Saturday, December 10, 2016

A tribute to a veteran writer/adman - S.Krishna

My  good friend S.Krishna is no more. Also known as Pertinax Krishna, 85 year old Krishna passed away recently after a brief struggle with cancer. He had never fully recovered from the irreparable loss of his dear wife more than a year ago. She had  died a day after their 58th wedding  anniversary. Inspite of him being old with health issues, the way he looked after his wife during her last days could be a lesson in loving care for the youngsters of today.

He was 55 when he decided to pursue his passion for advertising by starting his own advertising  agency called Pertinax. He had started his working career earlier with Post & Telegraphs Department , where he spent 10 years after which he had a long stint with Lucas TVS in their marketing dept. It was in Lucas TVS that his interests in advertising took roots when  he was dealing with R.K.Swamy Advertising Associates who were the advertising  agency for his company. 

A voracious reader and a bilingual writer in English & Tamil,  Krishna was regularly contributing articles and stories to the leading dailies and magazines of the time. His stories were published by The Hindu, Indian Express, Caravan, Kalki etc. A collection of his Tamil stories was published by Vanathi Padhippagam. He was known for his excellent command of English which was  reflected in his writings. A perfectionist in whatever he did, he would not hesitate to pull up people for their slackness . He was brutally frank to the extent that he could sometimes hurt people with his comments.

He was an active member of the Advertising Club, Madras right from its early years. The office bearers of the Club used to dread his presence in Annual General Meetings of the Club because he would not hesitate to ask probing  questions on the affairs of the Club and expect an answer. It is this very quality of Krishna which brought me close to him. When I got actively involved with the Adclub, I realised that Krishna was genuinely interested in the Club and had no malice towards anyone. Nor was he aspiring for any posts. When I found out that he was a creative writer, I decided, as  the President of the Club between  1993-95,  to request  him to take up the job of editing the Club Magazine `Headline` which used to be an annual publication. He not only  helped  in converting   the magazine  into  a quarterly   but also  brought out excellent issues of the magazine,  rich in content and  quality with total dedication and commitment . He did this  for seven years  in a row until a misunderstanding with one of the Presidents made him give up the responsibility. It is sad that the magazine was never revived after he quit the post.

I cannot forget Krishna for playing an important  role in helping me bring out the Golden Jubilee Commemoration Volume of the Adclub, Madras, one of  my dream projects,  when I became  the club`s  Golden jubilee Committee Chairman in 2005-6. In spite of his advancing age ( he was 75) he would run around using available transport looking for materials and photos for the book. I remember an instance when he walked the streets of Kodambakkam trying to locate a photo studio, which had a photo  of the founders of the Adclub, Madras in 1956. Not only did he help in collecting information but he also wrote the main story in the book tracing the 50 year history of the Adclub, Madras. I was all admiration for his enthusiasm and the  physical energy that he displayed at  that time. Though I faded into  the background after the event  , he continued to attend  Club Meetings until health issues prevented him. He had already handed over the running of his agency to his second son.

The last big writing assignment  that he did was  the chapter on the history of advertising for a book called `Madras ( Chennai)- A Four Hundred Year history of the First City of India`, a project of the Association of British Scholar Programme consisting of 50 articles on a variety of topics, edited by the well known historian /Journalist S.Muthiah. He was eagerly looking forward to the release of the book. Pity that he passed away without seeing his effort in print.

Post my retirement from my business, I was a regular visitor to his home.  I always looked forward to his critical comments on my writings. I am going to miss a well wisher – a frank , outspoken person who may not have made many friends in the advertising business but  was a good human being with good intentions. May his Soul rest in peace!

Monday, November 21, 2016

He transformed medicare in India

This article, published in the `Madras Musings` issue dt. November 16-30,2016 is based on the Biography of Dr.P.C. Reddy,  titled `HEALER`, written  by Pranay Gupte

`At the age of fifty, when most people start planning to retire Dr.Prathap Chandra Reddy  decided that he was going to revolutionize  healthcare in India. In 1983, the renowned cardiologist launched the country`s first professionally run private sector hospital system. Thirty years later Apollo Hospitals has become one of the world`s largest provider of high technology healthcare.  Apollo today is an industry pioneer and a world leader in areas like Heart, Liver, Bone morrow transplant and robotic surgery`
How this happened is the story   titled ` Healer- Dr.Prathap Chandra Reddy by , Pranay Gupte,(Portfolio Penguin). Pranay Gupte,the author of several books and a columnist for Newsweek, tells the story based on interviews with  hundreds of Dr.Reddy`s  friends, relatives, colleagues and others who crossed his path during the course of his illustrious career as a top cardiologist  and as a visionary who built the Apollo group. `Healer` is a blend of  anecdote, reportage, analysis and narrative` The book  has interesting  information about how Dr.Reddy had to manoeuvre through difficult bureaucratic and complex medical systems to realize his dream of establishing the first corporate hospital in India.
Dr.Reddy hails from a rich agricultural family in Aragonda in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, where his father was the village chief. Born as the fifth  child among seven siblings Dr.Reddy was the first in the family  to move out of the village. He came  to study  medicine in Chennai. He received his M.B.B.S from Stanley Medical College in Chennai in 1957.  In 1963 he went to Britain and later to U.S.A where he worked in hospitals in Worcester, Massachusetes & Boston before settling down in Springfield, Missourie, gaining a reputation as a heart specialist. Seven years later , he and his family returned to India after receiving a letter from his father `reminding him to come back to India to do his duty to his Desam and Samajam` . He joined HM hospital in Madras as the head of its cardiac division. 
Soon after his return in 1970 he lost both his father and mother and was disturbed  that he could not do anything to save their lives. But the real trigger to start a world class hospital happened when he lost a thirty eight year old patient because the man could not mobilize the resources for a heart bypass operation in the US.
What started as a single 150 bed hospital in Chennai,  inaugurated on 18th September, 1983  Apollo has now grown into one of the largest healthcare provider in Asia with over 8500 beds at more than 50 hospitals in India and abroad.    Giani Zail Singh the then President of India who inaugurated the hospital called it ` An American hospital in India`
Among the many firsts that the group can claim,  here are a few:
Apollo was the first corporate hospital in India  to list its equity shares in Madras & Bombay stock  exchanges and later the National Stock Exchange; First to have a multi-organ transplant in the country; a  dedicated Linac based stereotactic radio surgery unit outside the  USA ;  telemedicine facility in the country using  satellite technology and  a PET CT, the 124-slice CT scan.
Medvarsity Online Limited was the first medical e-learning venture established in India;
 Apollo Hospitals New Delhi became  the first hospital in the group ( later to be followed by other units) to receive accreditation from  Joint Commission International (JCI), USA considered a `Gold Standard` in healthcare accreditation.
Other firsts include,  Introduction of Master Health Check up as a preventive and disease control measure,.   `Hospital on Wheels` and  `Reach` hospital concept leveraging technology to make available quality and affordable tertiary health care accessible to BOP individuals in rural areas .
 Dr.Reddy,  comes across as a visionary, a risk taker, a strict disciplinarian, a transformational character and above all as a good,  friendly soul who sincerely believed in the `healing touch` of the doctor with his  patients. Whenever he meets a patient in his consulting room or during his Rounds of the Wards he will never fail to put his arm around the patient giving the reassurance to the patient that the doctor really cares for him. This `Making one feel good` experience has been echoed by not only patients  but by many others  who have crossed his path. Any guest visiting Dr.Reddy`s home would have to have something to eat and drink. Even their drivers would receive the same hospitality.
Dr. Reddy always  emphasized that the  key ingredient in health care is the personal attention and qualifications of  persons who attend to the patients. Medical colleges and hospitals around the world are taking note of the fact that technology isn`t the only thing that drives success in  health care. `Dr.Reddy and Apollo have practiced `the high-tech/high touch` philosophy since Apollo opened in 1983`. Other characteristics of  of Dr.Reddy which wins people over are his ever smiling face, his self assurance and self confidence. According to B.A Kothandaraman,( of Viveks fame) one of Dr.Reddy`s oldest friends, ` the important thing is that his success hasn`t gone into his head.`
Dr. Reddy also highlighted that while practice of medicine is at the heart of any hospital, administration and management  are key components as well. He often takes time to meet Apollo`s management team and never fails  to felicitate them on special occasions such as birthdays.
One of the biggest  achievements of Dr.Reddy has been his ability to persuade hundreds of highly qualified NRI doctors, each a specialist in his field,  having very successful practices abroad to come back to India. He did this by promising them the best technology support, equal to the best available in the world and a congenial atmosphere with the freedom to pursue their practice without interferences from the management. And of course a good remuneration package. No wonder many of them have continued to be associated with the hospital since its inception. Considered the  `pillars` of the system or `Tigers` as Dr.Reddy would like to refer to them, are  big names like Dr M.R. Girinath,  Dr. Mathew Kalarickal, Dr. I. Sathyamurthy- all well known heart specialists -  Dr. M.K.Mani,  the Nephrologist , the late Dr. N.Rangabashyam  a gastrointestinal surgeon & Dr. Joseph V.Thachil,  an  Urologist.
Dr.Reddy is a very spiritual man with implicit  faith in God. His favourite deity is Hanuman. He never  fails to spend time every day in his Puja Room and also makes it a point to regularly  visit the Krishna,  Mariamman temples located inside the  Apollo Hospital premises. According to his daughter Preetha, `Daddy gets a lot of strength from the Veda and the Mahabharata. He meditates for an hour every morning. Daddy has the ability to focus on his goal. His goal was better health care for India. There are other characteristics that daddy exemplifies: leadership, integrity, strength and wisdom`
Dr.Girinath, who has worked closely with Dr.Reddy for over three decades says,` I`ve watched Dr.Reddy  develop from a struggling businessman to a corporate giant. It is a story to be studied by anyone who wants to know how knowledge, will power, determination and foresight and intuition can be put to work in the pursuit of an ideal.`
Dr.Reddy has also won several Awards for his enduring  contribution to  the health care scene in India including the `Padma Bhushan` in 1991.
When questioned by Gupte, if  he  considered himself a visionary, Reddy replied,` Being a `visionary` simply  means observing your environment and thinking how you can make a difference…. I believe that each one of us has it within us to become transformational figures. As I look at my life, I can say truthfully that I did the best that I could do. But that is not enough for me. There is more to be done – much, much more. I feel blessed by the continuity that my four daughters and their children and the Apollo family offer for Apollo. They are the standard bearers of our brand. They are the keepers of my legacy and they will all become leaders in their own right. Can a man in my place expect anything more of his family?`
`Healer` tells Dr.Reddy`s inspirational story like it has never been told before.
Outside the Apollo world, horse racing and card games are Reddy`s passion
Feedback welcome on or 9840392082

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Photography- as a hobby

Technology  has made a huge difference to photography as a hobby. Today  anyone can claim to be a photographer. You not only can capture interesting moments  in your life on your mobiles but also instantly share the same with your near & dear ones spread  across the world  through `Whats App` : the latest fad being taking `selfies` on  mobiles.

My mind goes back to the time when I would click black & white  pictures  using a `Gevabox` camera presented to me by my uncle.   I  shot these pictures on 120 mm square format. The film rolls  had 12 exposures. After  clicking every picture  I  had  to move the film forward using a lever provided in the camera. When the roll got fully exposed ,  I  had to remove it from the camera and load a  new roll to carry on shooting. It was not unusual to find the film getting stuck in the camera and  I  had to use force to pull it out damaging the roll and some shots.   I would have no idea of how the shots had come out until the rolls were` `developed`: first as negatives and later as prints from negatives. 

 I was a regular customer of Harish  at Zenith Photo Studio in Matunga, Mumbai, who always developed & printed the pictures taken by  me.  Waiting for Harish to tell me the results of  my  efforts was like waiting for the news of the birth of a baby  outside a labour room in a hospital.  

Once I started  earning,  I took up photography as a serious hobby. From black & white to colour, from 120mm  to 35mm film rolls, from colour prints to 35mm colour slides, from  simple `aim & shoot` cameras to sophisticated  SLR cameras- I went through all the phases that any photographer  went through those days.

Shooting pictures on 35mm slides and using them in my presentations to clients became a regular feature of my life.  I also used my talent to produce scores of  A.V presentations  promoting the projects of several Round Tables in the country which  helped the  Clubs raise crores of Rupees  as donations for their projects.
I have had  some interesting and some nerve racking moments shooting pictures. Like the time I was  taking a shot of  an `Open Heart surgery` being performed  on a 17 years old girl by doctors at the Railway Hospital in Perambur, Chennai.  Wearing the mandatory blue uniform and mask  and standing on a stool next to the operating table I had to take the action shot. I was scared of falling off the stool. Two room boys were physically holding  me in order to prevent me from falling.  On another occasion my camera caught  the  dying  moment of a baby girl  as doctors were trying to make last ditch efforts  to keep her alive. It was a very disturbing experience.

On the lighter side there were many occasions when  after shooting a  roll of film I would find that the numbers on the counter in the camera had moved forward without the film itself moving. Resulting in an unexposed roll at the end of a painstaking shooting session. Similarly , a  fully exposed film roll revealing no pictures when developed was also a possibility!

 I stopped indulging in this hobby 10 years ago. I am not complaining because I spend the same time  ` writing` which I find  equally creative &  interesting   without being physically taxing.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Survived six blocks without surgery

        I met my friend `B` after several years. He was having dinner with his family and some friends  at the Club where I am also a member. When I asked him what was the occasion, he smiled and replied, `Oh! I am celebrating my 20th Birthday`.  Intrigued I asked , `What do you mean?`.  B was three years older than me and I was already 75.
He laughed, ` If you want to know, come home I will tell you the full story`.

When he was 38,  `B` had moved to a  country in the Gulf where he started a business connected with the building industry. Within 20 years he had built a small business empire employing over 500 people and was making lots of money. Thanks to his constant travel and the high stress  business he was in, he had  a massive heart attack in the middle of a meeting.. He was 58. Timely medical attention saved his life but investigations revealed that he had six blocks  in his arteries and would need a surgery.  He flew to Chennai and met a top cardio surgeon in a five star hospital, known to him personally. The  Doctor opined that he may not survive a surgery. He told `B`, `Your heart has taken a severe beating . It is obviously the result of the high stress business you are involved in.  I suggest that you change your life style, and if necessary give up your business and start a new life. I will prescribe some medicines which you take regularly. More than that pray God and hope for the best. Miracles do happen you know`.

`B` was shattered. It was like a death sentence  without a time frame. He went into depression. His wife and two children rallied round him to help him come out of the depression. He sold his business in the Middle East and settled in Chennai, leading a sedate and relaxed  retired life, since he had earned enough to last two lifetimes. He followed a strict  diet, took  his medicines regularly and also excercised  without fail. Regular checkups then on  indicate that all his parameters are ok. He is as fit as anyone in his late seventies could be.
`B` added, ` Since that year I celebrate the date on which my doctor friend gave me his verdict, as my new birthday. I had survived six blocks without surgery.  Yesterday, at the Club  we were celebrating my new 20th birthday`.

Before I could recover from the miraculous survival story  of my friend I read a similar  story in the club magazine   involving another club  member.

 His story in his own words: ` It was an uneventful Friday in late April 2009, quite like any other day in the lives of most jobless senior citizens. While relaxing in an easy chair with my morning newspaper  I started getting this funny sensation in my left wrist .I tried to ignore it initially.  I quickly finished my lunch and decided to lie down for some time, in the hope that it will stop but  the sensation persisted. My hoping against hope proved to be in vain.

As  my family was away ,  I drove myself  to a hospital  just a kilometre  away for a check up.  I was promptly put in ICU, since  my ECG was abnormal. 

”Angiogram revealed SIX major blocks in my arteries, a few even 90 %. The friendly cardio surgeon in the hospital opined that  both Bye pass surgery and Angioplasty were ruled out because the blocks were too many. He recommended  that I try my luck by  changing  my lifestyle to include a strict diet and regular walk. I was  asked to reduce my weight  immediately as I was really overweight.  He also prescribed some expensive  medicines.  With hope in my heart and prayers on my lips I started a new phase in my life.  Subsequent check ups revealed  that nature (GOD) had done a natural Bye pass already, as revealed in the Treadmill test, followed by a Thallium test in Black and White done in the Nuclear Medicine Dept of  the Hospital.  God  had saved me from the trauma of undergoing Bye Pass surgery.

I have come across a few other friends, especially from middle class families, who were diagnosed with one, two or even three blocks,  surviving without  undergoing surgery or angioplasty by  changing their life style and taking alternative  medicines; leading me to believe that it is not necessary to rush with surgery in all cases of blocks in arteries.  Regular medication and  exercises can help in avoiding   expensive surgeries which sometime lead to other complications. Unfortunately, in  many such situations the doctors and hospitals black mail the family members to believe that the patients will drop dead any time, if an emergency operation is not performed.  I believe that senior citizens,  particularly those who have left an active life behind them   should think twice before agreeing to such surgeries.

 They should remember that by undergoing a surgery only their old age is extended and not their youth.