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Year : 2004  |  Volume : 52  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 16-17

Ramamurthi: As I remember

Regional Neurosciences Centre, Newcastle General Hospital, Fellow of the University of Durham

Correspondence Address:
Regional Neurosciences Centre, Newcastle General Hospital, Fellow of the University of Durham
[email protected]

How to cite this article:
Sengupta R. Ramamurthi: As I remember. Neurol India 2004;52:16-7

How to cite this URL:
Sengupta R. Ramamurthi: As I remember. Neurol India [serial online] 2004 [cited 2021 Oct 19];52:16-7. Available from:

It was mid-December 2003 in Chandigarh where I was attending the Cerebrovascular Society Meeting and the Annual Meeting of the NSI. Everything was going well with excellent deliberations and exchanges on cerebrovascular topics, a delightful welcoming ceremony of NSI and even an exciting, if not foolhardy, day trip to Simla.
I was looking forward to the NSI program, and then a call came at 6 a.m. informing me that Ramamurthi was no more. The father of Indian neurosurgery had passed away. I was accustomed to personal tragedy and the reaction that created within. Here I was feeling a similar reaction for a man who was no relation, not my teacher and we did not even work in the same continent. Yet, I felt an urge to be there near his parting soul. I took the first plane available to dash across the country to be in the room with his spirit and the family. I asked myself why I had to do it. In one line, it was to pay homage to a man who inspired my life in neurosurgery and provided love and affection like a father.
My first encounter with Ramamurthi was in 1969 in Newcastle when he was visiting the Regional Neurosciences Centre, his old alma mater, where he learned his ABC in Neurosurgery with Rowbotham some twenty years before. Here was another Indian neurosurgeon who was in the middle of his training as a Senior Registrar in the same institution. I remember my first meeting with him, not knowing too much about him, but he had already been briefed about me by Mr. (now Professor) Hankinson. He gave the impression of knowing me for years and expressed his pride about my position. After this brief encounter, I met him again in Prague at the European Congress of Neurosurgery in the following year. The High Commissioner of India there gave a reception in his honor and he made sure that I was also invited. I was astonished when he introduced me in superlative terms to the High Commissioner. I was convinced at this time that I had a friend in neurosurgery in India. This was also the period when I was going through uncertainties in my career. My wife was keen to return home, but there was no job available in India and it was difficult to get a Consultant's job in England. When I approached Ramamurthi about my difficulty, he found me a post in Safdarjung Hospital. However, when I got an opportunity to go to Boston, he advised me to do so. After returning from the US in 1975 our friendship took a strong hold. He invited me to the Silver Jubilee Celebrations of the Institute of Neurology, Madras. Again, I was surprised with the warmth with which he took me to his family and even introduced me to the Chief Minister with great admiration. I have no doubt it was his nature with which he used to pull people to his heart, but I always allowed myself to feel that it was only me outside his family, for whom he had the strongest affection.
This affection increased over a period of time when Ravi Ramamurthi spent a year as a Registrar with us and Mr and Mrs Ramamurthi used to visit Newcastle during that year. He was proud and happy with my continuing success in my career. The final test of his greatness came during my personal tragedy. Whoever knew me was kind and sympathetic, but the letter from his heart brought us the strongest solace. I felt he had been rejoicing with me all my life with my success and now he was grieving with me. Again, it was his inspiration that thrust me into the advancement of neurosurgery in Eastern India and, particularly, in Bengal, for my own survival and sanity. I remember his inspiring speech at the inauguration of the National Neurosciences Centre in Calcutta on 15th December 1997. This is an extract from his speech.
“Today it is a proud and joyous day for me, very proud. I have been associated with neurological sciences in this great city from the year 1951, for forty-six years. The great doctor, Dr T. K. Ghosh, a great neurologist encouraged me and invited me to come and operate here. Then Dr Ramendra Chatterjee was trained. He was followed by a series of excellent neurosurgeons in the city. There are brilliant neurologists. Dr Shymal Sen, Dr Anupam Dasgupta, Dr Abjijith Chatterjee, they are all here. But still how is that Bengal did not take off in a big way in the neurosciences field. This is a matter of great worry. In this scenario, my friend, Robin Sengupta, whom I have known for many years, moved in along with his friends from Newcastle, Newcastle a great city where I was trained in neurosurgery. You can see my friends from Newcastle here. Then there is Chandranath Sen, a brilliant neurosurgeon and Dr Abjijith Guha from Canada. Of course, all of you, I hope know that Robin Sengupta is a brilliant neurosurgeon of the world. He is the best aneurysm surgeon in the whole world. You must understand it and we are proud of it. This gentleman brought the group and they have been so keen to develop neurosurgery in Eastern India. That is why, when we see the National Neurosciences Centre is being inaugurated today in the distinguished presence of Your Excellency the Governor of Bengal as well as blessings of Swami Maharaj, it is a matter of very great pride for me.
Bengal has always been known for its brain and beauty. Beauty of Bengal you see all around. But, how about the brain? Bengal is the cradle of science in our country. Mathematics, physics, botany, Nobel prize winners, cultures and art. For them, there is a neglect of the brain, neurosciences. Everybody wants to be a cardiologist. Everybody wants to have a cardiac by-pass done. But I think the next millennium is going to be that for the brain. In this quest for knowledge and for the relief of humanity, Bengal cannot lag behind. That is why this effort of Dr Sengupta and his group becomes extremely relevant.
I firmly believe that this Neurosciences Centre will draw in like a magnet all the already existing neurosciences talent in this part of the country and, very shortly, this centre will serve not only the eastern part of India, but nearby countries like Bangladesh, Burma and other countries. This is the prayer in my mind.”
What an encouragement and what an inspiration.
The last time I met him was during the Silver Jubilee Celebration of the VHS Hospital. It is a first that anybody has created two institutions, one after the other, and celebrated their Silver Jubilees! During this time, in spite of his physical ailment, he was keen to know about my project, my family and what was new in neurosurgery.
These are the highlights of my personal association with this great man. Every neurosurgeon in India knows about his contribution to Indian neurosurgery. But, as a friend of Indian neurosurgery from abroad, I know how much recognition he achieved for Indian neurosurgery in the world. He made every NRI neurosurgeon proud to declare that he came from Ramamurthi country. Apart from everything else his sense of timing was immaculate. He allowed everybody to enjoy the delights of the welcoming ceremony of the NSI and then put the maturity of Indian neurosciences to the test. He must be laughing with joy at the way the Indian neuroscientists conducted their proceedings of the NSI with dignity and purpose. The legacy I got from my association with this giant of a man is the quotation he often used in the expression of his thoughts.
'To reach the unreachable star
It is my quest to follow the star
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far'
The man from La Mancha (Don Quixote) 


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Online since 20th March '04
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