“I discarded Mercedes Benz for a Bicycle like a small kid discarding old toy for new one”— Dr. Kumar Bahuleyan
“Who dies rich dies disgraced.” said Andrew Carnegie and Lord Buddha said— “To conquer oneself is a greater task than conquering others.” Here is an inspiring story from Kalam Fan Club about a philanthropist and an Indian-American Neurosurgeon whose life has been a classic example of being a true practitioner of the above two quotes. The story of Dr. Kumar Bahuleyan is two folded; He was born in rags of a remote village in Kerala, India and succeeded to be an iconic neuro surgeon to practice in Buffalo, the USA with all materialistic comforts under the sun in his possession, thus providing a rags-to-rich success story. But his inner drive to help the poor masses in his motherland with a charitable super specialty hospital by donating all his earnings gives silver-lining to his success story. The fact that he has ensured that his name doesn’t get portrayed anywhere in his charitable work manifold his philanthropic mission. A doctor who was born in a poor village background without proper sanitation and drinking water and grew up to own Mercedes Benz, Royal Royce, and Airplane and donated 20 million $ for the upliftment of his native village is a remarkable achievement on any scale.
Dire Childhood Days & Education
Dr. Kumar was born in a remote village called Chemmanakary in Kottayam district of Kerala. His child hood days (the 1930s) were so awful that all his siblings suffered from epidemics and as the eldest of four children he had to witness the death of his three siblings who were not even eight years old. As he belonged to untouchable caste schooling was also not easy in those days. He had to take a roundabout route to school as he was not allowed to commute on the road with the temple. Fortunately, this boy’s learning ability was identified by a headmaster of a school belonging to lower caste school. This headmaster readily agreed to teach this boy for free and thus the trauma of going to a far away school ended for Kumar. Most interestingly in those days of intense practice of untouchability, Mr. Harihara Subramaniam Iyer an upper-class Brahmin offered a seat for this lower caste boy in his English medium high school. This happened to be a turning point in his education. Further, he got the opportunity to study para medical in a Christian missionary school. Later he joined medical college of Madras (Chennai). Dr. Kumar always acknowledges the scholarships provided by the Govt. for his education and accepts it would have been impossible for him to complete his education. His life was completely poverty-ridden, and he didn’t have a pair of shoes to go to medical college. He often claims that he is an eternal optimist.
Higher education in Scotland
The Kerala Govt. having recognized his abilities funded him to pursue neurosurgery in Scotland as no neurosurgery department was available back home. On his return back home, in 1965 he was posted in Indian Army during India-Pakistan war to support army personnel as a specialist neurosurgeon. But, after the warfare Govt. failed to accommodate him in any neuro surgeon post he was left jobless unable to break the bureaucratic red-tape-ism prevailing in the country.
Due to the pathetic condition back home, he started applying for prospects overseas and immigrated to Ontario, Canada, seeking employment. Finally, he settled at Buffalo, USA and for the first time in his life sensed economic security. His marathon 26 years of private practice had a great beginning with offices at Linwood and Kenmore avenues cum main streets. He even served as a clinical associate professor at the University of Buffalo before retiring in the year 1999. Dr. Kumar Bhauleyan had made up for what he had lost in his childhood by getting into buying spree and enriched himself with all material comforts his mind prompted him to possess. Unfortunately, Dr. Bahuleyan’s first marriage didn’t click and he got married to Dr. Indira a widow in the year 1985. He was happily leading a life with his wife Dr. Indira kartha, who is pathologist by profession. But an inner feeling of emptiness started popping up in Dr. Kumar’s mind and he started probing life beyond material comforts of a multi-millionaire.
Turning Point for Charity Spree
Dr. Kumar Bhuleyan was back in the home for vacation and could witness the country have not changed drastically. He witnessed a scene of a lonely young mother standing on the roadside with a 3-year-old pot-bellied child with running nose and scabies all over the body. This poverty ridden parent and child recalled the nightmares Dr. Kumar himself had underwent after the tragic death of his siblings in childhood days. He realized the extremity of life that he is a successful icon in America living in material comforts and an innocent child without having any prejudice of caste, creed, and status suffering in his motherland. The enlightenment Dr. Kumar was badly looking for had struck, and he decided to spend six months in a year in India serving the poor in need of medical attention and spend another six months in the USA. He took the initiative to build septic tanks for enabling people to use toilets; around 3000 toilets were in place. He initiated construction of new roads, and even 25 to 30 housing units were built and to ice the cake he built the most needed charitable hospital.
Here is the path trod by Dr. Kumar in serving the society:
- In 1989, he established non-profit-organization Bahuleyan Charitable Foundation to bring basic health care to Kerala villages by pouring ten crores of rupees from his savings to the Foundation
- The foundation plunged into toilet construction program where a one-third of houses did not have sanitation, approximately 619 latrines meeting WHO standards were constructed
- In 1993 the foundation built a small clinic in the village to treat pregnant women and children. The demand for treatment was so high in spite of bad road conditions, Dr. Kumar took a new initiative to build a 6 Km road to establish connectivity to the clinic by spending 50 lakh rupees.
- In 1995 the vaikom wing of the Indo-American Hospital was started with 30 beds. The hospital was named so to acknowledge the American tax payer’s contribution in the fund used
- To ensure sustainability of this charitable foundation, Kumar took help of consultants and came up with idea of a super-speciality hospital to fetch revenue from affordable people, thus in 1996 a super-speciality neurosurgery hospital got incepted
- Kumar is also serving village communities by providing them with innovative sustainable agricultural practices
- To enhance the availability of trained medical practitioners he has plans to set up nursing training and medical technicians training institutes
Today at the age of 86, Dr. Kumar Bahuleyan is healthy to conduct surgeries, and he humorously says—“By the grace of God, my hands are steady and my brain is fine,” and while in India he stays at hospital premises. Interesting fact about Dr. Bahuleyan’s saga of service is as soon as he shifted his area of operation to Kerala villages; He discarded his Mercedes Benz and bought a bicycle in exchange. He is quoted to have said that “This behaviour was similar to that of a school going kid that discards old toys for the new one!”
Kalam Fan Club is proud of this 86 year old young boy who is serving the community relentlessly.