iMahal Interview Series:
G. Venkataswamy
June 17, 2001

Eye Camp iMahal:  You were a Professor of Ophthalmology between 1956 and 1976 in Madurai. That was a career in itself. But your continued; you pioneered the concept of eye camps and safe assembly-line techniques for eye care. How did this all come about?
Venkataswamy:  Initially the State Government gave us a mobile unit to conduct eye camps to help the blind people in rural communities. I saw hundreds of people blind due to cataract. I realized that, with a simple operation, their sight could be restored. It was a simple observation, and I simply decided that I should continue to help people with their sight. As we did more and more of these eye camps, they became popular among the people and we got a lot of community support. By 1998 we were conducting more than 1400 of these camps each year, and improving sight for millions of people. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to build a good eye hospital in the private sector.
iMahal:  You did not name your hospitals after yourself. They are all named Aravind, which is the Sanskrit word for lotus (aravinda). The Bengali pronunciation of the word is Aurobindo, which is the name of a spiritual leader who lived between 1872 and 1950. Could you describe your relation to this guru?
Venkataswamy:  In April of 1950, a Gandhi-ite friend of mine said, "Let's go to the ashram in Pondicherry and have the darshan (sacred sight) of Sri Aurobindo." It was my first darshan of the great master, who passed away that year in December. People were able to see him once every three months, and there was usually a big crowd, about two thousand people. You marched in a line, you saw him for a second, and then you marched off. That day in April he did not make any sort of impact on me worth remembering. I had made many friends at the ashram and gradually, over the years, I read Sri Aurobindo's books and became involved in his teachings. I have immense faith in Sri Aurobindo's teaching that man can evolve to a higher level of consciousness and have great capacity for good work. Many members of our hospital staff go to the Aurobindo ashram. We feel that the higher consciousness is trying gradually to give us a system. We are all aware of the parts of the human body as they work. We take in food; we like the taste of it. Part of it is absorbed here, part of it there. But we are not aware of it. The higher consciousness works in the same way. Slowly, your system is built around it, but not according to human nature. At the hospital, we are slowly building an organization that seems to be linked with the higher consciousness.




   Search Help

Tell a friend about this webpage!