Capt. Ramarao Junction
Dasara festival is very popular particularly in South India. It is a celebration of victory of Lord Rama over demon king Ravana in Hindu mythology. During the festival that runs for a week, families invite their friends to view “Bommalu Koluvu” or exhibition of their collection of dolls, toys and collectables in their homes. The town people visit the home of Dr. Ramarao at Allipuram Junction to view a rare collection of toys, dolls, model trains and airplanes, replica of various forts, miniature animal replicas made from, clay, wood, metal, horn and sandalwood, and exotic mechanically operated toys imported from other states in India and abroad. It is like visiting a museum of personal collection of Dr. Ramarao. People would form long lines to get their chance to view “Bommalu Koluvu” at Dr. Ramarao’s home at Allipuram Junction during Dasara festival.
Dr. Ramarao, M.B.B.S., practiced medicine from his clinic, part of a very large house at Allipuram junction for over 25 years. The rank Captain, he received from the army service ended on 1946 as a doctor in British Army during Second World War.
Ramarao lost his father when he was only 3 years old and grew up at his maternal uncle’s home with his mother, brother and two sisters. Ramarao’s uncle, an educator by profession, besides his own family to support also took responsibility of several other extended family members because of their financial hardship. The smart thing, Ramarao and his brother did was to enroll into medical school just opened in town with financial help of his uncle. Just before Ramarao completed internship, his uncle retired with huge debt beyond he could ever repay. The only option Ramarao has was to join British Army as a physician with a monthly salary of 500 rupees, a handsome salary in those times. While Ramarao was serving army in Egypt, Burma and other places, with his monthly salary deposited into Imperial Bank in India, Ramarao’s uncle cleared all his debt and helped scores of relatives financially for their education, weddings, health care etc. Ramarao’s uncle now debt free and his only son graduated from medical school left for greener pastures for his son to practice medicine elsewhere far away from the scores of relatives he supported from Ramarao’s military service income. A balance of 150 rupees was left in Imperial Bank, when Ramarao returned from Army after 5 years of service.
With wife and two children at that time to support, Ramarao started medical practice from a rented large house at Allipuram Junction in 1947.
Dr. Ramarao treated his patients like a parish priest takes care of his congregation with love, affection and kindness. He treated his patients, rich and very poor and people in between with same care and never asking fee for his services. He accepted whatever they offered, some offered cash, farmers offered produce in exchange for medicine, artisans exchanged their crafts, and rickshaw pullers offered their services for free in exchange for medical treatment and so on. He received so many pet animals and birds, from rabbits to mountain cats, from parrots to exotic guinea fowls and peacocks, scores of pigeons of various colors and shapes, and land tortoises that roamed the backyard looking for vegetation to feed and water turtles that multiplied in the two deepwater wells in the backyard. His backyard became a petting zoo for neighborhood kids. Local school children visited often to watch the exotic birds and animals.
Much of the Anglo-Indian community of the City sought medical care from Dr. Ramarao. For some reason, they all identified their Anglo background with Capt. Ramarao's British army background. On every Christmas day, Dr. Ramarao received so many cakes from the City Anglo-Indian community, he distributed the cakes to his other patients.
Ramarao used most of the money earned from the medical practice to support his excessive and compulsive behavior to buy stuff. He bought expensive handicrafts, battery operated toys, carvings made from wood, metal, and other exotic materials. As a young son, I was puzzled whenever I visited shops with him. If my mother asked to buy one item of any kind, he bought not one, not two, not three but four of the same item whether it was tooth brush, a tea set or a dinner set. Over the period of several years, he accumulated so much stuff; a large part of the house became storage area than living area. With five children and petting zoo in the backyard with uncontrollable appetite for buying stuff, the later part of his life became a financial disaster. The way he practiced medicine “social medicine” as we call it today, couldn’t support his enormous appetite for shopping. Dr. Ramarao believed that treatment with placebo cures most of the symptoms, thus he used soda bicarb (sodium bicarbonate or baking soda) on many of his patients. With increased competition from physicians with advanced training in medicine, Ramarao’s medical practice was declined to a point where he could hardly support his shopping spree anymore.
Ramarao’s close relatives and scores of extended family members were the most benefited from free medical care including free prescription samples for over three decades. When Ramarao fell on hard times financially, he borrowed money with exorbitant interest rates from the same relatives, beneficiaries of Ramarao’s generous free medical care and directly received financial help from Ramarao’s military service income in the past. No good deeds would go unpunished.
The people of Allipuram in memory of their beloved doctor who treated them for nothing or in exchange for a bag of onions or a pair of parrots or a turtle renamed Allipuram junction as Capt. Ramarao junction after his death. It is ironic that the people of Allipuram were more grateful to Ramarao than his own blood relatives.