It was thrilling news- Mohan Vishwanathan awarded the Padma Shri!! That has to be the finest piece of news in a long long while. To hear of the greats being awarded these very special awards is one thing, to hear that a childhood friend has received it, is an all together different emotion.
Mohan, Paul and I have been close friends for close to five decades and more, through school and the Royapuram days. There is something very special and enduring about childhood friendships, even when we go on divergent paths in different parts of the country.
Mohan has won this award for outstanding work in the field of diabetes. Reams and reams of research papers, countless presentations in India and abroad and endless hours of caring for patients. His clinics in Chennai are always jam packed with patients. His research facilities are probably one of few privately owned facilities to be recognised and supported by ICMR.
Years ago when dad was still alive and I was in school, Mohan’s father Dr M Vishwanathan had to leave his post as a Professor in Madras Medical College for dubious reasons. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as he set up a small clinic specialising in diabetes at his home in Royapuram. He did very well indeed, not just becoming the foremost diabetes specialist in Chennai but rapidly expanding his small clinic into a three story building that he purchased adjacent to his house. The seeds of a great institution and outstanding work in the field of diabetes was sown here.
The entire Vishwanathan family dedicated themselves to the field of diabetes, sons, daughters and in-laws .Perhaps the only one who didn’t was Mohan’s younger sister Indu who didn’t take to medicine and migrated to the US after marriage. Mohan was determined to do well in this field and even in school he took tuition for lessons ahead of the class. It’s no wonder he was a topper all through his school days , easily got admission into medical college ( quite a feat in those days ) and went on to secure the gold medal in college. Awards and recognition would follow him all through his distinguished career.
Mohan always had very high aims and ambitions and he chose to set up his own clinics and research facilities outside those of the family facilities. This was not a break from the family, as one would think, it was an expression of Mohan’s quest to achieve the lofty goals and vision he had for his future and the direction he wanted to take in diabetes research.
If there is any regret he has, it would be that his wife Rema, his sweet heart from college days, was not around to see him receive this apex award. She passed away last year after a battle with cancer.
Mohan has always been a dignified and polished gentleman and is a strong devotee of Sathya SaiBaba. In the face of all the recognition and awards he has received, he has remained dignified and humble. There have been many influences and sources of inspiration in his life but I suspect he would want to dedicate his award to his late father, the one who first set off the sparks that ignited his sparkling career.
Well done Mohan!