|Year : 2006 | Volume
| Issue : 4 | Page : 253-254
An eulogy for Prof. Anil D. Desai
Sarosh M Katrak
Past President, Indian Academy of Neurology, Mumbai, India
Sarosh M Katrak
Past President, Indian Academy of Neurology, Mumbai
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Katrak SM. An eulogy for Prof. Anil D. Desai. Ann Indian Acad Neurol 2006;9:253-4
Professor Anil D Desai passed away on 30th August 2006. The following obituary appeared in the Times of India on 31st August 2006:
"Miss me but let me go,
When I come to the end of the road and the sun has set for me,
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room, why cry for a soul set free,
Miss me a little but not too long and not with your head bowed low,
Remember the love we once shared, Miss me but let me go."
This reflected his philosophy towards life. I would like to recount some aspects that reflect the multiple facets of his life.
Anil D Desai was born in a business family on 27th June 1924. His father wanted him to be an ICS officer and made him study hard to achieve those grades. Unfortunately he did not achieve those grades and therefore in 1939 at the tender age of 15, his father prepared him for studies in England. However, World War II changed all those plans. In 1941 he joined GS Medical College where Dr. Jivraj Mehta was the Dean and Dr. Vasant Sheth, his mentor. In 1942 he was present when Mahatma Gandhi launched the Quit India movement at the Gowalia Tank Maidan as it was then known. He joined the movement enthusiastically and was imprisoned for a couple of days with his mother. His father who had just completed a long jail term was known to the British as a staunch congressman. Thus his family was under constant British surveillance.
In 1949, he went to England and immediately joined a teaching course at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases Queen Square. He was so impressed by the then great teachers in neurology that he decided to take up neurology as his career. Under the tutelage of Prof Nattrass at Newcastle-upon-Tyne he obtained the MRCP (Edinburgh). He then appeared for MRCP (London) but failed. He wanted to appear again but in his own words and I quote,"Prof Nattrass told me not to appear further as he felt I was wasting my time collecting alphabetical suffixes to my name".
He returned to India in 1958 and out of his own personal interest he started working at GS Medical College and KEM Hospital where Dr. E. P. Bharucha had established the department of neurology in 1952. However, Dr. Desai was destined to have long association with Dr. H. M. Dastur and by a quirk of fate was appointed to the Department of Neurosurgery, KEM Hospital. All of us are aware of his contributions to that institution in all aspects including patient care, teaching and research, but few know that he was also creative and innovativel. Due of paucity of funds, he devised a local method to coat sphenoidal electrodes for the diagnosis of temporal lobe epilepsy. He also started working on the building of an EMG machine with the help of a colleague who was a qualified electronic engineer. They succeeded in manufacturing an indigenous machine using diode valves. Unfortunately, this machine never saw the light of the day with the introduction of transistors, which made diode valves redundant.
On the organizational front, he was the Secretary of the Neurological Society of India from 1956-1964. When Dr. Gajendra Sinh became the Secretary in 1964, he took up a post which was dear to his heart - that of the Editor of Neurology India, the official journal of the NSI. He held this post from 1964 to 1977, the longest innings ever, for an editor of Neurology India.
His research interests were in epilepsy and muscle diseases. In 1967 he delivered the Presidential oration on Psychomotor epilepsy. For this oration, he had analyzed the biography of Ramkrishna Paramhans and suggested that he suffered from psychomotor epilepsy. In the same oration, he had suggested that there was a need to establish an Epilepsy Association and he even worked on the constitution of such an association. He was also interested in muscle diseases and later became a champion for the cause and betterment for the victims of muscular dystrophy. In the latter years, in spite of his failing health, his enthusiasm to further their cause never faltered.
Although I knew Dr. Anil Desai from a distance as a postgraduate student in neurology, I got to know him and many facets of his personality after I joined Jaslok Hospital in 1978. What really impressed me was that he treated all his junior colleagues as equals although at times the age difference was three or more decades. He was a gentleman to the core and an ethical practitioner of neurology who had bitterness towards none. Besides his academic endeavors, he enjoyed his life spending quality time with family and friends. He spent many pleasurable hours playing bridge, listening to good music, going to concerts and enjoying good food with good friends. On that fateful day of 30th August 2006, he passed away in the manner in which he would have wanted and commensurate with the words in his obituary - "Miss me but let me go, When I come to the end of the road and the sun has set for me, I want no rites in a gloom-filled room, why cry for a soul set free".
On behalf of the Neurology fraternity of India, I extend my heartfelt sympathies to his wife Usha and his family. Unlike in his obituary, we will miss him a lot and for long as we have lost a true friend. May his soul rest in peace.
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