Prof (Dr) KC Mohanty is no more: Not afraid of death, his life was an example of what he taught

Emeritus Director Professor (Dr) Kishore Chandra Mohanty is no more. He died yesterday (1st June 2017) at Mumbai's Lilavati Hospital after a brief illness. Prof Mohanty's fond colleague, student and ardent supporter Dr Ishwar Gilada, President of AIDS Society of India, shared his heart-wrenching irreparable loss "On 29th May 2017, when I met him on my way to the airport (I was going to Hong Kong for a meeting), he held my hand and did not leave it for a long time. Perhaps he had had an intuition. Sir please transfer the balance of your courage to us and forgive us if we were short of our efforts anywhere - and this was because you were not available to guide us during last few days”.

Dr Gilada added "In his death we have lost a father figure. An irreparable loss! But, as Dr Mohanty said, death is inevitable and no one can go against God’s wishes. The only way we can pay tribute to him is by doing our little bit in carrying forward his legacy and following his virtuous path."

Professor (Dr) KC Mohanty was a stalwart chest physician, inspiring medical teacher, environmental and medicine crusader, social worker whose life-influencing work has touched lives in rural parts of Maharashtra, and spiritual guide for many. He also served as the Executive Chairman of People's Health Organization (PHO) and Treasurer of AIDS Society of India (ASI, a nationwide professional association of medical experts and scientists involved with HIV care).

CNS was fortunate enough to have spoken with him at length over the years. Last CNS interview [video, podcast] with Professor (Dr) KC Mohanty was in end of November 2016 at the National Conference on Pulmonary Diseases (NAPCON 2016) organized under the leadership of Prof Mohanty.
The pearls of wisdom he shared with us were interspersed with some intimate truths of his life. In retrospect it seems that perhaps he had had an intuition that it was going to be his last meeting with us. I quote here verbatim, some of the words he had spoken:
"Prepare the next generation..."

“When I did my MD in 1970, it took me 6 years to present a paper in an international conference, and to present a paper in a national conference proved to be an even bigger task. So the day I took over as HOD, I told all my students to present at least 3 papers before they move out of my department. Since 1982 I have stopped presenting papers in conferences because I have passed over that mantle to my juniors. We need to nurture our future generation and give them opportunities. I strongly believe that we must prepare the next generation to take over smoothly from us. Else there will be a generation gap.”

“I am brave enough to take the first step in even unknown territories. Problems should not be taken as a tension/stress but as a challenge. I love to take up new challenges... I am grateful to my students including Dr Ishwar Gilada, that despite all odds, they made it [medical education] a huge success"

"I am not afraid of death"

“I know that death is inevitable and can come any day. So why should we be afraid of it. People do not accept the truth and try to run away from it. I am not afraid of death. I have already made preparations for my own death so that nobody has to spend money for anything when my time comes. Some years ago I made my own samadhi in my adopted village (in a tribal area of Maharashtra).”

"Every day is a celebration of life"

Prof KC Mohanty (left)
Dr Ishwar Gilada (right)
 “Our own life is the most valuable thing we possess. I do not celebrate any festivals, because for me every day is a celebration of life. Why should we think that this particular day is good and another is bad. Another thing I strongly believe in is not to waste money in marriages and festivals. I try to imbibe these qualities in my students, villagers and others who come in contact with me.”
“I believe in the dignity of labour. Do not treat any job to be below your dignity. Do not wait for others to come and help you. Develop and improve your own competence and strength to be able to do your work. What has to be done should be done without hesitation. And do not blame others.”

Truth of death cannot be denied

“Truth of death cannot be denied. I was once dead on 31st March, 1993—dead on record from 3:15 to 3:18. I had a heart attack and I was admitted in ICU of Grant Medical College at 2:30. It was my students who were attending on me as doctors. I closed my eyes. And at 3:15 I left the world—I saw Lord Vishnu standing on his Garuda in a deep blue universe. I just merged with him. So in a way I have experienced death. I am ready to go to God anytime.”

He is survived by his wife Smita and son Satyajeet.

His legacy lives on...

on behalf of 
AIDS Society of India, People's Health Organization and CNS