Young at 96: Meet the nonagenarian doctor who still continues his practice

Young at 96: Meet the nonagenarian doctor who still continues his practice
Young at 96: Meet the nonagenarian doctor who still continues his practice

Dr T.K Kesavan Nayar, who was one of the oldest practising medical professionals in Kerala, passed away on Thursday, 15.03.2018. He was 100. 

Age seemed to be no bar to this allopathic doctor who kept his clinic open for about five hours a day even when he was well into his 90s. 

Born on the twenty-ninth day of July, 1918 in the Kongad panchayat of Palghat (now Palakkad) district of the Madras presidency, he was the eldest son to his parents. Having studied intermediate in the prestigious Government Victoria College, he went on to study medicine at the Madras Medical College in 1938, at the age of twenty.

In an interview to TNM, Dr Kesavan had said, "There were only two students, both girls, from this part of the Presidency studying with me in college." He pointed out that in those days, hardly a few continued their education after school, more so in a field like medicine.

After qualifying to practise as a doctor in 1944, he had a short stint in the Madras General Hospital and the Raja Sir Ramaswamy Mudaliar Maternity Hospital at Royapuram. Soon a match was found for him by his parents, and the young adults got married the very next year.

Dr Kesavan was 96 when this reporter met him, but he still remembered the exact date on which he joined the Taluk Hospital.

"On 6 February, 1946, I joined as an Honorary Civil Assistant Surgeon, the post which I continued to hold even after independence and the state re-organization in 1956," he said with pride.

"Including myself, there were only four qualified doctors in Palghat then. Somewhere around 1949 we four founded the Palghat chapter of the Indian Medical Association of which I was the Founder Secretary," he reminisced with a lot of pride.

Later in 1960, when the number of qualified doctors in the district swelled to thirty-two, there was a need for getting a building constructed for the IMA. A wide smile appeared on his bespectacled face as he talked about the development of the association in Palghat.

"We were lucky to get 32 cents of land in Fort Maidan area from the government and all of us (the doctors) contributed for the construction of a building there," he said.

Sitting on an old wooden chair, recollecting the heydays of his medical service, he spoke about the establishment of five Primary Health Centres in 1952. "It was about this time that the District Hospital got its first X-Ray machine," he said.

In 1954, at the age of 36, he established his own clinic for private practice at Koppam, where he could be consulted by patients from 9.30 to 12.30 for the fore noon session and 4.30 to 6.00 in the evenings.

"I used to get Rs. 2 to Rs 5 from patients then as fees. Today I get Rs. 100 to 200. I do not ask them for fees, some give, some don't," he said. At the time, an old woman walked into the clinic as I sat interviewing the doctor and he told her that the two medicines with different names that she had purchased from different medical shops were the same. The aged doctor then went on to explain to her the chemical composition of the two medicines. 

Dr Nayar had much to reminisce about Palakkad's rich history. He spoke about how he and his friends had established the Government Victoria College Old Boys' Association, his alma mater, the installation of the famous clock tower there, and the scholarships the organisation continues to offer.  When asked about his daily schedule, this is what he said, "I wake up at 5.30 in the morning and after the morning chores I read the Bhagavat Gita. After breakfast, by 9.30 am I reach my clinic and I am there till 12.30 pm. I have lunch, take a nap and by 4.30 pm I go back to my clinic, where I remain till 6.00 pm.  Initially I had kept my clinic open till 7.00 but, off-late I close an hour early. My patients from the business community find it difficult because they get free only after 6.00 pm. I have asked them to come and see me at home if they want to."  

Presuming that he would rest once he reaches home, I asked, "What do you do after coming home?"

"I read my subject books and later the newspaper and other magazines," came his reply immediately. He pointed to a table where there was, among many other books and journals, the latest edition of the Indian Journal of Cardiology, Readers' Digest and the day's copy of The Hindu newspaper. Looking at his wrist watch, and noticing that the time was 7.00 pm, he said that it was time for a bath. Summing up his life he said, "In short, looking back I am fully satisfied in what I have done to the community as a successful medical practitioner in the town, having taken part with distinguished service in all spheres of welfare activities. Mine was an uphill task, but the public of Palakkad has been generous to me because of my frank, straightforward dealings with them and an honest standard of life led by me."

Then, he slowly got up with the help of his walking stick and bade me good-bye.

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