It was Nov 1984. I was posted as a 3rd year student to Dr Kaulgud’s unit for Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr Kaulgud was an extraordinary teacher and a human being par excellence. It was indeed a privilege to be with him in his unit. During ward rounds, we were all standing beside a patient who was diagnosed as ‘Anemia of Pregnancy’. There was so much discussion on how this patient with Hemoglobin of 4 mg % was not responding to treatment. This was a repeat of the discussion that was happening every day for the past one week. I was standing beside Dr Anita Kestoor, the Post Graduate student. As the discussion progressed on what kind of iron compound to put this patient on, I could not stand quiet. I burst out saying that we needed to first find out if this patient was taking the medicines after all. For me this event was sort of déjà vu. I was remembering the hypertensive cook who had died without taking his medicines. Dr Anita could not believe her ears! She whispered that I was finished for the audacity of speaking out in front of such a learned professor on his rounds.
Dr Kaulgud turned around to find out who spoke out. He looked at me sternly and asked me to explain why I felt so. I narrated my previous experience to him. I also told him that this patient was the wife of a worker in KR Mills in Siddalingapura near Mysore. This textile mill was under ‘lock out’ and he was out of a job for the last year or so. In desperation born out of his unemployment, had taken to alcohol and was a rare visitor to the hospital. With the food that was given to her, she was also feeding her two other children. All the prescriptions that were being dished out to her remained just slips of paper and the medicines were neither bought nor taken. Dr Kaulgud listened with rapt attention and turned to verify from the patient if this was true. He was taken aback on realizing that this was not anemia not responding to treatment, but was simple untreated anemia. He was impressed with what I had spoken and gave his post graduates a piece of his mind and told that they needed to re-read on how to record history and find out such important information about the patient, their families, their socio-economic background etc. He then handed over his room keys and told me that his room was full of medicine samples that medical reps had given him. As a policy, he never dispensed with them as he did not want people to think that he sold these medicines. He told me that these medicines were for me to take and distribute to poor patients.
Here was a man who was a true ‘role model’ for young medical students like me. He allowed me to see his human side and till the day he left Mysore, I had a set of keys to his room. I would religiously empty his room of all the medicines and use them in our program. This incident left a deep impression on me. I realized that there were still a lot of good men and women in society who desired to do good. They just lacked an organized platform to do so. This was also the final push. I realized that I could not sit back any more. It was within the next couple of weeks that I founded the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement.