Excerpts from the life of Dr. Tonse Madhava Ananth Pai ( April 30th 1898 – May 29th 1979 )

As A Student:

Dr. T. M. A. Pai proved to be a revolutionary and courageous person ever since he was young. The teacher had announced a class test on the eve of a public examination and the pupils decided to protest. They approached Madhava Pai for help. He drafted an appeal arguing with support of evidence that the preparatory test was not needed. However, there was a hot debate about who should first sign the petition as he would be labeled the leader of the rebellion. Madhava Pai came up with the perfect solution for which he was later commended by the head master : He drew a circle using a compass and asked all the pupils to sign along the circumference.

During An Interval Of Apprenticeship:

After completing his Intermediate class, he was about to take up a B.A. course when his alma mater, the Kallianpur Hindu School was in very bad shape and was threatened with closure. Madhava Pai, went to great measures to try and save his school. He sought donations from the villagers but gathered hardly Rs. 25. He then proceeded to Bombay, where he met rich people whom he persuaded to part with Rs. 4000. He then returned to Kallianpur with the money and gave the school a fresh lease of life. He accepted donations in any form. For example, he got free timber and persuaded cart owners to deliver it to the school for free.  He inspired old students to teach without remuneration as he did. He even composed songs to be used as teaching material in the classroom. The school reopened again and he won the admiration of the people.

During his Medical Practice:

Dr. Pai was an effective surgeon. Gifted with the power of persuasion, he convinced many patients to take the smallpox vaccination about which the people had many misgivings. Realizing the power of convincing arguments in melting even the most stubborn, he later said that we should never hesitate to put forth our ideas; if not we, then somebody else might translate them into action.Dr. T.M.A. Pai

Stepping Into the Banking Sector:

There was an instance when after assisting a woman in childbirth, he had to supply her with a sari as she had no spare sari to wear. This pathetic and hopeless situation made him realize that the poor need to be urged to and be taught a lesson in saving. This was an important reason that compelled Dr. Pai to step into the banking sector. The establishment of a new bank was also a form of protest against a commercial bank that had refused to grant small loans to retail traders and to people without influence. So the Pais thought of establishing a bank that catered to the small man’s needs. Realizing that economic security was important to improve their lot, he finally gave up his medical practice in favor of banking.

While Raising Funds For The Construction Of Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College:

The College Committee had gone to North Karnataka region, where they ended up in a hotel run by a former Udupi resident. Seeing friends from his old hometown, the owner ordered a cup of coffee for each of them. However, after learning the purpose of their visit, he reduced the order to half a cup each. Dr. Karanth, one of the members of the committee is said to have joked, “In Manohar Bhavan, we experienced what ‘manahar’ (humiliation) is”. Dr. Pai and the committee had to stomach many such instances of humiliation where they did not just receive a simple ‘no’ but were subjected to a string of admonitions to go on with their noble cause.

While Obtaining Approval  From The Indian Medical Council for Kasturba Medical College:

Prior to the founding of the college, Dr. Patel, the Chairman of Indian Medical Council showed little willingness to listen to the appeals of the foolhardy adventurer who conceived the idea of a medical college in the private sector and wasn’t willing to grant Dr. Pai an interview. Dr. Pai however wasn’t one to give up easily. “If you have no time to meet me at least allow me to speak to you while you take the lift” he asked. Dr. Patel could not refuse this odd request. But after listening to his opening words, Dr. Patel not only granted him an hour-long interview but also approved of his project and later gave the college recognition. The secret of Dr. Pai’s arguments emanated from a sense of conviction that broke all resistance based on ignorance and prudery.

During His Last Days:

He spent the last 8 months of his life in the Valley View Health Club (which was his own creation) as it was easier for him to get immediate and better health care being in the close proximity of Kasturba Hospital. There he passed his hours looking at the construction of the Artificial Limb Center and summoning the architects for questioning. He slowly entered a stage of detachment and prepared for his exit from this world. He was quoted as saying “We are all actors in this play of life. The director is God. As He wills, we play our role. Again as He wills it, so our role must come to an end, the curtain of death shall be drawn.” His own role in life came to an end on May 29th 1979 but he remains a legend with all his miraculous achievements in a myriad of fields.

Adapted from : Life and Thoughts of Dr. T. M. A. Pai  – a documentation.

Edited by : A. S. Ramakrishna

Published by : SMRITI BHAVAN (Dr. T. M. A. Pai Museum)

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