Varghese Paul, my Friend

          Obituaries are for people who pass away, but heroes who live forever are offered encomiums befitting their performance. Varghese Paul was unique, exemplifying God’s potential of creation, sent in as a superlative reference of human promise, a yardstick for others to emulate, an ultimate and ideal paradigm that most of us are limited and content to watch and admire. As his classmate, his partner in class and long-term friend, I remain blessed to have been bestowed with such an alliance, a pride that I have always cherished, an honor that has immensely enriched my life.
          My first memory of him was during our first week as fresh, crude, and confused medical students, when he went up on stage and eloquently represented us as a seasoned and brave leader of our class. The very next day, my jealous admiration still fresh and tense, we met at the Anatomy dissection hall, and we were assigned as partners.
          That was the beginning of a sixty-year-friendship, with never a blemish, and from my part, an intense admiration, almost a veneration, and unconditional affection. He was an epitome of human excellence, initially as an unsurpassed athletic champion, a hero who carried our class, our college and our university on his strong and sturdy shoulders to success in every contest and creating records that would remain uncontested for decades. Whether it is the winning basket in the championship basketball match against the Engineering college or the last lap of the inter-collegiate relay sprint, overtaking the several stalwarts ahead of him to finish first at the tape, or following the advice of the winner Singh, adjusting his hop and leap to earn the third place in the National triple jump finals, Varghese Paul remained as the amazing hero of his times. Earning such glory once, he collapsed exhausted and dehydrated requiring admission and intravenous fluids.
        After graduation, his attention shifted to his prowess as a physician, a wise and astute provider of healthcare, as he committed his entire energy and emotions in caring for the ailing. Earning the highest of qualifications and accolades in the field of medicine, he joined the Mission Hospital in Thrissur, soon becoming its chief and devoting himself to the community for half a century. During one of my visits from America, as I wanted to surprise him, sneaking into his hospital rounds and watching him deal with a few patients, meticulously listening, examining and consoling every one of them before I interrupted him. And as a devoted friend, he requested a break from his rounds and took me to his home and Valsa for a cup of tea and an affectionate chat.
       Paying tribute to the ultimate physician William Osler’s lines, ‘he was not just a good physician who treated the disease, but a great one who treated the patient who had the disease’. When Valsa and he visited us in the US, I watched him with awe, enquiring, analyzing, discussing, advising, and consoling my wife who was inflicted with an array of medical issues. I have never seen her so moved and comforted from any other physician or their advice. Equally passionate was his excitement when he explained to me his elaborate studies and inference from the several thousands of snakebite victims that he treated and published.
       The sheer mettle and resolve of his personality were tested when the family was subjected to intense scrutiny, as Valsa went through an agonizing episode that endangered her life and Varghese Paul stood by and endured as the most devoted husband, doctor, and human being. As the principal litmus in checking out the performance of parents is to observe how their children turn out, Varghese Paul and Valsa have proven their distinction beyond any reservation; Tej, George, and Rachel being fortunate of such an impressive pedigree, have turned out to be the pride of the worthy parents
       A principled citizen must devote a share of his time and resources to the needy, to the deserving, to the society they live in. Varghese Paul’s contribution in a variety of sports, charity, social and medical arenas are legendary, the community endorsing their approval by repeatedly choosing him as the ‘best’. I cherished, enjoyed and loved his company, as Valsa and he have been exceptional hosts, welcoming our visits and caring to our comfort.
       The last several years have been distressing, painful and poignant; watching him gradually and noticeably slipping into the cruel clutches of the merciless malady of Parkinson, dopamine, and a myriad of intricate neurological ramifications. As much as and as long as he fought the inevitable outcome, it was beyond human knowledge or ability to overcome the impending outcome, the reality of destiny.
       Varghese Paul was a phenomenon, a caring doctor, a beloved husband, a devoted father, an affectionate grandfather, a dependable friend, a leader in every way and an exceptional human being.
       Let us not mourn the loss of such splendor. Let us celebrate his prodigious life. Let us rejoice on our auspicious fortune to have been offered such a gift to us.Let his memories provide solace and comfort in out remaining lives. Lovingly, Venu

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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