By Bharathi Shevgoor
Mangaluru, Apr 21: Immigrants from India to the western world have many success stories to narrate. Their diligence, hard work and focus on achievements see them climbing the proverbial ladder of success. Such stories are no doubt a source of inspiration to those back home.
Recently, when I put up a picture of young Vivek Prabhu, Special Assistant, Office of the Prime Minister of Canada, shaking hands with the Indian PM Modi, along with the Canadian PM Stephen Harper, on my Facebook page, it elicited a lot of appreciation and curiosity as well. The picture was an official one, provided by the PMO of Canada. The curiosity was especially because Vivek’s father, Dr Umesh Prabhu, who happens to be my brother, is a Mangalurean.
With PM Narendra Modi during his recent visit to Canada. On the right is Canadian PM Stephen Harper (Photo by Jason Ransom)
This article is about how a young person, filled with commitment and zeal to perform, found his bearings in a profession that not many venture into. Politics, after all, is still seen as a rarified field that people somehow stumble into. But while it is his story, it is also that of his father, a Mangalooru boy who went abroad for higher studies and a career and settled in his adopted country so well that his son could rise to contribute to the administration of the nation.
Dr Umesh Prabhu had his schooling at Rosario High School. After completing his PUC in St Aloysius College, he was fortunate to be able to complete his Medical education in KMC, Mangaluru and graduated with an MBBS followed by MD in Medicine in the year 1978.
“My schooling was in Kannada medium, but it never came in the way of acquiring knowledge. Mangaluru was a quiet place and there were few distractions, which helped us concentrate on studies,” he reminisces. He remembers the Lambretta scooter that was his constant companion. “We weren’t affluent, but we had enough. Our needs were limited, perhaps. Most importantly, the value of academic excellence was ingrained in us by our parents,” he adds. Our dad Harekal Dayananda Prabhu was a merchant dealing in coir at Hoige Bazaar, Mangaluru.
Moving to UK for higher training in 1979, Dr Umesh received the Fellowship of Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (FRCP Edin). After marrying a Mangalurean girl Jayanti Shenoy, a home maker and daughter of Bastikar Gopalkrishna Shenoy from the Bastikar family of merchants in Bunder, Mangaluru, he worked in the Middle East briefly, between1983-86 and moved back to UK. He migrated to Canada in 1988 and received the fellowship with Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (FRCPC).
At this point I remember our dear mother. Whenever my brother informed us that he had just finished answering an examination, she would say, with mock resignation, “For how long will this fellow keep answering exams? He is almost fifty and still at it.” One day, I heard her talking to my neighbor,” Yaara parikshe mugidaru ivandu mugiyuvudilla.” (Kannada for ‘Despite everyone finishing their exams, this fellow has not finished’). No doubt the statement concealed her enormous pride in her son’s hard work and scholastic achievements.
With the Author
Currently Dr Umesh is an Assistant Professor with the Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax and also serves as a Specialist Consultant in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at Yarmouth Regional Hospital, Nova Scotia, which he has been doing since 1992.
Vivek was born in Canada in 1991. He completed his undergraduate degree (B A with Honours) with University of Western Ontario in 2013.
An interesting aspect of Vivek’s career trajectory is that he was very sure that he wanted to get into politics. I asked him how he arrived at this decision at such a young age and he replied, “I like communicating with people and try to be helpful to my friends to the extent that I can. Also, I’m interested in leadership. I always understood that my communication skills were my strength. That’s why I did not consider taking up medicine, though my father is a well-respected physician in my city and in fact, the entire county.” His younger brother Neetin Prabhu is currently an undergraduate student studying Medical Sciences at University of Western Ontario, Canada.
Vivek cut his professional teeth by serving as a fellow of the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC). It provided him the grounding he needed to surge ahead in the field. He augmented his profile by publishing articles on Canadian, US and global affairs as a Fellow of NATO Council of Canada, a renowned think tank. The link is as below:
Having scored well in his studies, he was able to get the prestigious scholarship to pursue his Masters in Political Management (MPM) with Carleton University, Ottawa in 2014, a scholarship that is granted to only 20 students in a year. Qualifying for the scholarship is considered an achievement in itself. Even before he finished his internship he was offered a placement as a Communications Assistant, Office of the Prime Minister of Canada. Earlier this year, he was promoted to be the Special Assistant at Issues Management Division in PMO, Ottawa.
“What are your duties in the PM’s office?” I asked him. “Well, I’m part of a team that briefs the PM on the nitty-gritty of issues that may arise in Parliament so that he is supported to provide the necessary answers to questions that are raised. We need to work hard. My day starts at 06:00. We have regular debriefing sessions and discussions. It’s an interesting line of work”, he says.
Upon a query on his experiences with PM Modi, he feels very happy to have been a part of the process at the PM’s office. “I was a part of the reception committee at the airport and involved in the procedures later as well.”
Did you get to speak to PM Modi, I asked him. “Oh, yes, I was introduced to him and he asked me from where my parents were. I informed him that they were from Mangaluru and he responded by saying ‘Oh, I know a few doctors from there’. It was generous of him to spend time conversing with me. He came across as affable and friendly.”
What are your hopes for India, I ask him and he replies earnestly, “The growth outlook for the Indian economy is bright. A reforms-led government will hopefully ensure that India becomes the world's fastest growing major economy in a couple of years. I’ve spent many wonderful holidays in the affectionate care of my grandparents in their homes in Mangaluru. I have pleasant memories of Mangaluru. India will always be a significant part of my heritage. My parents still converse in Konkani. We have friends who speak in Tulu with my father. We eat Indian food, mostly traditional Mangalurean, at home. I’m fully appreciative of my Indian connections”.
We wish you well, Vivek. May you prosper and contribute to the goodness of the country of your birth and thus also ensure that the country of your origins is proud of you.
Bharathi Shevgoor is an HR trainer and lecturer of English language and literature. She lives in Mangaluru.