Hyderabad: From representing Hyderabad in the Ranji Trophy, to practicing at his father’s clinic, to becoming the president of Apollo Hospitals, Dr K. Hari Prasad has lived a full and memorable life. In his inspirational journey, Dr Hari Prasad has knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court for his rightful medical seat through the sports quota, fought obesity, diabetes, defeated leukemia, scored a double ton versus Tamil Nadu in the presence of his father at Fateh Maidan, and beat his 34-year-old tobacco addiction.
Dr Hari Prasad, in an exclusive interview with Newsmeter, discussed his achievements, his battle with cancer, cricket, family, and his book I’M Possible.
Born into a family of doctors, Dr Hari Prasad fell in love with the profession. As a child, he looked at his father’s practice and wanted to become a doctor. On his family and the support he received, Dr Hari Prasad says, “Without family, there is nothing. They have supported me in whatever I did. When I wanted to play cricket, they extended their support. They put me in the best school, HPS. Back then, cricket wasn’t considered a career. My father made sure I got the medical seat I deserved through sports quota. He even went to the Supreme Court. I married very early, after my first year of MBBS. When I decided to join Apollo, my father said “Do whatever interests you, do whatever you’re really passionate about “. They were there when I was sick. I think that is the biggest support anyone needs in life.”
Dr Hari Prasad has been a fighter throughout his life. From the cricket field to fighting obesity and leukemia, he’s conquered everything. When asked about his fighting spirit, he says, “I think its the mindset which develops in your childhood. It’s the environment that you grow up in. Take my school for example. It was not only about academics or about preparing you for medical or engineering college. It was both sports and academics. It helped us grow into a wholesome individual. When you are passionate about something and have the right mindset, you can do anything. My life has been a rollercoaster ride. What I’ve learned is don’t be too happy or too excited and don’t be depressed either. This has been my philosophy. All the incidents in my life have only strengthened this belief.”
Dr Hari Prasad was in school when he was selected to play the Ranji Trophy. On cricket, his first love, he says, “I think those were the best days of my life. When I was in school, in class 11 or 12, I had the fortune of playing for the Ranji Trophy for Hyderabad. I was passionate about cricket. In those days, it was not about money or career, only passion and your love for the game. So cricket was my first love and I spent a lot of time playing. At that age, I spent a lot of time playing cricket when I went to play U-15, U-19, U-22, U-25, and the Ranji Trophy. The school management always supported me and allowed me to play. They held special classes for me and made sure I passed the examinations.
“When I was in medical college, I thought it would be the same. But they didn’t allow me to write my first-year examinations since I had not attended the classes. I had to choose between medicine and cricket. I chose medicine because cricket was never a career option or a profession. I didn’t want to give up cricket, I had to.”
Speaking of the time when he was diagnosed with leukemia, Dr Hari Prasad says, “I’m diabetic. I had just returned from the US when my secretary called and told me to fast for a blood test the next morning. A lab technician came to collect blood and later told me he had drawn 2ml extra. I told him it’s just 2ml, throw it away. A couple of hours later I was called to the lab. When I went there, everyone looked sad. When I asked what had happened, they told me that they found leukemia cells in my blood. I told them I was absolutely fine that I had just come back from a US trip. I told them to redo the tests and believed they would test negative. But the tests confirmed that I had leukemia. The doctor broke the news to my wife and son. I did not know how to break the news to my parents. I was kept in an isolation room because there were chances of the infections spreading. Since I was not allowed to meet anyone, somebody else broke the news to my family. The isolation room was a blessing in disguise. Although my friends and family couldn’t meet me, they talked to me on the phone and through video calls. They kept me positive throughout the treatment process.”
On mental strength, Dr Hari Prasad says, “From the beginning, I’ve been fighting small battles. Take the cricket field. You play to win. Every stage was a battle. The medical seat, obesity, diabetes and it’s complications, leukemia. All these made me think positive instead of making me depressed. It helped me find solutions. It also helped me to involve others or treat others better. All my battles became a source of learning. It strengthened my mental and psychological faculties.”
On cancer care, he says, “Cancer is a dreaded disease. But one should think that cancer is like any other disease and is curable. However, there are a few things you must take care of. If it is diagnosed early and treated correctly, it is curable and inexpensive. Once the diagnosis or treatment is delayed, treatment becomes expensive and the outcomes are also not good. The most important thing is that cancer should be diagnosed early. I was lucky since I was diagnosed very early. If one member in the family has cancer, all others should get a preventive health check done. If there’s a possibility that one may get cancer, one can take preventive measures. For example, smoking. It is one of the biggest causes of cancer. Quitting tobacco is the answer. That doesn’t cost money but prevents cancer. So the solution is prevention, early diagnosis, and correct treatment.”
About his tobacco addiction, Dr Hari Prasad says, “Tobacco is the most dangerous addiction. The best way to avoid it is to not take the first cigarette or chew tobacco the first time. That is the best way because once you’re addicted it is very difficult to quit. Though I knew the health hazards, it took me a long time to give up smoking. There have been many situations when I stopped smoking and again resumed it. I even had to adopt different methods, all equally dangerous. Tobacco consumption leads to other diseases, like stroke, heart diseases, and kidney problems. To remain healthy, please get off tobacco. If you are already addicted, please quit. There are various ways to do so.”
On his book and the idea behind it, Dr Hari Prasad says, “I’m an introvert. Every human being has to have an outlet, especially when the going gets tough. So whenever I faced a tough situation, I used to write it down, as an episode. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I had written down the experience. When my colleagues saw it, they said it was very encouraging and that it should be turned into a book. They gave it to the publisher. But the publisher said turning this into a book will be difficult. So, I included all the other episodes. My son and daughter-in-law said it did not do justice to my life and told me to pen my entire life story. That is when people will know what you’ve gone through in life, they said. My son came up with the title I’M Possible and the book design. My only contribution is that I told them what I went through. My son, daughter-in-law, and the publisher put the whole thing together. It was not intentional. It happened because it had to happen.”
Speaking of the contributors to the book, he says, ” The publisher said this book should encourage others. We should include others who’ve achieved something in life. So I casually wrote to all my acquaintances and told them I was writing a book and if they could contribute something. You will be surprised, within a week everyone wrote back. The love and affection that they showed was tremendous. In fact, everyone was present at the book launch. One of the things I earned in life is that love and affection are the most precious earnings in life.”
What message does he want to convey? To that, Dr Hari Prasad says, ” Never give up. Nothing is impossible. Everything is in the mind. If you have the right and positive mindset, you can fight through the most difficult circumstances and come out successful. Never think anything is impossible. ”