By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD
Very recently we read about some good Samaritans of our city being honoured by a group of organisations for the services they had rendered in enriching and preserving our environment. What lent an aura of uniqueness to this event was the presence of four spiritual heads who did the honours! When I noticed that my friend Raghavan Narayan of Raghulal & Co too was among those who were honoured, I felt very happy that the right man was in the right place getting his due.
Popularly known as Raghu among his friends and family members this is a man who has been striving over nearly ten years to turn our city green and keep it that way. In an age when trees are fast vanishing especially from our cities both because of man’s need and greed for more living space, this man has been silently planting and nurturing avenue trees all over our city and its environs. With a deep sense of social responsibility and commitment he has sponsored the planting of more than eight thousand saplings and the distribution of nearly nineteen thousand metal tree guards to all those who wish to protect fledgling trees in their neighbourhood.
When he gets saplings planted he ensures that they are watered, manured and protected too. This part of the work is most important in any tree planting activity as this is what ensures the complete success of the effort. We commonly see some much hyped tree planting activities across our towns and cities from time to time in the name of social service which do not do much long term good simply because no one thinks of nurturing and protecting the trees that are planted amid much fanfare and publicity.
Incidentally, with his deep concern for the environment, Raghavan also earned the distinction of being the first person in the country to buy Kona, the first long range all-electric car launched by Hyundai. I am told that with its projected range it is the only car of its kind that can take one from Mysuru to Bengaluru and back too without a recharge. But I must confess that unlike Raghu, I still do not have the courage to try this trip! Raghulal & Co as we all know needs no introduction to anyone who has been living in this city for some time. We all know it as one of the oldest and most well known medical stores located where it now stands for over seventy years in a narrow lane opposite our iconic Devaraja Market. It has an interesting history which I feel is worth recalling here.
Its story started somewhere around the year 1944 when its Founder N. Raghavan decided to shift his family and business from Madras to Mysore. The Second World War was then at its worst and the threat in Madras at that time was a possible sea-borne attack by the Japanese who had occupied Burma and had already touched the Eastern borders of our country. Incidentally, just this morning I read in my newspaper that a Japanese team has started a ten day exercise in Nagaland to look for the remains of their soldiers who died there during the Second World War.
What attracted young Raghavan to Mysore most was its location far from the vulnerable East coast and also perhaps our city’s beauty and salubrious climate. Why he did not choose to make Bangalore his home when he broke his journey there on his way to Mysore is a mystery considering the fact that the bigger city should have seemed more promising to anyone looking for good business. Maybe he was a man like me who preferred to put mental tranquillity way ahead of material prosperity! Before he proceeded to Mysore and set up his shop here Raghavan had taken a loan from his Marwari friend Unilal at Madras with the tacit understanding that he too would be a partner in the business till the loan was repaid. That is how the firm got its name Raghulal & Co which is a mix of the names of its two original partners! Raghavan repaid his loan despite many ups and downs in his business but as an act of gratitude to his friend he never changed the name of his shop despite the dissolution of the partnership!
The present day Raghavan says that his grandfather who died quite young had such hardships in life that he was very often forced to send his wife to her parents’ home in Madras and subsist on a diet of gruel and water here in Mysore for days on end. Raghulal & Co was the third medical shop to be started in our city with the first two being Shanthi Medicals and Natraj & Co, both on Sayaji Rao road. It was first located at the Agrahara Circle and then on the first floor of the building that houses Nazare Emporium now on Sayaji Rao Road before coming to its present location in the year 1946.
Raghavan’s father R. Narayana, who passed away last year, was also known to me as I used to always make it a point to ask for him and speak to him whenever I visited their shop. I first met him one stormy night when in the company of my father I knocked on the door of his Yadavagiri residence in the year 1967. My father had received a phone call at midnight from Chikmagalur that one of our relatives was in need of Anti Gas Gangrene Serum which was then the only treatment for a problem that then used to lead to drastic limb amputations. The noble soul without the slightest sign of discomfort or disapproval picked up the keys of his kingdom and accompanied my father and me in our car to his shop and handed us the much needed serum telling us that we could settle the bill sometime later at our leisure! When my father insisted on paying for it immediately he told us that only his salespersons knew the cost of the drug that he had given us!
Raghavan, apart from his involvement in greening our city is also into much philanthropic work. Over the past three years I happen to be associated with a few like minded friends in doing some social work under the banner of the Millath Miskeen Fund (MMF). We collect funds from people and help the poor and needy, irrespective of their caste, creed or religion to meet their needs especially for medical expenses and also for paying for their children’s education. We help about three hundred families and spend about thirty to forty thousand rupees on medicines alone every month. Raghavan, with a smiling face has been providing us these medicines at heavily subsidised rates and he has also given our organisation substantial donations more than once to meet our commitments.
He has recently been honoured with the Best Chemist Award by the Indian Association of Chemists and Druggists which he richly deserves for being a shining example of a noble soul on a noble mission. May his tribe increase and may the Almighty bless him and his family!
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