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Year : 2004  |  Volume : 52  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 21-22

A life blessed

Correspondence Address:

How to cite this article:
Sekhar L N. A life blessed. Neurol India 2004;52:21-2

How to cite this URL:
Sekhar L N. A life blessed. Neurol India [serial online] 2004 [cited 2021 Sep 17];52:21-2. Available from:

Professor B. Ramamurthi died on 13th December, 2003. Whoever is born imust die sometime. Although we are saddened by Professor Ramamurthi's death, we must instead reflect upon what a gifted life he had. During his life he accomplished things that people can only dream of - professionally and personally. He set India on the neurosurgical world map. He built a dream neurosciences institute, not once but twice, under very difficult circumstances. He was a leader all his life, led by example and was admired by his countrymen and neurosurgeons all over the world. Hindus and Buddhists believe that the fortunes in one's present life are the result of good Karma from our previous lives. Yet, how one conducts his present life is also dependent upon personal choices, and the individual accumulates good and bad Karma for this and future lives. Professor Ramamurthi accumulated as much good Karma as one can hope to accumulate in a lifetime. We must, therefore, be very happy for him and I am sure that he is happy as well, as he reads this article.
I would like to relate a few stories about Professor Ramamurthi and my father, L. S. Natarajan. They were classmates in the Madras Medical College, and close friends all their lives. My father was very upset and depressed by Professor Ramamurthi's death and he died unexpectedly on December 26, 2003, 10 days after his friend's death.
Ramamurthi was a brilliant student in Medical College, and used to stay in his sister's house in Theagaraya Nagar, Madras. My father used to live in a rented house across the street, with many other classmates, all of whom went on to distinguished careers in Medicine later in life. These friends used to be very close and quite a group. My father and friends used to party quite a bit, and Ramamurthi would shout across the street, “Hi guys, settle down, and study!” In the morning, they would go to college together in Ramamurthi's old car - they frequently had to push it, since it would not start!
When Mahatma Gandhi started the “Quit India” movement, all these impressionable young medical students joined the protests. As my father related it, during a student march, the police arrived to break up the demonstrations, and they held a stick across the line. Anyone on one side of the line went to jail, and the others dispersed. My father was one of those who did not go to jail, and, therefore, was able to obtain his Medical Degree on time.
After graduation my father took some further training, and went on to general medical practice in Dharmapuri, which was then a small city with only one other M.B.B.S. doctor in town. Professor Ramamurthi finished postgraduate surgical training in Madras, and had neurosurgical training in Edinburgh and Montreal. When he returned to India, he chose the very difficult field of neurosurgery. My father and his friends used to make fun of Professor Ramamurthi for having chosen a field wherein most patients died postoperatively. Such was the wisdom and courage of the Professor that he stuck to his guns, and saw the field gradually transform into what it is today. Of course, some of our patients still die postoperatively and have other complications, but nothing like what it must have been in Professor Ramamurthi's early days in the profession.
My father was a lifelong advisor of Ramamurthi, and as a child, he always exhorted me to be like his friend. They visited each other periodically and Professor Ramamurthi recalled that I used to ride on his shoulder when I was a little boy.
As a child, my dream was to become an engineer in the Railways like my uncle Dorairaj, but my father could never accept it, and forced me into biology and medical school. I was very depressed for a long time, and got over it only after reaching Anatomy in the second year. When I had just finished Pre-University studies in the Loyola College, my father took me to meet Professor Ramamurthi because he sought his recommendation to help me get into the prestigious Madras Medical College. I was placed second in the Pre-University exam in Loyola College, but as we know, in those days, it was difficult to get into Medical College without knowing the right people
I remember our first meeting very well. I was a bit nervous, and surly. Professor Ramamurthi dressed me down for not having the right attitude and respect. He also told my father “This boy is not like you!” (My father was an above average student, but was an extrovert, and very active socially throughout his life.) Well, I did make it into Madras Medical College, and to my surprise, won most of the prizes and medals and the Johnstone Gold Medal as the Best Outgoing Student. However, I remember that once I was very anxious, and had a physiological tremor. I did not think that I would make it as a surgeon as my father wanted me to. My father took me to see Professor Ramamurthi, who reassured me that it was nothing. Today, I am doing some of the most complex microsurgical operations without a tremor. I reflect upon that day.
When I finished medical school, I never really wanted to become a neurosurgeon like Professor Ramamurthi, since my father was always comparing me to his friend. However, after I finished House- Surgeoncy, I chose Neurosurgery because it was the only field that held a lot of challenge for me. It was my dream to become a microsurgeon, especially in the cerebrovascular field; microsurgery was not very popular in India at that time. However, Prof. Ramamurthi encouraged me. I had the privilege of being a Senior House Surgeon under Professor Ramamurthi at the Madras Neurological Institute in 1973, and witnessed his surgery, leadership, teaching, and patient manners at first hand. I realized that in order to accomplish what he had in India at that time, he had to have a very tough exterior. He had very high standards for himself, and held others to that same standard.
After I came to the USA, I had some trouble getting into the prestigious training program at the University of Pittsburgh. Professor Ramamurthi, during one of his trips to the USA, made a special visit to Pittsburgh and met with Professor Peter Jannetta to encourage him to take me in his program.
Professor Ramamurthi has advised and helped me at many critical times in my life, and inspired me to become what I am today. There is a bit of him inside me, and inside all those he has inspired, and trained.
My father, too, lived a very fruitful and meaningful life. He was quite different from me, very pragmatic, sure of himself, and his role in the family and society. I do not know how I would have done as an engineer in the Railways, or in a related field-probably my father and Professor Ramamurthi were God's messengers, steering me into something I did not really want to do, but nevertheless, have been very successful in, by some standards.
I know that both Professor Ramamurthi and my father, L. S. Natarajan, had very blessed lives, and all of us should be envious of them. However, I miss Professor Ramamurthi's regal manner and cheerful voice and face. And I miss my father; I miss them both very much.
I hope these two dear friends, wherever they are, will help to inspire a new generation of young people. 


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Online since 20th March '04
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