He had barely touched 15 when he came across a forked road — should he study Commerce or Science next? After choosing to study the Sciences, Dr Ragavendra Baliga, a world-renowned cardiologist who was in the City recently, had another difficult choice to make.
“It was a trend those days — people either chose to become engineers or doctors. I wasn’t sure what to choose so I asked my father, RK Baliga, and he advised me to become a doctor because not only would I earn well, but I’d go to sleep knowing that I’ve helped someone. And he was right, it’s very gratifying knowing that you are making a difference in peoples’ lives,” he elaborates. On a short visit to his hometown of Bengaluru, Dr Baliga, who is a professor at The Ohio State University School of Medicine, was honoured by the Old Boys’ Association of St Joseph’s Boys’ High School (SJBH) with the Lifetime Achievement Award for 2015. The award doesn’t come as a surprise when one reads his resume. Even a quick glance at his achievements provides an interesting insight into the doctor and educator who has firmly established a name for himself.
Talking about his days in Bengaluru and SJBH, he says, “I have deep roots in the City and the school. My classmates and schoolmates have helped me get to where I am now. For example, the Malpani family, who we shared compounds with, would take me and my brother in their car although they were five brothers and the car was already full. There was a lot of camaraderie from a young age.” Having spent seven years in SJBH, he adds, “Our batch was one of the most notorious batches that the school had. We were so mischievous that we were the only batch not to have a graduation!” Although he excludes himself from all the mischief, he says “boys will be boys”!
It is difficult to capture 25 years in a few paragraphs, but he tries by saying, “I went to the UK in 1998, and when I was preparing for the entrance examination to the Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians, I decided to take advantage of the situation. While most people complained about how stressful the process was, I started making notes on my computer and put together a review book. As soon as I passed the exam, I told my boss that I’ll be publishing it. He laughed at me and asked who would publish it, but when the first edition was released, it sold out!” Since then, he has shifted to the US and has published more enterprising works.
Getting a bit more technical, Dr Baliga says that when he was in the UK, he noticed that Indians, in their 30s and 40s, were more susceptible to heart diseases than Caucasians. This got him thinking and that’s when he came across the ‘Thrifty gene hypothesis’. “According to the hypothesis, Indian genes are programmed for famine so when we switch over to a Western-styled diet, the amount of calories we consume increases, which thereby increases chances of heart ailments.” He adds that our ancestors had the perfect solution to maintaining a stable diet — fasts, whether it’s for ‘Ekadashi’, Lent or Ramzan. He can’t emphasise enough on the importance of a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. He concludes, saying that he rode on the shoulders of giants and can’t thank the City enough.