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Home > News > PTI

Indian-American doctor donates $20 million to native Kerala village

Seema Hakhu Kachru in Houston | August 08, 2007 14:38 IST

An Indian-American neurosurgeon has donated his personal fortune worth $20 million for the development of his native village in Kerala [Images]. The money will be used to build a hospital, health clinic and other facilities in the backward village of Chemmanakary.

Dr Kumar Bahuleyan was born in a poor Dalit family. He moved to the US in his youth and earned millions as a neurosurgeon.  

But in the twilight of his life, the 81-year-old decided to donate his entire fortune for the development of his native village. He aims to build a hospital specialising in neurosurgery, a health clinic and a spa resort in Chemmanakary.

"I was born with nothing; I was educated by the people of that village, and this is what I owe to them," said Bahuleyan, who has been a resident of Buffalo since 1973.

"I'm in a state of nirvana, eternal nirvana," he said. "I have nothing else to achieve in life. My goal was to help my people. Now I can die a happy man," he added.

The idea first struck Bahuleyan when he visited India about 20 to 25 years ago. To his shock, he realised that the condition of Chemmanakary hadn't changed much.  

"There was not a single concrete road, no schools, no water supply, no sanitary facilities," he recalls. "I looked at the (people's) faces and saw the same people living in the same miserable conditions I had grown up with."

The reputed doctor is still haunted by memories of his three younger siblings, who died of roundworm infestation after drinking polluted water.

"I was the oldest. I felt so helpless, listening to the screams of these dying children," Bahuleyan recalls.

As an "untouchable," Bahuleyan had to take a roundabout route to school. He wasn't allowed to come within a few hundred yards of the local temple. Bahuleyan attended a school for lower-caste children and reached high school by the time he was 13.

After a course in a pre-medical school, he attended medical college in Madras. Funded by the Kerala government, he went to Edinburgh, Scotland for neurosurgical training. He spent six years there and came back to India as a qualified neurosurgeon.

In spite of his degree, Bahuleyan couldn't find a job. "They didn't know what to do with me. Many people didn't know what neurosurgery was," he said.

So Bahuleyan went to Kingston [Images], Ontario in the pursuit of a job. He worked in the Albany Medical College, before settling in Buffalo. During his 26-year career, Bahuleyan worked as a private practitioner. He also served as a clinical associate professor in neurosurgery at the University at Buffalo, before retiring in 1999.

He made millions in the course of his profession and set up the Bahuleyan Charitable Foundation. The foundation built a clinic in India for young children and pregnant women in 1993. It is also involved in building toilets, roads and providing water supply for villages.  

Bahuleyan's foundation built the Indo-American Hospital Brain and Spine Centre in 1996. To provide funds for the hospital, he started the Kalathil Health Resorts in 2004. The resort offers luxury rooms, health spas and exercise rooms.

Bahuleyan's next initiative was the new East India Seven Seas Sailing Company, to be located in the southwestern corner of India, near the Arabian Sea. This summer, he has spent 50 hours a week preparing at Zimmermann's Seven Seas Sailing School, located on the Buffalo ship canal. Four sailboats are being shipped to India next month.

The long-term plan calls for the school to accept applications from couples willing to spend a few weeks in India. These couples will volunteer in Bahuleyan's hospital and also teach sailing, as part of the "Sailors Who Heal" programme.

Bahuleyan and his pathologist wife Indira Kartha now spend half of the year in Buffalo and the rest in India. Bahuleyan oversees the workings of his foundation and performs surgeries regularly. Leaving his fleet of luxury cars behind in the US, he moves around on a bicycle.

"My dream is to see this all running without my help, so I can pass away peacefully, knowing that I created something and gave something back. That would justify my existence," explained the enthusiastic octogenarian.

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