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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 67-68

A Glimpse into Dr. V. Shanta's life

Paras Cancer Centres, Paras Healthcare, Gurugram, Haryana, India

Date of Submission22-Jan-2021
Date of Acceptance29-Jan-2021
Date of Web Publication19-Feb-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Ranga Rao Rangaraju
Paras Cancer Centres, Paras Healthcare, Gurugram, Haryana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cmrp.cmrp_15_21

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How to cite this article:
Rangaraju RR. A Glimpse into Dr. V. Shanta's life. Curr Med Res Pract 2021;11:67-8

How to cite this URL:
Rangaraju RR. A Glimpse into Dr. V. Shanta's life. Curr Med Res Pract [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Oct 1];11:67-8. Available from: http://www.cmrpjournal.org/text.asp?2021/11/1/67/309912

Dr. Viswanathan Shanta, an illustrious multifaceted personality, an accomplished oncologist, a great teacher and leader, a compassionate charitable human being, an enigmatic motherly personality and an institution in herself has completed her wonderful and most fruitful journey on this planet earth on 19 January 2021. It will be most inappropriate to say that we lost her but rather gained from her each moment of her life. This is not an obituary nor an attempt to idolise her but an edification, a celebration and a salutation to her life that provides an opportunity to draw some inspiring lessons and inventiveness. If we can emulate and mimic her in the smallest possible fraction, we would be much better human beings! When you gaze at crores of countrymen in India, millions of cancer patients, thousands of oncologists all over the country who have gained directly from her efforts, you are truly humbled. If you glance at the growth and transformation of Cancer Institute, Adyar, Chennai, from a 4-bedded cancer pain centre to a vast modern cancer treatment, research and education centre, despite many hurdles, one would be wonderstruck. If you peep into the ethos of the cancer centre that provided over the past six decades and continues to provide most modern treatment to the most resource-limited persons in the country free of cost, you would be flabbergasted! Counting in terms of money, effort and time, it will amount to many billions of dollars, six decades of humungous human efforts, to gain billions of life years of people and prevent enormous human suffering, an embarrassment to many generous millionaire philanthropists!

What Dr. V Shanta and her mentor Dr. S Krishnamurthy together achieved in one lifetime is nothing short of a marvel in today's world. Having been nurtured by Dr. Muthulaxmi Reddy, (first woman medical graduate from India 1919) the founder of the Cancer Institute, they gathered resources after resources in utmost hard manner and created this institute despite constant hurdles and obstacles and bureaucracy. This ever-expanding institute and the innumerable direct and indirect beneficiaries, the doctrine they inculcated are the testimony for their contribution to the cause of cancer in this world. In 30 years after my passing out, I have seen the institute more than doubling in size and work. No wonder many statesmen, politicians, societies, organisations and media have truly, deeply, wholeheartedly admired and commended the endeavours through hundreds of national and international awards including many Padma awards as an authentication of their efforts.

Lives of Dr. V Shanta and Dr. S Krishnamurthy were classic unparalleled examples of devotion, dedication and determination in the field of cancer. Most of the students under their direct stewardship over few decades imbibing their lessons, characters, following their footsteps, have created small or big oncology worlds in their domains at national and regional academic cancer centres, government and major and minor private institutes, charity hospitals, cancer centres at remote places, spreading the flavour of their mentors. Some of them have been awarded coveted ‘Padma Shri’ is a testimony to the imbibement of their characters.

Dr. Shanta's weekly 8 AM rounds, Dr. Krishnamurthy's 6 PM classes, the well-written comments and very familiar signatures in red ink/green ink on the logbooks are nostalgic till this day. Shuddering 9 pm report calls with utmost details of each patient followed by relaxed dinners with fellow students, and half sleeping next to the telephones were constant reminders of their presence in the air! The old green Station wagon was so symbolic that it received salutes without anyone in it and no less than a ‘God's Chariot’ for many! Watching them, listening to them, talking to them every time was a lesson. The authoritative behaviour reflected ‘no fear’ stance; their loud and clear brief talks, with carefully chosen orderly words were constant reminder of their ‘no nonsense’ attitude and were most feared. Their frequent firm talks and occasional outbursts of anger reflected their institutional mind set of possessiveness and ownership, empowered by most deep-rooted feelings for the suffering cancer patients. Their sense of economy was overwhelming and outpouring everywhere and everything including their casual yet elegant attire, use of one-sided papers for correspondence and in their some of the amusing conversations! My first neatly written leave request letter, in best of the army prototypes on a full scape white paper, was responded by a small note ‘sanctioned’ on the backside of small part of my own application, and a note –'Maj Rao, a request on one sided 1/4 size would do'! This lesson of economy of paper was deeply embedded in me and I still use many one-sided papers at home and office even now!

One day I found Dr. V Shanta in very agitated mood in the outpatient department and there was a slender young beautiful lady in a saree standing next to her in tears. Immediately my imaginations of the situation ran into many but nowhere near the actual situation. This young bright girl was an engineer aspiring to go to UK for further studies and her visa was rejected on the grounds that she suffered from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in the past. Dr. Shanta's fury at the officials was so much that the harsh letter to British officials and one to the famous haematologist in the UK resulted in getting the young engineer her well-deserved visa in matter of days! Moreover, there was letter of apology too for the misdeed! How dare a cancer survivor be denied normal rights? No way! They were so close to her heart and soul! From the fellows and residents, something going wrong with the patients, was unacceptable. How can I forget the choicest decent yet deep cutting words used on me when something went wrong that day! I cannot recall any senior officer spanking me like that in 30 years of army service not even in the training! Such was the great passion seen in her about the patients at the institute. No wonder every patient looked upon her with more devotion than a devotee at the deity in a temple, with unimaginable faith, respect, true reverence! The fear, discipline, concern and trepidation that the junior most nurse and staff had reminded me of the army each day! We had such exhibition from soldiers only when a very senior officer was coming for inspection! Here were two eternal generals being saluted by every soldier in the best of the traditions each day, even in their absence!

It is most unfair to talk, discuss and write about Dr. Shanta or Dr. Krishnamurthy alone. Although they departed a decade apart, they existed for six decades together, worked, thought and lived alike. Naturally, during all the conversations amongst the cancer institute students they figure together and hence live in our memories together. These two giant oncology legends have imprinted all our minds so much that we do not differentiate between them individually and the Cancer Institute, Adyar. The two of them and the institute are so symbolic of each other that this triangle was, is and will be single in truest unison! Nothing short of true divine ‘Trimurthy'! They have not died but live in each one of us, the ‘CI-ites', each day!


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