Opinion

From vegetable seller to a famous oncologist, the story of Dr Vijayalakshmi Deshmane which will inspire everyone!

Not all of us are born with a silver spoon but life gives us an opportunity to make the best of our circumstances. Some of us may give in to our circumstances and crib about it while others would use them to turn around their lives and achieve success. Such success stories should inspire us to do better in our lives. Here is an inspiring story of Dr. Vijayalakshmi Deshmane who overcame several obstacles to become a reputed oncologist.

Healthcare is possibly one of the most expensive industries in the country today. Rising medical costs makes us question the medical fraternity itself. However, Dr. Deshmane is a ray of hope in this commercialised world where profit and money making rules the roost. For someone who was born into an underprivileged family, spent her days in poverty living in slums and sold vegetables to make a living becoming a famous surgeon and vice-president of Karnataka Cancer Society; has to be a journey of epic proportions. Such life stories are rare and one that we must emulate. She is not just a cancer expert but has received numerous awards for her work.

Vijayalakshmi was born into the backward caste family whose traditionally job was stitching shoes. Though her father did not receive any formal education, he made sure he broke barriers of caste by learning letters and languages on his own. He became proficient in Kannada, Marathi, Hindi and English. Vijayalakshmi, born in 1955, was the eldest among 7 sisters and a brother. The small house they lived in belonged to her aunt and was located in a slum area. Her parents made ends meet by doing odd jobs. Their circumstances were so dire that they could barely manage a single meal every day. Her father Baburao later joined a mill and rose through the ranks through his hard work and people management skills. People nicknamed him Deshmanya and he began using his nickname in place of his traditional surname. Her mother began set up a stall to vend vegetables and Vijayalakshmi and her brother would help their mother by selling vegetables out of a basket they carried on their heads.

Vijayalakshmi was named after Vijayalakshmi Pandit, the first woman president of UN General Assembly. It was her father’s desire to make Vijayalakshmi a doctor so that she could serve the poor. For a family who barely made ends meet and with the onus of educating her siblings as well, Vijayalakshmi was sceptical if she would be able to continue her studies after 12th. She excelled in her studies and her mother sold her mangalsutra so that Vijayalakshmi could write the MBBS entrance exam at KMC, Hubli. There were greater challenges ahead. Since she came from Kannada medium, Vijayalakshmi found it difficult to put her thoughts into words in English. Even though she could understand the lectures, her inability to communicate what she had learnt in exams lead to her failure in the first year of MBBS. However, she never gave up and with the help of her professors she began to excel. She went on to become the first rank holder in the university.

Till date she hasn’t forgotten the sacrifices made by her parents and siblings so that she may excel. She did her MS in surgery and specialised in breast cancer. She believes in constant learning and continues to toil even today although she retired in 2015. At present, she continues to participate in various social drives, awareness campaigns and research work. 15 days of the month she participates in such activities in rural areas and the rest of the 15 days she spends at Karnataka Cancer Society treating patients for free.

Dr. Vijayalakshmi Deshmane’s life story proves to us that we need not be limited by our circumstances. Instead we should learn to rise above them so as to be successful. It is not where we come from but where we reach that determines our life and character. May Dr. Deshmane inspire us to excel in our chosen fields.


Lath Iyer

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