From Selling Vegetables To Becoming India’s Leading Cancer Expert. – Dr Vijayalxmi Deshmane
16 May 2017
Being born in a slum in Karnataka’s Gulbarga city in a caste that traditionally worked as cobblers, Deshmane’s childhood was spent in extreme poverty, with their options further restricted because of their Dalit caste.
Her family worked inch by inch to earn money, a father being a mill worker and mother, a vegetable seller. With six sisters and a brother, Dr Vijayalakshmi had no option but to help her family by selling vegetables herself.
Her father Baburao was influenced by the freedom movement and believed in the empowerment of all. Being not formally educated, he broke caste professional barriers and learnt letters on his own- Kannada, Marathi, Hindi and English. Both her parents did odd jobs like being a coolie, cutting, fetching, and selling wood. And later, her father joined a mill and rose in ranks.
She was named after Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, sister of Pandit Nehru and the first woman to become the President of the UN General Assembly, followed by a “Deshmane” surname- Deshmanya’s daughter!
It was the dream of her father of getting her into medicine and to serve the poorest of the poor. Dreaming as such while staying in slum shows the vision of her father for them. Her mother on the other side had a small vegetable shop. She would buy the vegetable from a wholesale market and then try to make mere profits for running daily lives. Deshmane along with her brother would help her mother by carrying those vegetables on the head.
Dr Vijayalakshmi excelled in her studies, cleared her 12th exams and somehow knew that she won’t be studying further because she was convinced that her parents won’t be able to fund her further studies anymore as the education of her siblings was also to be taken care of.
It was a moonless night when her mother gave away her only ornament, her mangal sutra, to her father so that he could take a loan for her MBBS entrance at KMC Hubli.
She got an admission into medical college, but her struggle was on. Till 12th she studied in Kannada and the medium for medicine was English, as a result, she failed in her first year of MBBS. It was the guidance of her teachers that she managed to pick up the pace and ended up securing the first rank in her university. She went on to complete her MS at Bellary in 1983 in surgery and became an oncologist, specialising in breast cancer.
Dr Vijayalakshmi is also the Vice President of Karnataka Cancer University. She has now retired from Kidwai Institute of Oncology, Bangalore as the Head of the Department.
Even after retirement, she plans to work 15 days a month for carrying out social drives, reach outs, awareness camps, research works and education programmes in the village and spend the rest of the month by providing free services to those who are in need of treatment and counselling.
Dr Vijayalakshmi is a Woman of Courage because her passion for helping people in various ways even after retirement proves that she is dedicated doctor and works hard for the well-being of the society. She is determined and her high aspirations are responsible for her success.
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