Dr Anantham Harin earned a rare mix of undiluted superlatives: an outstanding humanitarian, a brilliant award-winning physician, a dedicated husband and a resolutely-steadfast friend.
Affectionately called "Hari" by legions of friends, he spent nearly 30 years as Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Richmond University Medical Centre in the New York City borough of Staten Island.
As a first-rate physician, Hari was anointed -- multiple times-- one of New York city's "best doctors": a prestigious accolade bestowed annually by New York magazine. But modesty prevented him from keeping a count of the number of times he adorned the pages of the widely-read magazine. When he passed away at the age of 65 last month, he had reached the Himalayan heights of his medical career.
Hari was a specialist in neonatal-perinatal medicine and was a onetime clinical Professor of Pediatrics at New York University's School of Medicine. He graduated from the Medical School at the University of Colombo back in 1970.
In his field of speciality, he was responsible for ensuring the survival of hundreds, if not thousands, of infants. In a moving tribute to Hari, Bonnie Gleicher wrote on a Staten Island newspaper blog, that 22 years ago, "Dr. Anantham Harin brought me into the world -- a three-month premature baby -- and now, he has left it. As I thank this man for the healthy, exuberant life he's helped me live, I celebrate his own. The world has few gems, and Dr. Harin was truly one of them.”
In a message to Hari's wife Nirupa, Linda Sarno, another former patient, wrote: "26 years ago, your beloved husband saved my daughter and my life due to my pre-eclampsia. We loved and respected him very much, as many others did. Too soon, but I am sure he is taking care of ALL in heaven."
When his cash-strapped hospital was forced to make budgetary cuts, Hari volunteered to take a 50 percent reduction of his own salary primarily to save the jobs of two of his assistants who would otherwise have been laid off. It was a display of his innate humanitarian qualities.
The tributes at Hari's funeral came from near and far: nurses, doctors, patients, friends, old Royalists and parish priests.
As president of the Royal College Old Boys East Coast Association (RCOBECA), he offered a scintillating toast at the annual dance last year. Royal College, he said, has been the cradle for leadership for 175 years. "We rose to different heights, shared a rich history, followed great traditions and on its way produced a long list of distinguished men."
Hari possessed a vibrant sense of humour as he traded jokes and anecdotes with his friends. He was the creator of a group of free thinking, philosophically-bent friends of his generation whom he dubbed the "Sophists". Hari was the leader of the Sophists brotherhood which met at least once a month in a New York city restaurant to talk politics, sports, movies, theatre -- while, all the time, reminiscing the memorable days in school and university back home.
At the RCOBECA dinner last year, Hari fondly remembered a teacher at Royal College who was mischievously dubbed "the sheriff of fractured jaw" : the memorable title of a Hollywood western. Hari quoted the teacher as having famously advised his class: "If you cannot dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with your bull---t." In real life, Hari opted for brilliance over bull---t.
In his eulogy, Dr Simon Rabinowitz, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Hari's hospital, said: "While his friendship and his leadership will be missed, his legacy lives on in his many success stories."