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Posted on: Feb 05, 2016
humbled by his love
A conversation with Dr. D. C. Sundaresh, Director,
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Whitefield, Bengaluru
On September 10, 2015 Dr. D. C. Sundaresh Dabir, Chairman, Dept. of Orthopaedics, SSSIHMS-Prasanthigram and a reputed Orthopaedic surgeon, took over charge from Dr. Swarna Bharadwaj as the Director of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Whitefield, Bengaluru.
Here is a transcript of the interview with Dr. Sundaresh, narrating his childhood experiences as a little boy born into a family of Sai devotees, the years of volunteering at Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital and Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, the rare benediction he received of being Bhagawan’s personal physician, his motivation to join His Mission as the Director of His hospital and his vision for the future.
This was first published in the Jan 2016 issue of 'Manohriday', the journal of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Whitefield.
Mano Hriday (MH): Congratulations on your role as Director of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Whitefield. Please share your family background and how you came to work in His Institutions.
Dr. Sundaresh Dabir (SD): My parents came into contact with Swami in 1948 at Bengaluru.
As children we would go to Puttaparthi and attend all festivals. Swami would bless us with the coveted interview always and sometimes even twice in a day. As children, we looked forward to His regular materializations of gifts and vibhuti. At the time, Puttaparthi was the only holiday destination for the family. More than the material gifts He gave us, His charming smile and sweet words would make us go back again and again.
As I grew older, I left home for my MBBS at Manipal University and for those years it was like a ‘Vanavas’ for me. I was lost in the mundane world of professional education and all that is associated with it. It lasted a full 10 years, until 1980, when I finished my Masters in Orthopaedics, from KMC Manipal.
Three years later, in 1983, I needed a place to treat some post-polio disabled children from Whitefield, whom I screened in a medical camp. I approached Swami and sought His permission to work at the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital at Whitefield.
While the permission did not come through at the time, my association with the General Hospital started 10 years later, in 1993. Since then I have been serving in His Institutions and have never looked back.
MH: You have had the rare honour of treating Bhagawan and operating on His physical form. Please share with us your experiences and your learnings from the time.
SD: I firmly believe Bhagawan let me treat His physical body for ailments which He could have cured Himself in a fraction of a second. Throughout the period that I doctored His physical body, I knew that I was not the doer and that Swami had a design in His mind for allowing me to do what I did.
In the summer of 2003, when Swami was at Brindavan ashram, He was said to be in great discomfort with pain in the knees and difficulty in walking. I was HOD at the Ramaiah Hospital, and was very busy and could not go to Whitefield for Swami’s darshan daily. On one occasion I did not go for ten days at a stretch.
The next time I went for darshan Swami came and stood in front of me and said, “How come you did not come for the last 10 days? You must be busy.” I was tongue-tied and just nodded my head and decided to go every day from that day. Soon after, I had the opportunity to see Swami professionally for His leg pain. It was a wonderful period to be with in His company daily for almost two hours. He used to be a perfect host. After finishing the physiotherapy session, He would sit and chat for a few minutes, arrange for breakfast to be served to me and sat through till I finished. In fact He would see me to the door.
One day I did not wash my hand after finishing the treatment I gave on His leg and He reminded me that I should wash my hands. He reprimanded me. On suggesting that I don’t need to wash since whatever comes from Swami’s body is like prasadam, He said, “Cleanliness is Godliness”. To this day I remember this each time I scrub my hands for any surgery.
It was at 4 pm on June 3, 2003 I received a call from Brindavan asking me to come to the ashram immediately. I assumed one of the VIPs, who might have come for Swami’s darshan must have had a fracture. Only en-route did I learn that Swami had a fall the previous evening, was in great pain and unable to move out of bed since.
An X-ray was done at Trayee, which showed a fracture of the femoral neck. This needed surgical treatment and I was very worried about mentioning it to Swami. I requested some of the elders there to talk to Him about it. This responsibility finally fell in my lap, since they were more worried than I was. With a prayer I went to Swami and He gave me the courage to do all that happened afterwards, including the surgery.
After surgery on June 4, 2003 Swami was moved back to Trayee by 3 pm. Swami recovered satisfactorily and I had the blissful experience of living with Him at Trayee and learnt a lot of lessons of life during this period. Once, He held my hand and said, “Do not leave Me and go anywhere”.
Living by Example
Swami decided to go to Puttaparthi when He was able to walk reasonably well. I was asked to accompany Him. I stayed there with Him for a further four weeks. One afternoon when Swami was in a mood to talk I made bold to ask Him why He subjected Himself to the knife, when He could have cured Himself like He had done for a stroke in the past. His reply was very simple: “That was an illness which I took upon Myself to save a devotee, but this is the affliction to this body. If I cure My body, it will be against Nature which is not right. This body has to suffer its fate”.
I followed this with another question as to why I was chosen when I offered to get any reputed surgeon from across the world whom Swami desired. His reply intrigued me then and it still does. I am yet to discover the answer. Swami said, “This is to strengthen My relationship with you”. This demonstrates the depth of feeling that Swami has for His devotees. If only we respond to His love in a fraction, our life will be full of Bliss.
MH: Please tell us what drew you to offer your services at SSSIHMS?
SD: The time finally came for me to be part of His Mission on September 10, 2015. I was at the peak of my career as an Orthopaedic surgeon and as a President of the Advanced Learning Centre and Pro Vice-Chancellor of the M S Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences. A deep sense of dissatisfaction had crept in and I found my happiness in getting more involved in the activities of the Orthopaedic Department at SSSIHMS, Prasanthigram. A spark ignited within me and helped me realize the time has come to join His Mission with a larger responsibility and find some peace for myself.
I am grateful to Bhagawan and the Trust for giving me an opportunity to serve in His Mission as the Director of SSSIHMS, Whitefield. I would also like to express my gratitude to my parents, Dr. D.S. Chander and Mrs. Rathna Chander, with whose blessings I was brought to Swami at a young age.
MH: How were your first few weeks as the Director?
SD: I am truly grateful to Dr. Swarna Bhardwaj, my predecessor, who graciously stayed back to guide me through the administrative machinery of SSSIHMS, Whitefield. Though I knew her for only five weeks, after I reported for duty, no words can describe the love she showed me during this period. In her, I discovered a new standard that I had to set for myself in dedication to Swami’s Mission of “Free Healthcare with Love”. In her I saw a tender loving mother, a stern administrator and above all a selfless servant of the Lord – a Sevadal as she referred to herself very often.
I feel I have left behind a small loving family at Bengaluru and have become a member of a big loving family at the SSSIHMS.
It is noteworthy that there are over 190 staff members working in the Institution from the time of its inception. Only Love for Swami’s Mission can make this happen.
MH: As you prepare to lead, what is your vision for this Institution?
SD: The Sri Sathya Sai Institutes of Higher Medical Sciences at Prasanthigram and Whitefield were started by Bhagawan primarily to offer free, high-quality, tertiary healthcare in super specialty departments to those who cannot afford this in the outside world. A few general specialty departments were added over time. To this was added the element of education by starting DNB programs in various specialties and degree programs for nurses and paramedical specialties. The newer focus is on research in various clinical departments. There are already many research programs in place in many departments. This can be stepped up to the next level through integrated, multi-disciplinary research in close association with Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning.
The addition of training programs and research capabilities to the Institution will add value to the primary goal of patient care.
MH: What are the biggest challenges that you foresee as you prepare to lead this institution to higher performance in the years to come?
SD: The challenge for the whole team at SSSIHMS Whitefield is to ensure continued care of patients with the same quality. With Bhagawan’s blessings manifesting at the Hospital in more ways than one, and consistently over the years, this will be achievable.
- Radio Sai Team
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