Saturday, July 25, 2015

R. H. Karmarkar, FRCS (Eng), FICS (Hon)
(19 March 1909-14 April 2000)
Dr Ramachandra Hari Kannarkar
passed away peacefully on 14
April 2000 at the age of 91 years.
He was physically and mentally
fit till the last day. Two days before
he passed away he requested
his daughter-in-law to take him to
Mahim beach because he wanted
to see the sunset. Dr Kannarkar
saw the sunset that evening, and
in a way his passing away is yet
another sunset for surgeons in
India-Dr R. H. Kannarkar was
the last living Founder Member of the Association of Surgeons of
Dr Kannarkar was the antithesis of the classical surgeon's
mould-he was soft-spoken, gentle, self-effacing to a fault,
courteous and considerate, devoid of false pretentions, tall claims
or histrionics and yet this gentle, humble surgeon was as well read
as any of the great pride (if pride is what a group oflions is called!)
of Honorary Surgeons which gave lustre and glory to the K.E.M.
Hospital, Mumbai in the 1950s and 1960s, as also a technical surgeon
par excellence. His residents never needed to read Maingot' s
Abdominal Surgery-the standard postgraduate book in those
times-they could see the book unfold in precise detail before
their eyes in natural colour every day in the operating room.
Dr Kannarkar was much more than an excellent surgeon-he
was a wonderful human being. He derived his inspiration from
meditation every morning and reading his spiritual mentor Gurudev
Ranade. To me, Dr Kannarkar was much more than a teacherhe
was a model in greater human qualities. I was blessed to be his
Surgical Dresser at the G.S. Medical College in 1954 and his
Resident Surgeon at the K.E.M. Hospital, institutions which he
served with distinction for three decades. Strangely, no resident
ever took advantage of his benign, gentle nature. He made us feel
that if we did not do our job perfectly it would almost amount to
letting down our own father. Scores of his residents imbibed at
least some of his empathy for the sick and poor, his meticulous
emphasis on preoperative evaluation and history-keeping and his
precise, gentle surgery. He taught that the absence of scar tissue
is the signature of the gentle surgeon. The highlight of my
wedding day, over forty years back, was that my Chief came
huffing and puffing on a Monday evening from Dadar to Colaba
to bless the couple. My association with him strengthened over
four decades and he would exult in every little step that any of his
students took in life with the joy and pride of a parent.
Many of our surgeons in India may never have heard of him
(for he had started practice after he retired as Honorary Surgeon
at the K.E.M. Hospital), and wonder why this obituary. On his
ninety-first birthday,just a few weeks before he passed away, Dr
R. H. Kannarkar completed the biography of his father, Dr H. D.
Kannarkar. In the introduction to the biography he quoted from
his guru Professor R. D. Ranade: 'It is the sacred duty of every
generation to rescue the past from oblivion. We must gather up the
bones of our ancestors which lie bleaching on the sands of time,
and bury them with an honorable epitaph. For, it is an inevitable
law of nature that unless there is the solid foundation of the past,
no secure edifice of the future can be raised.' It is our duty to pay
tribute to a generation of surgeons whose reading went beyond
journals and the website to philosophy and history; who were
innocent of surgical gimmickry but strong in surgical principles;
artless in fee-splitting but always ready to share what they could
with their patients, residents and students.
May Dr R. H. Kannarkar's soul rest in peace.
Cook's Building
D. Naoroji Road

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