Insights into the Indian Healthcare System, the Book is a Kodagu Doc and author’s perspective.
Kavery Nambisan: The woman
Kavery sat down, catching a spare moment for herself. As she sipped her coffee, she addressed an idle thought that she had for days.“What if I start to write? Just as a side-gig? I mean, it would be pretty satisfying to see my name in print!”
Looking back at that day, Kavery was amazed at how much ground she had covered as an author. Who would have thought that the unassuming doctor from Kodagu would one day become a renowned and appreciated author? Certainly not Kavery herself, of course. To her, she was still that bewildered and optimistic little girl from the sweet, sweet land of (river) Kavery.
It all began with the tradition of storytelling at home. Infact, Kavery was herself a part of a story. People said that her father, the CM Poonacha was so anxious as she was being born, that he was peeking into the room from a chicken coop to see if everything was alright and the delivery was going smoothly. As she grew up, Kavery heard this tale from many of her relatives or people she knew, but with a minor change with every re-telling. And what added to the mystery of the story was that her father never denied or admitted to spying on her as she was born. But Kavery loved the story. For her, it was evident that her father, the Chief Minister of Kodagu, a freedom fighter, loved her as much as he could possibly love somebody.
Of course, Kavery had her siblings to mess around with: she was the sister of CP Belliappa, a renowned author himself. Her brother, CP Muthanna would go on to join the army before retiring and running the Environment and Health Foundation. He was a staunch opposer of the railway coming to Kodagu, becoming the inspiration and uniting much of the youth. She also had a sister, Vijaya. All of them loved to hear and read stories, no matter how tall the tales were. Kavery loved to read Chandamama, the ever present Kannada magazine for children back then.
As they grew up, they moved to Delhi. Kavery was happy at her old school; she had been making a lot of memories there. But there was an incident that made Kavery cringe in embarrassment: and it was her brush with superstitions. She had scratched her forehead a hundred times after she heard a few senior girls say that it would make God appear. And of course, he didn’t. Instead, she was left with a big, bold rash in the middle of her forehead. Scarred by a superstition, grimaced Kavery as the Principal called her to the stage and made her an example for the whole school to see.
But no matter what happened, she never used her father’s name as influence or threat. Her father himself had forbidden it. They grew up as normal children, in no way spoilt or arrogant. Kavery’s respect doubled as her father brought them up as normal children.
In Delhi, though, she faced a new challenge. Kavery chuckled at her first attempt at learning English. It was torture. Pure, hard torture.
But Delhi was where she made friends with George Major, a bright young boy whose father worked in the English Embassy. She still remembered his letter. He had invited her for his birthday party, and her mother had refused. “They’ll serve beef. And you know we don’t eat beef, Kavery.” She had said. So George had written a letter to her mother, written in his best handwriting and practically dripping with charm. In it, he promised not to serve beef at all. But her mother still did not let Kavery go. She was very cross with her mother for a long, long time after that.
Kavery had not lost her passion for books though. English opened up a world of new stories for her. As she slowly grew up, Kavery loved to read Enid Blyton, who was the favourite author back then (she still is today too!).
At school, Kavery was passionate in everything she did. It was no surprise that she won
Best All Round Student of the year in her final year of school when she won seven trophies, medals, and prizes for first place in exams, and for dramatics, in sports as the winning house captain, in debate, and more.
After finishing her schooling in Delhi, Kavery started to catch up with her dream of becoming a Doctor. She earned her MBBS in Saint John’s Medical College in Bangalore. But she didn’t stop there. She graduated with a surgical degree from the Royal College in London. Infact, when she passed her FRCS in London, she was congratulated by the examiners for being the youngest to pass - she was about 25 at the time. Despite graduating and being promised a bright career in England, she came back to serve her country.
Kavery was bewildered when she went abroad for her studies. Despite her experience in moving to Delhi, Kavery was (according to her, at least) still a village girl at heart, one with the soil and nature surrounding her. She tried to attain a little bit of sophistication, but the village girl in her was stubborn. You see, the village girl stuck her tongue out at Kavery’s attempts to be sophisticated. She made her crave for all things simple and things that reminded her of home; swirls of mist, the cool soil at her feet, the tree tops that were always laden with wild figs and mangoes…
What she did acquire were lifelong friends, whose bonds have not weakened a bit. She remembered the days they’d spend together when Kavery didn’t have her nose buried in a book.
Books… Kavery chuckled.
Her father owned a copy of Mahatma Gandhi’s Autobiography, ‘My experiments with truth’. Ironically, Kavery had loved it so much that she’d conveniently pinched it to add to her collection! Apart from that, she’d read anything and everything she got her hands on, from Girish Karnad to Thoreau to Dostoevsky, to Ismat Chugai, Shakespeare, and the Bible.
As Kavery grew to realise her ambition of becoming a doctor, she was struck with a sudden urge to see her name under a piece of writing. And that was when it all started.
Her first works had been romantics, which she eventually discarded. She felt as if she was not being original to her readers by writing about love. Eventually, Rosalind Wilson, an editor for a kids’ magazine called ‘Target’ encouraged her to stay true to herself. Kavery had started writing to children, and this advice from Rosalind gave her a big boost.
As Kavery wrote, wrote, and wrote some more, she realised that this was more than just a hobby. It was impressive to juggle being both a busy doctor and an author.
But Kavery would have never expected the crossroads she’d find herself at a few years into her work. She married her senior, Dr. Bhat, and it did not go down well with her family, but Kavery was resolute. They had a daughter, Chetana. It was about this time that Kavery also authored her first novel under the name of Kavery Bhat and titled ‘The Truth (almost) about Bharat’. Unfortunately, Kavery and Dr. Bhat ended the marriage after 18 happy years.
Kavery knew she had to move on, and she did. She worked hard and won several accolades. She was member of the governing council of Association of Rural Surgeons, and she also won the Tata Excellence Award in 2001 for her work as surgeon in charge of the Tata Tea hospitals in Tamil Nadu.
But Kavery found herself falling again. The gentleman who’d caught her attention was Vijay Nambisan, and eventually, they both united in matrimony.
Vijay was a poet, a journalist, and a non-fiction writer, and Kavery drew inspiration from him. She authored more novels, most of them fiction, and they were shortlisted for the Sahitya Akademy Award, Crossword Book Award, the Man Asian Booker Prize, and the DSC South Asian Literary Prize. Life was doing great for Kavery. She was happy and content, the doctor in her was working hard, and the author in her was making great progress. Besides, Kavery had Vijay, and she was… happy. So it was a harsh, cruel slap from reality when he passed away after almost 23 years of a happy married life. Kavery had suddenly lost her best friend and her most trusted companion.
But she let none of it drag her down, though she misses Vijay dearly. In fact, she has a new book in the drafts, waiting to be released! She has authored her nonfiction book, ‘A luxury called health’ that provides valuable insights into the Indian healthcare system. Her earlier books, The Scent of Pepper provides a beautiful and captivating story, while also bringing forth the culture of Kodagu; and The Story That Must Not Be Told is one book which touches your heart deeply.
Apart from these, she has also written a number of other books, each one uniquely different and having a voice of their own. Kavery believes that writing is an outlet, one that allows her to communicate her innermost feelings and ideas. She considers it as not only an external connection, but also internal; she uses her writing to observe, understand and learn to accept people of all walks of life. She stands against ‘hyper nationalism’ and believes that it is Mother Nature we must respect and learn to love.
Kavery is the true definition of a woman who defies the odds and fights for what she believes is right. She shows conviction and strength in her decisions. True to the river she’s named after; she has impacted, healed and influenced many people through her career as a doctor and an author. She is an inspiration worthy of the title of an Achiever, in all areas.
This is her tale. The story of a doctor, an author and a strong human being.
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