There could not be a more momentous occasion to an institution and its Founder ingrained with the quality of gratitude and reciprocity than acknowledging the deeds and honouring the great men and women who have empathized with its cause and made it what it is today. The Sankara Ratna and Dr MS.Subbulakshmi awarding ceremony being held at the stately Rajendra hall at the ITC Grand Chola on the 27th of Janary 2018 reflected this in no small measure. The high profile of the awardees and the Chief Guest conferring the awards had quite naturally raised a lot of expectation and made it a most keenly awaited event within and outside the institution. If the smooth flow of the proceedings were a testimony to the excellent planning that had gone behind the event, the spirited observations and spontaneity of the awardees and the Chief guest made it exceed all expectations, keeping the filled to capacity hall absorbed, informed and entertained.
The close to 3 hour program turned out to be an epic of sorts, little wonder that it did so, given thefact that the achievements, name and fame of the man and woman being honoured had assumed epic proportions and the award was being conferred by a legend. Srimathi Akila Ganesan, Director, Administration, Sankara Nethralaya set the tone for the evening with a succinct note on the awards, as the gesture of gratitude and honouring by an institution created for the people and by the people, to the great men and women who had empathised with its cause and supported it in its journey of providing quality eye care to those who could pay and those who could not!
Dr KS.Vasan, Managing Director continued the Sankara Nethralaya saga where Srimathi Akila Ganesan had left, with a most interesting account of how the institution had grown from its humble beginnings to a world class, tertiary ophthalmic centre encompassing clinical care, research,teaching and training and community eye care within its fold. He traced the inception of facilities in the city and other parts of the country, the steady growth of an institution committed to reaching out its services without diluting its quality, principles and philosophy. The senior Sankara Nethralaya official touched a chord in every heart with his emphatic account of how the Founder and Chief steward of the institution Dr SS.Badrinath was seized by a single idea, dream and mission and how it controlled his life,brain,muscles as advocated by Swami Vivekananda and how it became a reality in the form of Sankara Nethralaya. Dr.Vasan closed his talk with a strong emphasis on the social and economic impact of the innovations and service rendered by the institution and a strong appeal to join its mission.
The awarding ceremony was a spell binder with interesting, inspiring and amazing glimpses of the day’s awardees and the celebrities assembled to honour them flowing as a steady stream. Less known, inspiring, moving facts like Shri AM.Naik the hero of corporate Indian folklore bequeathing 75% of his wealth to charity and how the Naik and Nirali trusts founded by him were revolutionizing the countryside with their trailblazing health and education initiatives. The deep commitment of Shri Deepak Parekh, the voice of corporate India,to the values of humility, accessibility, accountability and transparency and his simple logic and conviction that ‘corporate giving’ was a natural concomitant to ‘corporate earning’. The memorable day when legal legend Nani Palkhivala summoned Shri Deepak Parekh to his home and in a gesture of boundless generosity and faith requested him to divest his life savings in the form of shares and other holdings and transfer the same to Sankara Nethralaya, after just one visit to the ‘Temple of the eye’. The Sankara Ratna awardee’s invaluable role in bringing illustrious members from the nation’s business capital to empathize and support Sankara Nethrlaya, of whom was Dr BR Barwale, the father of India’s seed industry, whose company contributedto the setting up of the clinical care block at the SN main campus named after it as Mahyco block (Maharashtra hybrid seeds company). A touching account of how this key player in India’s green revolution donated the entire prize money he received with the ‘World Food Prize’ to research in agriculture. Srimathi Vani Jairam’s warm note on her experiences with MS Amma after whom the award she was receiving is named, the rich compliments she received for her manner of singing from the immortal, legend. Touching accounts of how the ‘Meera of Modern India’ had toured large parts of rural Maharashtra, propagating social values and causes through her golden voice, travelling all the way to Iowa to render the invocation at the function honouring Dr.Barwale with the ‘World Food prize’ known popularly as Norman Borlaug award.
The evening marked a giant leap in leveraging technology for better dispensing of eye care by the two times winner of the prestigious NASSCOM-KPMG awards for ‘Best IT adoption on the healthcare sector’ and ‘Best Electronic Medical Record (EMR) solution’ with the dedication of the Dr BR Barwale centre for ophthalmic technology and innovation, which would focus on developing and implementing technologies to enhance reach and quality of eye care to the masses. Speaking on the occasion Chief Technology Officer Shri Chandramouli explained on how the new centre will endeavour to make the enormous data available with the institution actionable for practitioners and stakeholders.
Speaking with a strong sense of nostalgia a visibly overwhelmed Dr SS.Badrinath recalled that he came to India with just four dollars and times have been indeed been very good and eventful and he considered himself very blessed to have been able to give shape to his dream of starting a world class eye care institution, he expressed that the past has been very good and the present is also very promising and hoped that the future will be good too. He thanked his colleagues for the hospital being rated as the best in its kind and went on to highlight a few major Sankara Nethralaya landmarks like the success of the MESU which reported absolutely no complications, being the only eye care institution providing technology support to 9 eye care institutions, the impact of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) process aided by artificial intelligence developed by the institution. He recounted with gratitude Sankara Ratna awardee Shri Deepak Parekh’s rare gesture of sanctioning a huge loan from the HDFC to Sankara Nethralaya by instructing his officials from the USA, when it was negotiating for the acquisition of the erstwhile lady Willingdon Hospital.
While it was natural that the evening resonated with the greatness of the great personalities whom the ‘Temple of the eye’ had chosen to honour on this momentous occasion, the inspiring and laudatory references on the host institution, the detailed account of its services and achievements and the need to support it, made by the awardees and the chief guest and the guest of honour made one wonder if even the representatives of Sankara Nethralaya could have made such a strong case about themselves, as its friends and well wishers gathered on the occasion had done. The spirited references to the institution in their acceptance speeches by the awardees and the chief guest’s address made one wonder if SankaraNethralaya was felicitating its friends and supporters or was being felicitated by them on this memorable day! A glorious example of the Bard’s immortal lines ‘The quality of mercy is twice blessed; it blesseth him that gives and him that takes’.