By Leo F. Saldanha
As a Captain in the Indian Army, he served across the country, and was one of three from armed forces selected to be India’s first cosmonaut – till a life threatening training injury put him out of contention (he was paralysed neck down).
Tekur fought hard to gain control over his body and walked out of that situation, and also the Army, to work with communities across South Asia as a doctor and community health specialist. He also helped form Community Health Cell, now Sochara.
Always ready to reach out and help people, Tekur was involved in relief work in multiple disasters across South Asia. He brought this experience back to train thousands of field workers, doctors and nurses about being prepared for such situations.
As a paediatrician he has taken care of thousands of kids across India. But most particularly in City Clinic in Jayanagar, Bangalore, a clinic he took over from Dr Pathy (who passed on some years ago). And kids loved to go to him because they knew their cooperation would be rewarded – with polo mints.
Families went along with kids and he spent time with them; never gave the feeling that he was busy. He was there for them. Such a General Physician he was that every family that went to him sick came out healthier. And they stayed with him, and wouldn’t hesitate calling him whenever they were in trouble – and he never refused calls; and if missed any, he would call back. And his prescriptions were so neat, in his beautiful hand they were written. He was sparing with medication, gave the patient choice, and always worked in the best interest of the patient and the family. And he charged nothing at all; the poor hit free treatment. I could go on and on with And this and And that.
Over the past year he has saved hundreds from COVID. As the line of patients grew long in his clinic, Tekur stayed, from morning till the last patient got the care. Often I would argue with him- when he regularly went home at 4 or 5 pm to have lunch – what he was doing as unacceptable. He would laugh it off.
Often times he stopped by at Environment Support Group (ESG). And we would step out into the balcony to chat and smoke – one doc who made you feel okay with this occasional indulgence. And in recent years he gave up smoking. Sometimes we would have a drink together.
Everyone who interacted with Tekur built relationships that were long and timeless. Such was the charm of this man.
His wife Vimala and daughter Harshini enjoyed another dimension of Tekur – he was an excellent painter. And his paintings of his parents and daughter are unbelievably true to form.
He wrote books, small ones that deeply reflected philosophically on life. And he read a lot – you would never find Shirdi PrasadTekur without a book.
COVID got him sick. And he went in telling everyone he would be out of the neighbourhood hospital he was admitted to. He even told his daughter not to travel from Germany as he would be back home. He wanted her to come later, when it was safer to travel. But she came anyway, by when he was in a bigger hospital where his condition deteriorated as the drug resistant bacteria that infected him were unsparing in their assault.
I have lost a very dear friend, a most wonderful counsellor, and a Trustee of ESG for who solidarity meant everything – he never hesitated to say: “How can I help”. When last year civil society became a target for heavy restrictions from the Centre, Tekur would ask us to work fearlessly. “Focus on work without thinking about results. They will come good”, he would say.
Shirdi Prasad Tekur has left a void that cannot be filled ever.
In Tekur I discovered what goodness and selflessness is all about.
A wonderful person has passed on.
And I still can’t help feeling he will come out of the hospital – and just say: “Enough. Now let’s go and get a drink and a smoke.”
Yes he had quit. But I would have done anything to celebrate his return to good health, a second life it would have been for Tekur.