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NRI doctor donates $20 million to village

Dr. Kumar Bahuleyan

US-based NRI neurosurgeon Kumar Bahuleyan, 81, donates his personal fortune to his village to establish a hospital…Mr C.O.T Azeez reports

 Dr. Kumar Bahuleyan
Dr. Kumar Bahuleyan

Dr Kumar Bahuleyan, 81, earned millions as a  neurosurgeon in the US. He had a lavish life – driving Rolls-Royce and keeping  five Mercedes at garage besides a personal jet for short-trips.But he is quiting everything. Surprisingly, for the sake of a small village in the south Indian state of Kerala.

The ace doctor has donated $20 million (Rs 80 crores) of his hard earned money to his native village to set up a neurosurgery hospital, a health clinic and a spa resort in Chemmanakary, in Kottayam, Kerala.

Dr Bahuleyan, born in a Dalit family, has decided to donate his personal fortune to his village as a gratitude.

“I was born with nothing; I was educated by the people of that village, and this is what I owe to them,” said Dr Bahuleyan. He is living in Buffalo in the US since 1973. “I have nothing else to achieve in life. This was my goal, to help my people. Now I can die any time, as a happy man.”

The urge to do something for his village arose some 20 to 25 years ago, when Dr Bahuleyan returned to Chemmanakary and was struck by how little the village had changed.

“The village remained absolutely the same – not a road, no school, no water supply, no sanitary facilities,” he said. “I looked in the (people’s) faces and saw the same people living in the same miserable conditions I had grown up with decades back.”

Dr Bahuleyan has come full circle: from dire poverty in India, to the lifestyles of the rich in America and back to his native village, where he has traded his Mercedes for a bicycle.

The NRI doctor lost two younger brothers and a sister to water-borne disease in 1930s.

“I was the oldest, feeling very helpless, listening to the screams of these dying children, one by one,” he said. “Their cries stuck in my psyche. Even now it haunts me.”

As a bright student, he went to high-school, and then a pre-medical school run by Christian Missionaries before attending medical college in Madras.

Later he went to the UK for neurosurgical training at Edinburgh, Scotland, where he spent six years before returning home. However, he could not land a job in his specialty.

“They (Government) didn’t know what to do with me,” he said. “There was no position available for a neurosurgeon. Many people didn’t know what neurosurgery was.”

Dr. Bahuleyan’s dream project in Chemanakari, Vaikom
Dr. Bahuleyan’s dream project in Chemanakari, Vaikom

Therefore, Dr Bahuleyan went to Kingston and then Albany Medical College, before arriving to Buffalo in 1973 to work with neurosurgeon Dr. John Zoll.

Dr Bahuleyan never saw ice cream until he was in medical college in his early 20s. In addition, he remembers buying his first pair of shoes as a young adult; he put the right shoe on his left foot and realised it did not fit. During his 26-year career, Bahuleyan served as a clinical associate professor in neurosurgery at the University at Buffalo before retiring in 1999. In addition, he made millions.

“I didn’t ask for the money,” he said. “The money came to me. My secretary said to me, ‘Dr. Bahuleyan, you’re making too much money.’ I had never had any money. So I went berserk with money.”

In 1989, he set up the Bahuleyan Charitable Foundation, which built a small clinic in India  for young children and pregnant women in 1993 in south India. Dr Bahuleyan’s foundation built the Indo-American Hospital Brain and Spine Centre in 1996, starting with 80 beds.None of the facilities carries his name.

In 2004, the foundation opened the Kalathil Health Resorts, offering luxury rooms, health spas and exercise rooms. Dr Bahuleyan, who lives with his wife, pathologist Indira Kartha, spends six months in the US and six months in India to monitor his foundation’s work. The veteran doctor is still uses a  cycle to run around and still holds daily surgeries.