February 02 , 2017
The streets of Sidhdhapudur near Gandhipuram in Coimbatore overflowed with people on Sunday morning, as thousands descended to pay their respects to the much-beloved “20-rupees doctor”. Even as Coimbatore has grown as a centre of super-specialty medical services, for thousands of poor people in the city, Dr V Balasubramaniam was their saviour.
Running a clinic in Sidhdhapudur, Dr Balasubramaniam, who passed away from a cardiac arrest on Friday, earned the moniker of “20-rupees doctor” because that was the maximum fee he charged from any of his patients. Hailing from Bodinayakanur in Theni district, Dr Balasubramaniam, set up clinics for the poor wherever his employment with the ESIC took him – in Theni, Chennimalai in Erode, and Coimbatore. He first started off charging his patients just Rs 2 for a consultation, slowly increasing it over the years by small amounts. Even until two years ago, he only asked his patients for a fee of Rs 10.
“God has given me sufficient money to take care of myself. I am helping the sick and the weak recover their health. Let God do the rest of the work,” Dr Balasubramaniam had told CovaiPost last year.
These fees were charged from patients only if the doctor gave them an injection or medicines, says Bhoopathy , a patient who had been visiting him for 10 years. “We would spend perhaps Rs 30 on medicines, give the doctor Rs 20. We never spent more than Rs 50. And we were always cured of our ailments. If we went back to him again, he wouldn’t take more money from us.”
Another patient, Arun, says that Dr Balasubramaniam was the picture of kindness, generosity and affection towards his patients. “He would even give free service to people who had no money. If you called him even at midnight, he would come and see patients. He would try hard to treat us without medicines. If he had to prescribe medicines, they never cost more than Rs 50.”
Outside Dr Balasubramaniam’s clinic on Sunday morning, thousands lined up to light candles and offer prayers before a portrait of the doctor, and to bid farewell to him when his body was brought to the clinic before being taken in procession for cremation. “He was a man of gold. His death is a great loss to us,” said Arun.
“There wasn’t and there cannot be another god for us like the doctor. So many doctors are concerned with making money, but he was never bothered about that,” said Bhoopathy.
Dr Balasubramaniam’s granddaughter, Sindhu, who had travelled from Bengaluru to Coimbatore for his funeral, said that she had been receiving calls all day from patients who were unable to believe the doctor had passed away. “For the service he has done for people, I can see so many people here. At home we can’t see his presence so much. But I can see his presence in these people’s eyes today.”