Dr. Satish Rai as I knew him

A couple of days back I learnt from Dr. Shyam Prasad Shetty, Head of Cardiothoracic, JSS Hospital, Mysuru, that his cousin Dr. B. Satish Rai and my family doctor was admitted to Narayana Hrudayalaya, Bengaluru, in a serious condition. Yesterday around 4 pm he again called me to give the sad news.

I first saw and heard of Dr.  Bellipadi Satish Rai in the mid-eighties when I was living in Kuvempunagar and he was residing in Siddarthanagar. I had invited Mayor Vasu, now MLA, for dinner and he came with a surprise guest Dr. Satish Rai.

Vasu, in his own genteel, soft voice introduced the smiling doctor saying he had just lost the Corporation election and how ungrateful the poor voters are, whom the good doctor treated free or for whatever they gave as his fee. The doctor also used to give free lunch or dinner periodically (a kind of Dasoha) to the local poor and the meek.

“Now all this will stop I guess,” I looked at the young, smiling doctor and said. Being the first meeting, the doctor did not say anything but Mayor Vasu said, “No, he will not. After all, he is a social-service-minded doctor.”

“Not money-minded,” I said smiling as I received other couple of guests. Both were teetotallers but enjoyed the Kodava dinner and the postprandial jokes. It was a pleasant evening that both Mayor Vasu and the doctor spent at my house. Thereafter, I forgot about the doctor but not Vasu. How can I, being a journalist!

Later I came to know of  Dr. Satish Rai from my relatives who studied in Teresian College where he was a visiting doctor. It was then for the first time I heard of this doctor who would give injection to girl students over the clothes they were wearing. Unfortunately, a few months back this practice became an issue when a video clip went viral in city with barbed comments. He was quite disturbed but cleared by the concerned local medical body. Let it be.

Subsequently, after I moved to K.C. Nagar, a neighbourhood of Siddarthanagar, in the year 2001, he became our visiting doctor as also a contributor of “Chutuku” (Quartets) in Kannada on various subjects, specially political, to our Kannada morning newspaper Mysooru Mithra. Of course, some of them were good, but being our doctor I was obligated too. However, I would say, though I am not well-versed in Kannada and Bhagavadgita, his book in Kannada in verse form on Bhagavadgita “Gitamruta Vahini” was good. I found it not only easy to read (without dictionary) but also to understand the meaning and essence. No wonder, it saw about five editions of 1,000 copies each.

He often talked about his huge inheritance of landed property which was taken away under Chief Minister D. Devaraja Urs’ Land Reforms Act driving the family to almost penury. His father used to practice Ayurveda medicine to help his flock, the poor villagers, and Satish Rai used to assist him. That was when he learnt to use the syringe to give injection. There being no Government School nearby, he was admitted to a Madrasa, Muslim Urdu School, where Kannada was also taught. I used to joke occasionally, saying that it might be the reason he was always supporting Congress party and has a large number of Muslim patients.

Incidentally, his younger brother B. Ramanath Rai has been a six-time Congress MLA from Bantwal, his native place and a Minister. He was very proud of his family known as ‘Bellipadi’ and often insisted on using this name as a prefix to his name. He had even set up a Trust to promote Yakshagana, a native folk art, under the name Bellipadi Yaksha Samskruthika Trust.

It may not be an exaggeration if I say that he had ‘squandered’ his earnings on promoting this folk art in Mysuru, holding programmes every year for many years now.

He has, of course, extracted his pound of flesh from me for raising funds for this noble cause and I gave it, in a humble way, happily if not generously. Yakshagana was his passion, nay obsession. When Dr. M. Veerappa Moily was the Chief Minister [1992-1994], Moily, who was also a patron of Yakshagana and himself a native of Dakshina Kannada, decided to hold a cultural bonanza at the Vidhana Soudha on a special occasion and he also wanted to put on the makeup to play a role in Yakshagana. And it was Dr. Bellipadi Satish Rai, who went to Vidhana Soudha to direct  Veerappa Moily for the role inside the Chief Minister’s chamber.

Recalling this incident, Dr. Satish Rai told me that he had never imagined, even remotely, that he would one day sit on the Chief Minister’s chair but he did sit on this occasion in the course of directing. He then narrated how when he was in his village, an astrologer had predicted that he would one day sit on ‘Simhasana’ (throne),  apparently meaning that he would occupy high office! And it was realised !!

He was a devotee of Dharmasthala Manjunatha Swamy and no wonder he had named his clinic, opposite the Milk Dairy on T. Narasipur Road (Male Mahadeshwara Road) after this deity as ‘Sri Manjunatha Clinic’. He claimed to cure Chikungunya and Dengue when these diseases were rampant in city during winter. He had so much confidence in his treatment he even put up a board saying treatment was free. There used to be such a huge crowd of patients, the Police had to be posted to regulate the patients from spilling over to the road. And later a shamiyana was also provided for shelter.

Dr. Satish Rai was indeed a people’s doctor. RIP.

e-mail: kbg@starofmysore.com