Image credits: The Better India.
From staying in a slum and selling vegetables to becoming a reputed oncologist- This is the story of a woman who has seen several facets of life.
Meet Dr. Vijayalakshmi Deshmane, one of India’s most reputed oncologists, Vice President of Karnataka Cancer Society, and a recipient of many awards.
“Affording basic amenities was a dream”
Born in 1955, followed by a brother and six sisters, Dr.Vijayalakshmi lived her early life in a small house consisting of ten members which was located in Gulbarga slum in Karnataka. She comes from one of the most backward considered communities in India, in which the people are supposed to be stitching used footwear. Her father was not formally educated, but he broke the barriers of caste which were restricting his career and learned several languages on his own; Kannada, Marathi, Hindi, and English. Dr. Vijayalakshmi’s parents initially did several jobs like cutting, fetching, and selling wood, and being a coolie. “Getting a single meal each day was a challenge for us, and affording basic amenities was a dream.”. Dr. Vijayalakshmi recalls. Later, her father joined in MSK Mill and then rose in ranks hence he had a good ability to mingle with people. In between, her mother set up a small vegetable shop and her brother and she started helping their mother to carry those vegetables.
A Dream come true
It all started with a dream. Once Dr. Vijayalakshmi’s father had a dream that his elder daughter becomes a doctor and serve the poorest of poor. But for the people who live their lives in a slum, having such dreams are surprising.
Though she excelled in her studies, she sensed the end of her studies after clearing the 12th exams. Since she was not the only child of her parents, the studies of the younger ones also had to be taken care of.
Meanwhile, her mother had mortgaged the most precious and only ornament she had to fulfill father’s dream. She gave away her ‘mangalsutra’ to her husband so that he could get a loan for Vijayalakshmi’s MBBS entrance exam at KMC, Hubli.
Failed first, Gained then
As she studied in Kannada medium before, she faced difficulties in learning the MBBS papers which were in English. Although she understood the lectures, she failed in the first year MBBS examination because of the difficulties in facing the questions in English. But that was it. She picked up in 2nd year and after that, there was no looking back. She thanks her professors for that. She worked hard and become the first ranker of her university. She didn’t stop her journey either. She went on to pursue MS in surgery and started earning when she joined Kidwai Institute of Oncology as a senior resident of Surgical Oncology. She specialized in the treatment of breast cancer.
The never-ending journey
Though she retired officially in 2015, she says that her work is only half done. She has been a part of numerous social drives, reach-outs, awareness camps, research works, and education programs in villages. She dedicates 15 days of a month for such activities. And the rest of the days? She spends the rest of days for providing free service and she will be available at the Karnataka Cancer Society for those in need. Throughout her career, she has been very lucky to have got guidance, support, and love from her peers and patients. She gives the credits of all her success to her parents and the teachers who helped her to achieve heights.
P.S: All of Dr. Vijayalakshmi’s siblings has succeeded in studies. Her brother finished his LLB and started working. Four of her sisters had earned PhDs and excels in their careers!