G. Venkataswamy popularly known as ‘Dr V.’ was the founder and former chairman of Aravind Eye Hospitals. He was born on October 1, 1918 in Vadamalapuram, a village eighty kilometres from Madurai in Tamil Nadu, India.
He received his medical degree from Stanley Medical College, Chennai in 1944. Thereafter, he joined the Indian Army Medical Corps but had to retire in 1948 after developing rheumatoid arthritis. The condition became so severe that he was bedridden for over a year. For a time, he struggled even to walk and could not hold a pen in his badly crippled fingers. Despite his condition, he returned to medical school and earned his diploma and master’s degree in Ophthalmology. Through his hard work and determination, Dr. V learned how to hold a scalpel and perform cataract surgery. Eventually, he was able to perform more than one hundred surgeries a day and over one hundred thousand successful eye surgeries during his lifetime.
While in the government service, Dr. V introduced a number of innovative programmes to deal with the problem of blindness in India. To name a few, outreach camps in eye care (1960), a rehabilitation centre for the blind (1966), and the creation of an ophthalmic assistants training programme in 1973. In recognition of his work in the fight against blindness, Dr, V received the Padmashree award in 1973 by the Government of India.
Upon his retirement from government service, Dr. V founded Aravind Eye Hospital as an 11-bed facility in 1976. He passed away on July 7, 2006.
2018 marked the birth centenary year of Dr. V. It was a time when Aravind reminisced on the deeper purpose underlying its establishment. Several events were conducted to commemorate the milestone, the culmination of which was a grand function organised on September 30, 2018 at Raja Muthiah Mandram, Madurai. Eminent personalities from different walks of life shared their thoughts about Dr. V and how his life has been inspiring to many. Of the various events held to honour Dr. V, the most significant one with a great and wide impact was the internet search giant Google’s special doodle on his birth centenary, October 1, 2018. A Tribute to the Light, a theatrical presentation on Dr. V’s life and ‘Infinite Vision’ a dance drama by Chitra Krishnamurti and team from the USA vividly portrayed the defining moments of Dr. V’s life.
A unique theatrical representation of Dr. V’s life. The performance received a standing ovation during Dr. V’s centenary celebrations. It had a profound impact on the audience and the team was invited to perform in various fora. Another highlight being that all the actors are Aravind’s staff and their children from various centres.
Dr. Venkataswamy was the recipient of many awards, among them: the Padmashree Award from the Government of India, the Helen Keller International Award, and the first International Blindness Prevention Award of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. He was a Founder and Advisor to the Seva Foundation. His vision lives on through the daily works of literally hundreds of eye hospitals around the world which he influenced through training, encouragement, and friendship.
Book – Infinite Vision: How Aravind became the World’s Greatest Business Case for Compassion – 2011, Pavithra K. Mehta and Suchitra Shenoy
Play – A Tribute to the Light : a play enacted by the staff of Aravind Eye Care System in commemoration of his birth centenary- 2018
Dance Drama – Infinite Vision : A dance drama by Dr. Chitra Krishnamurti and team in commemoration of his birth centenary- 2018