top of page
IS 2.jpeg

The story of Sankara Nethralaya has many contours and colours. It is very difficult to capture the entire gamut of this huge phenomenon called Sankara Nethralaya (SN) in the pages of a book and the authors are painfully aware of this limitation. SN evokes many emotions amongst various sections of the society. An institution of national eminence, its very edifice resonates with the philosophy–for the society by the society.


Patients who pay for their services feel that they could have paid more for the high quality of eye care they receive in a hospital that is spotlessly clean. Patients who cannot pay and yet get the very same quality of care, express their gratitude in tearful emotions that even vocabulary cannot capture. Individual donors who without fail are supporting this great institution for several decades want to do more. 


Business houses who work on stringent norms have been very generous in their donations to SN. Doctors who have been trained in SN who have gone on to become celebrities still cherish their valuable training and continue to treasure the value of values that this 
Institution nurtures. 

Scholars and scientists working with SN are doing some cutting edge research for the benefit of humanity and have put India on the global map of eye research. SN is attracting young talents who have both the skill and the will to serve the poor people of India and its neighbouring countries. Highly qualified and experienced doctors and other professionals and staff members who have chosen to serve and are still serving SN for many decades have dedicated their whole life to this institution as they continue to serve millions of patients. For a variety of many people SN means many different things to them. SN is an institution that has stood the test of time for the past more than 33 long years, serving the nation and its people while professionally evoking the innate 
qualities of all human beings. The late N.A. Palkhiwala1  who donated most of his substantial wealth to SN had 
described it as “the best-managed charitable organisation in India”. The genesis of this book, why this book and how it came about, cannot be put in perspective without sharing a bit of the background and a little episode. 
I have known Dr. S.S. Badrinath for many years. For the last several years the intensity and frequency of 
interactions with him and his wonderful colleagues at SN have always been insightful and educative at least for me. I am not sure if SN benefitted in any manner from my association with them. I was not a patient at SN nor was I useful as a donor. Yet Dr. S.S. Badrinath and his colleagues treated me as if I was a great friend and made me feel that I was useful to them. I don’t think I was of any use when one looks at the silent and phenomenal work that many at SN do and have done.
I must confess that at times, I was even concerned that my association with them should not even accidentally 
contaminate the institution. I spent some 30 years in professional services firms, which they now call the Big 
Four!! In my entire professional career where I have had the opportunity to meet many people across the globe, I haven’t come across anyone who is as dignified, devoted, disciplined, determined and diligent all rolled into one as Dr. S.S. Badrinath. I had hinted on many occasions to Dr. Badrinath and the former Chairman 
Mr. V. Vaidyanathan that I was keen on doing a biography on the doctor. While this idea was work in progress, I could sense that Dr. Badrinath was not fascinated by this suggestion but he was kind to me not to say so in very words. Mr. Vaidyanathan was sympathetic, but told me that it was finally the doctor’s call and that he can at times be stubborn. Back in Delhi, I discussed this idea with my colleague George Skaria and he supported me instantly. So we set off to Chennai on 16th February 2011 to meet first with Mr. Vaidyanathan and then
Dr. Badrinath. The idea was to persuade the doctor to consider our request. He was very soft spoken as he has always been. But, for the first time I saw that he could be very firm and stubborn too. He was not interested in a biographical book on him. He was very clear. We also did not relent although we were concerned about his unhelpful attitude. After all, the two of us had taken a trip to Chennai to get an answer quickly. Haste does not pay, I realised that when Dr. Badrinath was visibly uncomfortable with our continued persistence. After lunch, the doctor asked us if we would do a chronicle on SN . He had in his mind a book on SN that will capture its journey through the 33 years of its existence. And there was a rider too. He said that there was already someone else who was putting together certain materials on the institution and if we could help that person. We were not prepared for this. But I said yes we would help, provided the doctor agreed that we do a biography on him! Dr. Badrinath did not give us an answer then, but told us that he will get back to us. So with deflated spirits we got back to Delhi. A few emails were exchanged to keep the idea warm. I was in Chennai 
again on 22nd April 2011 to have discussions on this. Mr. Vaidyanathan was in favour of doing a biography on Dr. Badrinath and was sympathetic to our approach. In fact in one his mails to me he had said “If I am asked to vote between the biography of Mahatma Gandhi or India as a successful nation, I will choose the biography of 
Mahatma Gandhi as without him India would not have been born”. Then suddenly a break through come before Mr. Vaidyanathan was leaving for the United States. I decided to go to Chennai again with my friend George before Mr. Vaidyanathan left. Although that day – 19th May 2011 - was my 25th wedding anniversary, my wife
Geetha persuaded me to go. I have no doubts that Mr. Vaidyanathan played a pivotal role. The truce was that 
we will get working on the SN Book first and on some strict deadlines. After this book is published, we will do another book on Dr. Badrinath! There was also a welcome relief. We did not have to play second fiddle.
Someone else who was working on the story could not continue on the project. We are planning the second 
book – more on a conversational style – to be published by the end of this year. That was a valuable gift for me 
on my 25th wedding anniversary. This book is the result of the collaborative efforts of many people including my co-authors Ms. Meera Prasad and Mr. George Skaria. For the last several months, as part of our research we have been sifting through a wealth of documented information systematically collected and preserved over the last 3 decades in their libraries, archives, patient records, correspondences, board minutes, visitors’ books, 
annual reports, electronic files and a host of various other internal publications. Several visits to Chennai and personal interactions with people from various echelon of the organisation as well as talking to patients 
at random in the hospital have fortified our own impressions about the day to day work that SN is doing.
In writing this book we have not attempted to do what cannot be accomplished and in this process we 
are aware that there are several people associated with SN who may not find a mention in this book. Such 
people are equally important for SN. As many as 62 interviews have been done across a cross section of people from all over India comprising internal and external stake holders like doctors past and present, a variety of patients both rich and very poor, donors both big and small, a few of the eminent citizens, long serving and dedicated staff. We as authors were given complete freedom to decide on who we will interview and SN has not interfered in our process. Each such interview ranged between an hour to two hours. The book therefore captures the various nuances of this great institution. This book while recalling some of the significant 
moments in the journey of SN through the 33 long years of its yeoman’s service to the nation is also trying 
to draw attention to some of the contemporary issues pertinent to the many non-profits, NGOs and social 
entrepreneurs who are striving to survive, sustain and succeed in their pursuit to alleviate the pathetic plight 
of the poor and the deprived. At the end of each Chapter, there are observations and analysis by distinguished thought leaders who have provided their perspectives on a range of themes
including the peculiarities of the taxing regime. Social enterprises are carving out a place for themselves in a 
world that is increasingly looking at collaborative norms to accelerate the pace of inclusiveness. It also 
seeks to be a useful reference bible for many people from all walks of life whose lives have been touched by 
this great institution. And to many others who have yet not had the opportunity to experience the benevolence 
of this institution, let it be an eye-opener.

1 The late Dr. N.A. Palkhiwala was an eminent jurist of international standing. He was India’s Ambassador to the United States during 1977 to 1979.

in sight news 1 .png
sight news 2.png
bottom of page