Man Who Turned His Face Away From Fame
Indu Lekshmi pays a tribute to the late Dr. Kesavan Nair, the legendary surgeon, whose centenary was on Sept.10.
On Oct 08, 2010


And there I have left a note for the world
With no legible fonts a language could write
Upon my deeds, my faith, my esteem
Strewn over the Time I spent on this land.

If there is poetry in truth, I could hear it in the words of Dr. Kesavan Nair in his writings about his experiences. The unpublished article titled ‘The autobiography of a devotee’ revealed more about the unread face of an otherwise serious surgeon. I was privileged to read his story in his own handwriting, which almost gave a feeling of talking to him face-to-face from across time. The article reflected his views and philosophies about life and its challenges in a modest and humble narration.

Dr Kesavan Nair Centenary
Dr. Kesavan Nair

“The experiences of a surgeon have enabled me to think and believe in a superior power,” said the doctor in this writing.

A quote from his article: “Many of my friends and patients have asked if doctors would become hard-hearted seeing the pain and agony of patients. In reality, doctors learn to hide their worries, otherwise there will not be anyone to console the patients and their families.”

On his birth centenary function held on Sept. 10, Dr. Kesavan Nair was remembered by personalities from various walks of life.

I could feel the genuineness in the words of his students when they described Dr. Kesavan Nair as ‘the man who turned his face away from fame’. As I could perceive from his notes, Dr. Kesavan Nair was a man for whom action was more important than appreciation.

Dr. Kesavan Nair (1910–2005), known among the public as ‘Valiya Kesavan Nair’, was one of the most renowned surgeons in the state. He was also instrumental in making the Trivandrum Medical College a reality. Together with CO Karunakaran, he travelled across the country to study and plan for the state’s first medical college.

He was also the first doctor in Travancore to bag an FRCS degree from London in 1930. He served as the Chief Surgeon and Superintendent in Trivandrum General Hospital and Trivandrum Medical College and retired from service as the Principal of Kottayam Medical College.


His students remember him as the most artful surgeon who could carry out any surgery with no excess bleeding. He was also known to be an efficient administrator while managing the affairs of the Medical College during his tenure as Superintendent.

Dr Kesavan Nair Centenary
Dr. Kesavan Nair's birth centenary function

“In such a time when the services of doctors are going through a crucial phase, the younger generation has a lot to learn from doctors like Kesavan Nair,” Mayor Jayan Babu says.

“It was amazing to watch Dr. Kesavan Nair carry out his surgeries with the artistic perfection and speed which is beyond comparison,” his student Dr. N Rajan, surgeon, says.

“He had such a confident and commanding personality that once in a gathering he could control a disturbed mob when even the then Inspector General could not take control of the situation,” says Dr. Balraman Nair.

Dr. Balraman Nair also remembers the routine weekly rounds by Dr. Kesavan Nair during his tenure in the Medical College with a group consisting of nursing superintendents, PWD and electrical engineers to ensure the smooth functioning and maintenance of the hospital.

Minister M Vijayakumar has declared support from the government for all activities to commemorate the services of Dr. Kesavan Nair.

Mayor Jayan Babu shared the Corporation’s decision to rename the road from Murinjapalam junction to Medical College, to ‘Dr Kesavan Nair Road’ as an honor to the services of the doctor.
Dr Sambasivan, eminent neurologist, proposed to call the professor’s chair at Trivandrum Medical College as ‘Dr. Kesavan Nair Chair’ and also to start a Continuing Medical Education Programme run by the government to be named after Dr. Kesavan Nair.

Dr. Kesavan Nair was also remembered by the Alumni Association of the Medical College Trivandrum on Sept. 26 when a book was released to commemorate the legendary surgeon. Many senior physicians and surgeons shared their memories about the doctor. He was also remembered as the man of values and spiritual quest who kept close association with many spiritual teachers from an age as early as 14 years.

Indu Lekshmi

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