 odd kilometres away from Vellore had an ulcer that needed dressing every day. Dr. Nair would get up every morning an drive there to do his dressing before coming for work.

Dr. Nair did an appendicectomy for a young girl. When he found out she had no father, he  took it upon himself to sponsor the rest of her education.

The stories were many and were it not for the lateness of the hour, I would keep on writing them. It was easy to say good things about Dr. Nair as they were all true. There was no thinking required. Those of you who know him will know that there were few like him who walk this earth today. For whom clinical and surgical excellence, while a given, were only the tip of the iceberg. For whom, teaching and mentoring were not a duty to be done, they were part of life. For whom, service to his patients and colleagues often meant personal sacrifice. For whom gentleness and humility were not acquired or put on - they were innate. For whom love was not something to be described - it was something openly displayed.

There have been many angels God has sent into my life. Dr. Aravindan Nair is one of them. And as we heard today from one after another of those whom he has touched, he has been an angel to people from all walks of life who have passed through the portals of CMC, Vellore. And in doing so, he has been one of the few to truly exemplify our motto - Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.

At the end of the programme put together very well by the department, there was a symbolic moment when Dr. Nair lit the candles of the present post-graduates, while the song 'Carry Your Candle' played in the background. It was a moving reminder to all of us that his is an example not just to be praised, but to be followed. I have a long way to go before I can even begin to follow that example. But I take home with me great encouragement, for I have been reminded that the way of sacrificial service is not a dream. Dr. Nair has made it a reality his whole life. It is an honour to know you, sir and to have been taught by you. You have truly blessed my life.

UPDATE: If you would like to say a few words of appreciation to Dr. Nair, the Endocrine Surgery team has kindly offered to pass on all comments on the blog to him.

UPDATE 2: A video of Dr. Nair's moving farewell speech to the department is here.


  1. He has been great role model not only as a physician but a human being as well.That helped me during my years at CMC vellore.It takes something special to be a great teacher and I was fortunate to be his pupil.Thank you sir for your immense patience and confidence in us. Harold

  2. I memorise the times I had Bible study with Dr.Aravindan nair & his team. He is so dedicated & cheerful all the time. God bless you & family.

  3. I heard today that Arpit has written something very touchinng to heart about Sir and was eager to read that, how true your words and how truely they mean so much, Yes indeed Sir's charisma is like a magnet and his company itself rubs on us so much of dedication and enthusiasm that we can feel the fragrence of his presence all around us. I think only way to pay tribute to him is to provide the best services to mankind each moment in our lives no matter where we are.Some people live beyond time and their peice of work passes from one generation to the other and Sir is a glariing example of this.

  4. I will never forget Dr Nair from my days in Vellore as a medical student. He is the most gentle surgeon I have ever known. As a clinical student, observing his quiet, calm, kind, humble and empathic manner toward his patients was truly inspirational. He generated a sense of 'everything that can be done, will be done' reassurance to one and all. He was also a practical and realistic man. He had a quiet but definite sense of humor too. I have never seen him angry but at the same time, he was a leader who his team looked up to with great respect. I do not know how he did this; I believe this is a gift he had and he shared it with one and all. There are countless patients and students and colleagues who have been blessed through him. I am one of the many students who have been inspired by the example he set through his actions. These are my thoughts and memories of Dr Nair. I wish him all the very best for the future and I am sure he will continue to shine his light to all around him.

    Jessi Kakani

  5. Thank you sir, for being there whenever we needed you. We will always remember your teaching and values that we learned from you. Ashish & Parangama

  6. I had heard of Dr.Aravindan Nair even before my medical school days from the rest of my family members who had been his patients as the doctor who was the most loving they had come across and they were effusive in their appreciation of him.I had the privilege of knowing him as a teacher during MBBS thereafter and I understood why he was so popular with his patients and everyone around him.Arpit has very eloquently expressed this.
    I still remember when I was an intern in Dr.Nair's unit and had to do dressings at 6am on theatre days and would be hurrying to do so when I would find him doing the dressing himself and with utmost intern's job being done by the head of dept cos he never felt anything was a small job for his patients!
    Even after I left college,whenever I visited,if I bumped into him,his warmth and genuine concern always was heartening.Wish you all the best,sir!I hope you know how much you are admired and loved by all of us.
    Anu John

  7. I do not remember specific incidents, but I remember Dr. Aravindan Nair had intensely intelligent eyes behind his rimmed, thick spectacles. His pace was always gentle and steady, be it while walking or while answering students' and patients' queries.

    I wish him all happiness in his retired life; but we all know that such giants never retire, they continue spreading their specialness where-ever they go...

    Thank you, Amy and Arpit for your blog which informed all of us about this!

    Dr. Harry Ralte,MBBS
    Batch of '92.

  8. It is pretty amazing how a good teacher not only passes on his skills but also teaches others to teach. Being a decent human being as well is an added advantage in that it motivates students to replicate this quality in their daily lives. The comments above only substantiate this assertion.

    I am sure Dr. Nair has produced at least 20 (erring on the side of caution) respectable, moral and considerate students in his long and distinguished career who will carry on in the same vein and thereby each produce 20 more. Over the years there will be many such individuals who will owe a debt of gratitude to this single gentle soul who has changed their lives and many others for the better.

    Kudos to Dr. Nair!

    - The Black Mamba

  9. When I first heard about Dr Aravindan Nair from my Director was, Dr Nair is a walking Jesus and then I thought do they really exist??? and then when I got an opportunity to know him, now I proudly say Dr Nair is a living Jesus.

  10. I am someone outside of the CMC Vellore who can post about him. He is the most decent and soft doctor I ever met in CMC. The very sight of him is so calming and soothing that I feel that the rest of my day is assured cool. Dr. Nair, All the best for your service you are going to continue outside CMC.

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