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  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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  By Shaheen Chander  
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Lighted to lighten
  By Archana Sudheer  
  THARAILATHU KOSHY MATHEW (T. K. Mathew) was born on September 27, 1935, in Kerala, India. After obtaining a Bachelors degree in Agriculture, he worked with the Tamil Nadu Government's Department of Horticulture for three years. He later moved to New Delhi and worked for DLF Housing Construction Company Ltd. as their Agricultural Officer.

At this point came a break in his career and an entry into the social sector. Mathew was invited by the Director of Caritas India to join their social development programme as a Project Officer. He was introduced to the social apostolate of the Catholic Church and worked there for 14 years in various capacities.

During 1978-79, Mathew was instrumental in founding Deepalaya, along with six other partners. Since 1991, he has functioned as its Secretary and Chief Executive. Now, Deepalaya is the largest operating NGO in Delhi, working in 149 slums in the capital, 126 villages in Haryana and 90 villages in Uttarakhand. In its mission, Deepalaya has reached out to about 50,000 children, their families and communities.

Mathew is also the Founder Member and Chairman of PRADAN (Professional Association for Development Action) and SRIJAN (Self-Reliant Initiatives through Joint Action).

He has also served several organisations, including as President of the Kerala Christian Association (2004-07), an ecumenical Christian movement uniting Christians of various denominations and bringing them under one banner.

With 49 years' experience in professional, development and consultancy work, it is no surprise that Mathew has been recognised and awarded for his expertise and hard work. He has received several awards, including the Karamveer Puraskar 2008, Manava Seva Award 2007, Rotary Platinum President Award 2006, Cancer Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution 2006, Terry Fox Run Award 2002 by the Canadian High Commission, to name a few.

Following is the text of the interview he gave to The Herald of India:

Q: Please tell us about the origin of Deepalaya. How did it start?

Ans: It all began way back in 1977-79, when three of the organisation's founder members -- Y. Chackochan, P.J. Thomas and I -- were office-bearers of the St. Thomas Marthoma Church, New Delhi. We met regularly and reminisced the Sunday School lessons we had learnt while growing up in our native places. We pondered over the teaching that as Christians, we had to be the salt of the earth, the light on the mount and a seed in the soil. We began to ask ourselves: How do we serve the society as true Christians? Deepalaya was the result of such introspection.

Q: Tell us about the first few years of Deepalaya. Were you confident it would succeed?

Ans: The Biblical teaching of 'Love thy neighbour' and the concept of 'Distributive Justice' always made us speculate on what we could do for the society at large. All three of us were born, brought up and educated in Kerala villages. We had the benefit of education, which enabled us to come to Delhi. Our education was given to us by the civil society of that time, as there were no schools run by the government in that pre-independence era. It was local elders who took the initiative to establish and run a local school with their own resources, thereby facilitating us with the 'right to education'. We wanted to do the same. India was, at that time, less than 50 per cent literate. On considerable reflection, we felt that we should concentrate on providing education to the needy. The Deepalaya School opened on July 16, 1979, in a rented house at F Block, Chittaranjan Park in New Delhi. We registered our project as Deepalaya Education Society and contributed Rs 2,500 each, apart from Rs 100 as membership fee. All seven original members hailed from lower middle class families and it was a fairly large sum those days. This was our initial investment. By 1984, the strength of the school had grown to 133, with 44 students obtaining free education. The following year, we had 356 students, 158 of which were girls.

Q: If I call Deepalaya a Christian organisation, how will you respond?

Ans: Deepalaya is a pro-poor, non-political, secular organisation engaged in the upliftment of the poorest of the poor. Deepalaya does not identify itself with any particular religion or party.

Q: If it is not Christian, what are the motivational principles of Deepalaya?

Ans: While it is not identified as a Christian institution, the members who contributed to it were/are Christians and their faith obligations, values and attitude have motivated Deepalaya's precepts and practices.

Q: Tell us about the greatest satisfaction in your life.

Ans: The recognition Deepalaya has received in the public domain has given me great satisfaction. The school has received several awards for its efforts to educate the poor, resulting in a positive change in children and their families.

Q: Some people have a negative view of NGOs. They believe it is the easiest way to make money. What are your comments on this?

Ans: This perception is partially true. Our society is corrupt and NGOs are no exception. This can change only when corruption is arrested, either by moral or legal measures.

Q: What is the greatest strength of Deepalaya? Also, its weaknesses.

Ans: Deepalaya's strength lies in its credibility, result-orientedness, and foolproof systems of management, accountability and pro-poor stance. One weakness is that we could not create a cadre of Deepalayans who could sustain the process.

Q: What after TK? Has Deepalaya thought of succession?

Ans: The process of succession is in place, through decentralisation. The post of Executive Director has been filled with an internal candidate. The system has been strengthened so that even if TK disappears one day, Deepalaya will continue to grow. This is because Deepalaya has been built on a strong foundation.

Q: Tell us about your overseas editions of Deepalaya? We understand it is no longer Delhi-centric?

Ans: Deepalaya has gone international with its foundations in America, England, Germany and France. Well-wishers in these countries have created entities that are engaged exclusively in Deepalaya work.

Q: Tell us about your family

Ans: My wife, Mary Mathew, began as a teacher and later joined Deepalaya as the first stipendiary staff. She worked there for 15 years and now supports Deepalaya as a volunteer. We have three children. My eldest son Koshy, his wife Reena and son Aarone live in Auckland, New Zealand. Our second son Joseph lives in Houston, Texas, with his wife Christina, daughter Kathryn and son Caleb. Our daughter Saro and her husband Alexander Tharyan, a chartered accountant with Earnst & Young, live in Dubai with son Amal. We are a truly international family. By God's grace, we are blessed and happy.
Photo caption: T.K. Mathew and family with Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit
Poor man's heart surgeon
  By Archana Sudheer  
  Dr James Thomas is Vice-Chancellor, Padmashree Dr DY Patil University, Navi Mumbai. He also serves as Professor of Cardiac Surgery at the DY Patil University Hospital, where he set up both Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Departments.

A dedicated surgeon, Dr Thomas has formerly served as Professor and HOD, Department of CTVS, Wanless Hospital and Government Medical College, Miraj, Maharashtra. He has worked as the Chief Cardiac Surgeon at St Stephen's Hospital, Delhi, Metro Hospital, Noida and National Heart Institute, Delhi. He has also served at Bir Hospital, Kathmandu, as an Honorary Cardiac Surgeon.

Dr Thomas, who has been elected Senior Vice-President of the Indian Association of Cardiovascular Thoracic Surgeons, has over 9,000 heart surgeries to his record. He dedicated most of his life to working in Christian mission hospitals, thus earning him the nickname -- the poor man's open heart surgeon.

Dr Thomas has also been actively associated with the Gideons, a Christian organization, for the past 35 years. He was Past National President, Past International Trustee and member of the International Cabinet from India for the Gideons. He lives in Mumbai with his wife Marina.

Following is the text of the interview Dr Thomas granted to The Herald of India:

Q: It is now nearly two years since you became Vice-Chancellor. What has been your experience? Do you get time to practice?

A: For a medical doctor to head a university is a rare privilege. Out of the 380 odd Vice-Chancellors in India, only six or seven are medical doctors. The few heart surgeons who have become VCs are Dr Gujral, Dr Hari Gautam, Dr Valiathan, Dr Prabhudev, Dr Mohan Das and Dr Prasad Rao. It has been exciting, all the more to head a predominantly health university.
Our university has a large medical college with 150 MBBS admissions, PG, a Dental College, both UG and PG, biotechnology, ayurveda, management education, physiotherapy, hotel management etc. My appointment as Professor in Cardiac surgery gives me time to do heart surgery. I devote 50 per cent of my time to surgery.

Q: You were known as the poor man's open heart surgeon? How did you get this nickname?

A: I have worked in Christian mission hospitals for over 20 years at Vellore, Miraj and St Stephen's, Delhi, which gave me the opportunity to do surgeries at minimal cost and affordable rates. I could have ventured into private practice earlier but it was so satisfying and inspiring to operate on a child from a village, to see his smile at the time of discharge, to give a 70-year-old cure, and that is something special. I have been trained under Dr Fletcher of Miraj, Dr Stanley John of Vellore and Dr Cooley of Texas and I have seen their zeal and dedication in serving the patients, poor or rich.

Q: Why is open heart surgery beyond the reach of the common man? Do you think the fees hospitals charge can be brought down?

A: Open heart surgery entails cost of equipment like heart lung machines, monitors, ventilators and consumables. It works out to Rs 50,000 per patient. What makes private hospital fees high is their infrastructure cost and the high fees charged separately by heart surgeons and cardiologists which could be anywhere between Rs 20,000 and Rs 3 lakh. If these fees can be controlled, the package can be brought down to Rs 80-90,000.

Q: While big hospitals are coming up all over the country, the government has been gradually withdrawing from the health sector. What do you think of this dichotomy?

A: Large corporate hospitals invest money, provide well-equipped and staffed facilities and people are ready to pay for quality services. Government lacks the foresight to build more teaching hospitals, where specialised care can be provided. Medical insurance needs to become more popular and participatory. People should learn to put away some money for health insurance.

Q: A large section of the population has no access to hospitals because they are poor and cannot afford costly treatment. What do you say about this?

A: The Maharashtra Government offers the Jeevandai Scheme to below-the-poverty-line patients, wherein they can avail of up to Rs 1.5 lakh for heart surgeries in private and Government hospitals. However, the Government's budget for specialised care to the poor should be revised, so that teaching hospitals can be better equipped to provide adequate services.

Q: Do you think all those who pass out of medical colleges should compulsorily serve in rural areas?

A: Exposing medical graduates to service in rural areas is important, as the experience is very valuable. However, they should be provided with decent facilities, so that they are not disappointed.

Q: As VC, what has been your message to those who pass out from your university?

A: I would like to paraphrase what Bill Gates once said. He said: Life is not fair, get used to it. Work to accomplish something, before you feel good about yourself. If your teacher has been tough, wait till you get a new boss. If you mess up initially, it is not your parents' fault. Learn from your mistakes. Before you were born, your parents were not as boring as they are now. They got that way by paying for your bills, cleaning your clothes, etc. Winners and losers are there in real life, even if some schools have abolished the terms. Be nice to people. It will pay off some day.

Q: Yours is one of the few private universities. Do you think there is a need for more in this country?

A: The Government cannot take care of everyone's education. It should focus on primary education and private players should get involved at the secondary and tertiary levels. Moreover, private universities can easily invest in proper infrastructure and quality staff from fees collected. They are capable of contributing adequately to the growth of the education sector.

Q: Are you still associated with Gideon and the YMCA? You were very active with these organisations when you were in Delhi.

A: I was Past National President, Past International Trustee and member of the International Cabinet from India for the Gideons. It was a great experience being associated with them for the past 35 years. My wife, too, was National President of Auxiliary, the women's wing.
At YMCA, I served as the Vice-President of New Delhi YMCA and Chairman of Christian Concerns at the National Council. At present, I am a co-opted member of the National Board of the National Council of YMCAs.

Q: Tell us about the most unforgettable experience as a doctor.

A: When seriously ill persons get a new lease of life, it's something you don't easily forget. I remember conducting a bypass surgery on a former BBC correspondent in Delhi, Satish Jacob. Now, he is more active than ever. The smiling faces of children I have operated upon also enrich me.

Q: Jesus was a healer. How do you relate Him to the medical profession?

A: Jesus showed compassion for people and healed many. A doctor gets several opportunities to show compassion, care, availability, affability and affordability. Faith in God is important for a doctor to remain caring as well as ethical. A few seconds spent in prayer before a surgery gives you the strength you need.

Q: Tell us a little about your family.

A: My wife Marina was Vice-Principal at St Xavier's School in Delhi. Now, she is Director of Student Affairs at Dr D Y Patil University. My elder son Anish has just completed Cardiology training from Worcester, USA, after training in Internal Medicine and MBBS from Christian Medical College, Ludhiana. He is married to Sheenu. My younger son Ashley has a Hotel Management degree from Madras and has been working with Grand Hyatt Hotel, Dubai, for the past six years.
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