For most people, it would have been a time to prepare for a comfortable retired life. But Kishore Rao, who had been serving at a corporate for 28 years, had an inner calling and took early retirement at 55 to help those who were suffering from cancer. Hailing from Bengaluru, he is now 79 and runs Karunashraya, a free facility for end-stage cancer patients.
“It was my first and only job and I had risen to become the general manager when I decided to opt for retirement. I had already started doing a lot of voluntary work for the Indian Cancer Society during the last five years of my professional career. While I was working, I felt that one spent most of the time earning a living. There was this feeling that there must be something beyond just attending to our needs and that’s when I decided to spend all my time for the cause of cancer. I wanted to prove to people that there was more to life besides running after our bread and butter and 9 to 5 jobs.
“We are always at the receiving end from society, so it’s only fair that we give back. It’s almost like how one goes on withdrawing from a bank account but there’s a time when someone will ask you what have you deposited and the bank manager will not give you unless you have also given something,” says Kishore.
We wonder if there was a personal tragedy that inspired him and he clarifies, “More than 20 years ago, my mother had died of cancer but that was not the reason, why I chose this path. It was only because of my firm belief to give something back to the society. But yes, choosing the field of cancer may have been connected to my mother’s demise.”
He adds, “The trigger came when I saw the plight of patients at Kidwai hospital, where some died and others were sent home. At Karunashraya, we offer palliative care. We got assistance from the Indian Cancer Society and since my human resources were limited, we formed the Bangalore Hospice Trust. I started out in a 10x10 room with only a table and chair. Today, we look after 55 patients and soon the number will be 80. We also have a home care service where nurses and doctors visit homes of cancer patients. All the end-of-life care work is free of cost. Most of the patients who come to us are poor.”
Rao signs off adding, “Since I’m turning 80 soon, I’m training someone younger to take care of the day-to-day affairs, so that the good work continues and more people can benefit.”...