Lacing up for a cause


Indian Sun speaks to Dr Rao — surgeon, golfer, yogi, wine lover–after his first half-marathon in aid of Asha Foundation India

When Dr Rao met Dr Kiran Martin, who runs the Asha Foundation, which supports 500,000 people living in slums in India, he was inspired to do his bit for the cause. “Asha Foundation came into existence

25 years ago when Dr Martin, a paediatrician, found the huge need for health programs in the slums. In those days babies were dying of preventable diseases, mothers were dying during pregnancy, and illness was rampant with diseases such as cholera,” says Dr Rao, who met her through his elder brother Harish who did work with the Australia India Business Council.

So in 2013, Dr Rao laced up and ran his first half-marathon for the charity. He talks to the Indian Sun about how it felt.


Indian Sun- How was the experience of running 21 KM?

Dr Rao– I used to be fit in my 20s, having played Australian Rules Football till the fourth year of medical school. However, I had never run more than 12km at a stretch and that was when I was 21 years of age. Now, I am double that age! I was not sure that a half-marathonwas within me, but with regular training with my running buddy Andrew Pinto, I was able to complete the run in 1 hour 55 minutes. Certainly not as fast as a Milka Singh, but nevertheless satisfactory!


Indian Sun– Are you also a yoga practitioner?

Dr Rao– Yes, I began doing yoga 20 years ago. In fact, I even completed a teacher training course in Coimbatore, but I never had time to teach it because I was studying medicine. Apart from the asana and pranayama practice, I have also been a regular meditator, and that has held me in good stead during my university and training days, and now as a surgeon. I practiced Transcendental Meditation for many years and have completed courses with Art of Living, as well as Isha Foundation in Coimbatore, and was instrumental in bringing Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev to Melbourne in 2011 and 2012. I also utilized hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming as a general practitioner.

Indian Sun– Don’t you find conflict between your many interests — surgery/yoga; running/meditation;wellness/wine?

Dr Rao- That’s funny! Not at all. There is place for everything. Surgery treats the final expression of illness. Yoga, meditation, exercise, and diet address the more fundamental cause. If you have a kidney cancer, you would be mad to try cure it with meditation alone. I believe in an integrative model of care where you choose the right modality in the right place at the right time. Guiding patients with prostate cancer is one of the most challenging roles as there are so many controversies and the media has made everyone thoroughly confused. I take a pragmatic and common sense approach!

Indian Sun-We hear you are a good golfer!

Dr Rao– Actually I am obsessed by the game! I love the pursuit of perfection that can never be realized. The journey is the purpose. I play off a handicap of 6 and hope to get down to 4 at some stage. I had the pleasure of playing with Ricky Ponting recently and he is a fantastic golfer as you can imagine. His handicap is +1.

Indian Sun– You come from a family of philanthropists. Can you tell us more?

Dr Rao– I owe much to my parents for the opportunitiesthey gave my brother and me. My father Dr. Jana Rao worked as a general surgeon and Consul General in Melbourne for 25 years. It was completely voluntary. I remember him being called out in the middle of the night to issue visas and we frequently had people in crisis staying at home. My mother cared for them like her own children. My grandfather still has an educational trust in Chennai to help with education and temple upkeep. My brother Harish served the AIBC. Politics got in the way unfortunately and he stepped aside. Many young Indians of my age group are now settled in their lives, and the time is ripe to look at how to give back to society.

Indian Sun– Why don’t you get more involved in local Indian politics?

Dr Rao– I have watched first-hand the dirty business of politics with my father being the Consul General. I enjoy a peaceful life! Hence, I have made a very conscious decision of staying out of that line. At the same time, I do feel a responsibility to give back. Let’s see what the future holds. In my opinion there are far too may who get into leadership roles for all the wrong reasons. In yogic terms, I say it’s Kali Yuga (the Dark Age!).

Indian Sun– So, what’s next?

Dr Rao– Life gets busier by the day. Apart from a busy surgical practice, I am married to Kanchana and we have two children – Arjun, 12, and Samika, 10. I look forward to continuing to promotehealth and wellness in different forums (writing, speaking, media, online) through yoga, meditation, nutrition and exercise. Having run a half marathon, I am now looking to run a full marathon in 2014. This will be to raise funds for YatraFoundation, which was started by my good friend Sanjay Jain. Also, there is a desperate need for an aged care facility for the Indian community. Some motivated youngsters must start thinking about this because our parent’s age group will be moving into this stage over the next five years.


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