“There are various events which can be interpreted as an ‘incentive’ provided by divinity to help me fruitfully exploit the precious gift of Nature called ‘life’.”
Above are the words of Padma Shri Late DrLalaSurajNandan Prasad taken from his book “How to Live a Fruitful 100 Years”.Mere mortals like us are unable to interpret these incentives and end up living a mundane life. Whereas the great people make the most of these opportunities and I guess this is what separates them from the rest. Well, DrLala did not end up living for 100 years but the fruitfulness of his life is beyond questions.
DrLala was born on January 1, 1914 in Biharsharif (a small city in Bihar). His father Babu Ram Prasad Lalwas a lawyer by profession. DrLala was an exceptionally bright student since his childhood. He was given the Mackforsen gold medal and state scholarship for topping the Bhagalpur Division in High School.
In 1933, upon completion of intermediate from Patna Science College; DrLala got married to Smt. Shakuntala Devi (daughter of Sri Kamla Prasad, a landlord from Sameli). He then took admission in the Prince of Wales Medical College (now Patna Medical College) and got a MBBS degree in 1939. After serving for close to a year in the state medical services at Danapur, Gopalganj, Navada&Supoul; on October 10th, 1940 he was appointed as the Deputy Superintendent at the Patna Medical College. Thus began his long association with Patna Medical College which lasted for more than 50 years.
In April 1945, he was given state scholarship by the government of Bihar to pursue his higher studies from London. During this time the World War II was still in progress and it was a cause of concern for DrLala’s parents. So, his mother consulted a well-known priest & astrologer - Pandit Vishnu Kant Jha who advised her to allow DrLala to go to London and also predicted that he will safely return to India after three years upon completion of his studies.
With the blessings of his parents and well-wishers, DrLala reached London in the May of 1945 after travelling by ship for close to 35 days. London too was facing the repercussions of war and day to day life had been badly affected. In these trying times, DrLala got admitted for diploma course in the department of paediatrics at the prestigious London University. He then went on to complete MRCP from Edinburgh University, Scotland and also did a course in Social Paediatrics from Simpson’s maternity hospital, Edinburgh before returning to India in August, 1947.
Beginning of 50 years’ service to mankind
While he was on his way back to Bombay (now Mumbai), India got freedom from the British on 15th August, 1947. In his own words, the independence was celebrated on board by hoisting the tricolor on the ship. Upon return to Patna, he joined the Patna Medical College and served as a lecturer in the paediatrics department from 1948 to 1961 and then as a professor from 1962 to 1971.
Birth of Indian Academy of Paediatrics
Continuing his pursuit for the betterment of the department of paediatrics in India, DrLala became the founding president of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics in 1964. In his honor, the Patna Medical College founded “LalaSurajNandan Memorial Auditorium”. During his life time, he also served as the Honrary Director of Rajendra Memorial Research Institute (RMRI) in Patna and played an instrumental role in getting government funding for the institute. He was also a strong believer in Ayurveda and played a key role in the establishment of the Ayurvedic Regional Research Institute in 1980 in Patna.
Post-retirement from government medical service, he continued his medical practice till as late as 93 years of age in Patna and earned a lot of fame both in India & abroad. His house also known as the “Ghadiwalaghar” (house with the clock) from where he did his practice always used to be surrounded by patients. He was a constant figure in medical conferences around the world for decades and presented more than 50 research papers. Government of India awarded him with the Padma Shri in 1974for his work on Kalaazar.
Life beyond the medical world
DrLala’s life was not just confined to the medical world. He gave equal importance to his family life and in spite of his busy schedule always made it a point to spend quality time with his children & grandchildren. Weekly family picnic to his farm house in Danapurwas a routine event for a greater part of his life.
In his heydays (which lasted for close to three decades), his birthday celebration used to be a grand event and the guest list used to includethe who’s who of Patna. He was also a foodie and people say there was a hardly a day in his life when he did not eat non-vegetarian food. In his young days, DrLala was a keen footballer. Later on he developed a liking for Golf and was a regular at the Patna Golf Club.
He had a great passion for cars as well and owned cars like Pontiac, Impala among others at different point of time in his life. His children fondly recall the incident when he missed a train from Patna for Delhi and in an attempt to catch the train at subsequent stations with his car ended up driving all the way to Delhi.
He died at the age of 95 years on 22nd April, 2009 at his house in Patna and left behind a legacy for the world of paediatrics to follow.
Business Analyst, Accenture