'A call that changed my life for good'


Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty

Renowned cardiac surgeon Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, who is also the founder and chairman of Narayana Health, shares exclusively with Mathrubhumi how the association with Mother Teresa changed his perspective on life.

I left England in the year of 1989 and started my professional life in Kolkata soon after. It was early days of cardiac surgery. Mobile phones were still not available in India. Only way of communication with an operating surgeon is through the landline extension in the operation theatre. In the middle of the operation telephone rang and as usual my anesthesiologist took the call. Caller wanted to know whether I am happy to make a home visit to see a patient. I politely refused stating that as a heart surgeon, I don’t make home visit but the caller insisted and laid the bait. If you make a home visit it may perhaps change your life that was the bait. I took the offer to make the home visit and that perhaps changed my life for good. That was the way I met Mother Teresa for the first time in my life and things have never been the same.

I am a doctor and a scientist who can never accept someone else with flesh and blood like me as God but believe me Mother was not like us, she was different. I truly believed in her divine presence which was perceptible wherever she went. I always felt a sense of joy, happiness and comfort in her divine presence which I never experienced before and she touched my life in so many ways.

When she was in the In-Patient in the B.M. Birla Heart Research Centre, once in a while she used to follow me during my pediatric ICU rounds. One day she looked at the little baby who was just recovering from a major heart operation and looked at me with a smile on her face. After few minutes of thought, she turned towards me and said, “Now I know why you are here. To relieve the agony of children with heart disease. God sent you to this world to fix it”. To my mind, this is the best definition ever given of a paediatric cardiac surgeon and perhaps the best compliment that I have ever received.

One of the most important qualities of Mother was her simplicity and brutal honesty in accepting the world as it is. The most impressive statement was written on her tomb stone as follows:

PEOPLE ARE OFTEN UNRESONABLE, ILLOGICAL AND SELF-CENTERED;
FORGIVE THEM ANYWAY.

IF YOU ARE KIND, PEOPLE MAY ACCUSE YOU OF SELFISH, ULTERIOR MOTIVES;
BE KIND ANYWAY.

IF YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL, YOU MAY WIN SOME FALSE FRIENDS AND SOME TRUE ENEMIES;
SUCCEED ANYWAY.

IF YOU ARE HONEST AND FRANK, PEOPLE MAY CHEAT YOU;
BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY.

WHAT YOU SPEND YEARS BUILDING, SOMEONE COULD DESTROY OVERNIGHT;
BUILD ANYWAY.

IF YOU FIND SERENITY AND HAPPINESS, THEY MAY BE JEALOUS;
BE HAPPY ANYWAY.

THE GOOD YOU DO TODAY, PEOPLE WILL FORGET TOMORROW;
DO GOOD ANYWAY.

GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU HAVE, AND IT MAY NEVER BE ENOUGH;
GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU’VE GOT….ANYWAY.

YOU SEE, IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS, IT IS BETWEEEN YOU AND GOD.
IT NEVER WAS BETWEEN YOU AND THEM ANYWAY.

- MOTHER TERESA

It is sometimes difficult to believe that Mother made such a statement but looking at the reality of life she expressed her opinion about the people and our relationship in the most honest manner and this is the best gift Mother gave me. At times I feel sad with the way people react or respond or simply not bothered about things happening around which need not be that way. However, Mother accepts that this is the way people are and that the way they are going to be but that should not prevent us from doing what is important for us and what is important for the world. I have forwarded this message of Mother to so many people who are famous and not so famous and everyone appreciated.

I left Kolkata in 1997 to start Manipal Heart Foundation in Bangalore. My wife left earlier with my three boys and a princess. She was finding it very difficult to get admission to my princess Ameya to Sophia High School in Bangalore one of the best schools for the girls. Time was running out and my wife was getting jittery. Finally, she called me to request Mother for her recommendation. Promptly Mother wrote a note to Sister Anita, Principal of Sophia High School recommending Ameya. When my wife went to school to present the letter from Mother virtually entire Sophia High school teachers came down to Principal office to see Mother’s letter. Sister Anita still preserves the letter till date and my daughter is now happily married. Whenever I am in Kolkata, I do miss Mother. However, my memories are still fresh about the wonderful thing she taught me to be a better doctor and a human being.

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