KC Mammen: My beloved doctor-teacher

Dr K C Mammen. File photo: Manorama

Dr K C Mammen was my teacher and Professor of Paediatrics at the Vellore Medical College. He was there with us for two years. He went abroad for higher studies. Later, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Medical Mission (MOSC), Kolenchery, became an institution of eminence. Dr Mammen’s reputation as a great pediatrician attracted a lot of people to the hospital. 

Our families shared a profound connection, and Dr Mammen kindly extended an invitation to us to visit Kolenchery. During our visit, I had the opportunity to witness the operations of the hospital, and we were fortunate to experience his warm hospitality for a period of time.

When Dr Mammen invited us, he took the time to inquire about my food preferences, recognising that I was a vegetarian. Upon our arrival, we were graciously served a variety of vegetarian dishes. Dr Mammen's wife, Annamma Mammen, who was also a doctor, shared a deep and heartfelt connection with me. She was a very graceful presence. 

I gained admission to Vellore Medical College during my father's tenure as the Chief Minister of Kerala. After completing my MBBS, I decided to pursue higher studies in pediatrics there. The news of the Communist Chief Minister’s daughter about to attend classes at the college reached the authorities, sparking a debate over my admission. Some were in favour of admitting me, while others were opposed. The matter was eventually resolved when a faction threatened to resign and leave the organisation. Perhaps, they were concerned about a 'Communist student' causing disturbances on the campus.

Once the classes began, all tensions dissipated, and I found myself in a favorable academic environment. The faculty had distinguished individuals like Dr Mammen. I had initial concerns about finding vegetarian food, but luckily, the campus had a vegetarian mess. The fellow students were initially excited to have the Kerala Chief Minister’s daughter among them, but soon they found nothing particularly special or uncommon about me. I preferred to wear simple saris, and over time, I developed a warm rapport with everyone. On one occasion, my father visited me on the campus, and if memory serves me right, he (E M S Namboodiripad) delivered a speech. 

I am reminded of an anecdote from my college days, which goes like this: A doctor from the Namboodiri community goes to England and converts to Christianity, even getting married there. When someone asked me what would stop me from doing the same, I responded with humor, saying that if everyone in the Namboodiri community were to convert to Christianity, there would have to be a dedicated church exclusively for them. This lighthearted response brought about much laughter. 

Dr Mammen had given me expert advice on the treatment of children and their growth and development. Some of these were part of the syllabus but I found his teachings had an underlying tint of humanism. 

When our daughter Sumangala came down from Delhi and had to visit Kottayam, I had hoped she could meet my cherished doctor-teacher at that time. Unfortunately, that meeting did not come to fruition.
(The author, EM Malathi, is the daughter of EMS Namboodiripad) 

[Founder Medical Director of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Medical Mission (MOSC), Kolenchery, and eminent paediatrician Kanjikuzhy Mount Wardha Thayyil Kandathil Dr KC Mammen (Bapukutty) passed away on Sunday. He was 93].

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