CU SHAH The man with a golden heart ‘n’ hand

In 1978 a Mumbai-based businessman and philanthropist donated the seed money to help establish a not-for-profit ophthalmic institute in Chennai. For him, it was contributing to yet another cause; for the institute, the contribution would enable thousands realise a dream — the ability to see. The ophthalmic hospital is better known as Sankara Nethralaya and the benevolent gentleman is CU Shah — Sankara Nethralaya’s first donor.

In the years to come, Mr. Shah’s success and generosity has grown manifold and the little-known eye hospital has slowly and steadily emerged as one of the leading ophthalmic institutions in the country.

And on August 27, 2009, it was the turn of the hospital’s Post Graduate students to come face-to-face with the man behind their training institute — the CU Shah post Graduate Training Centre. Mr. Shah, now 92-years-old, took a trip down memory lane, recalling his association with Sankara Nethralaya with the next generation of doctors that the institute is grooming.

Impressed by Chairman Emeritus Dr. Badrinath’s vision and “desire to serve,” Mr. Shah says he only gave a “small contribution” and attributes the institute’s growth to the dedicated service by all doctors and employees at Sankara Nethralaya led by Dr. Badrinath. It’s the “small contribution” of Rs. 10 lakhs which helped this institute establish itself.

Describing Sankara Nethralaya as a “great gift to the nation,” Mr. Shah, said he was impressed to see how much the institute has progressed. “I never thought SN will reach this height.”

Mr. Shah is known for having successfully established several charitable organisations, including a medical college, a school of nursing and a pharmacy, prompting Dr. TS Surendran, Vice-Chairman, Medical Research Foundation, to describe Mr, Shah as the man with the “midas touch.”

Dr. Badrinath described Mr. Shah’s seed money as a “beautiful thought and a beautiful act,” and acknowledged the many people and organisations that have benefited from Mr. Shah’s magnanimity. He very aptly summed up Nethralaya’s ideology and Mr. Shah’s contribution: “God sends good people for good causes.” While for Sankara Nethralaya Mr. Shah was and remains undoubtedly godsent, for Mr. Shah, out of all his charitable contributions, the one to Sankara Nethralaya will always be his “greatest pride.”

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