Home is where the heart is

kumarKumar Bahuleyan’s two younger brothers and a sister were screaming with pain. He felt helpless as he looked at them. His father and mother did not know what to do. In the 1920s, in the village of Chemmanakary, 20 km from Kochi, there was no drinking water, electricity, schools, or sanitary facilities. “My siblings got sick by drinking polluted water,” says Bahuleyan. “And there was no doctor to cure them. They died of roundworm infestation. Even now, 80 years later, I can hear their screams in my head.”

Bahuleyan’s father, Kumaran, a subsistence farmer, belonged to the low-caste Ezhavas. As a child, Bahuleyan was pot-bellied, with a runny nose, and suffered from amoebiasis, chicken and small pox, scabies and typhoid. When Bahuleyan wanted to study in an English-medium school, his father was unable to pay the fees. So he joined the Malayalam government school.

One day, after Bahuleyan had completed his Class 7 final exams, he was walking with his father, in front of an English-medium school run by a Brahmin, Harihara Subramaniam Iyer.

“Kumaran, where are you going?” said Iyer. Kumaran said that he was trying to get admission for Bahuleyan in another school. Astonishingly, Iyer offered Bahuleyan a seat, even though the monthly fees were `3.50. Bahuleyan says, “It was the biggest break of my life.”

After his schooling, Bahuleyan went to UC College in Aluva and completed his science degree in 1949. By this time Bahuleyan’s aim had crystallised: he wanted to become a doctor. “My siblings had died of preventable diseases,” he says. “I wanted to use my expertise to cure the world.”

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