From Rags to Riches

The story of an ambitious fruit stall boy who travelled the world, worked in brain surgery and then came home to India to set up a hospital!
20 January 2015

Interview with 

Professor Robin Sengupta, Institute of Neurosciences, Kolkata


Bowl of fruit


The story of an ambitious fruit stall boy who travelled the world, worked in brain surgery and then came home to India to set up a hospital!

The Institute treats over 100 people a day with patients travelling afar from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and across Bengal. The man who set the hospital up is Professor Robin Sengupta and I met him at his first workplace in a fruit stall in bustling bazaar.

Robin - When I was 9 or 10 years old, I did not have the means to go to the school. Our economic condition was so low that we had to find ourselves to try to make ends meet. My mother was struggling and we thought that we shall have to do a little bit our bits. So, in the market, just like him, I used to sell fruits. Come here.

Hannah - What's your name?

Male - My name is Mohammed Nasimudin.

Robin - And so, I was just like one of him. Of course, I was much younger than him because I was only 9 or 10-year-old. And then as soon as I got the opportunity, I moved upward and then I went to school, school to college, and college to - the rest would be history. In the beginning, this is what I had to do.

Hannah - How much do you earn each week?

Robin - (foreign language)

Male - (foreign language)

Robin - So, his own income is 500 or 600 rupees per day which is a very meagre salary.

Hannah - Would he be able to visit the hospital that you've setup?

Robin - Yeah. He will be able to visit. For them, 20% at very, very low cost to them and those who are extremely poor, we give them free service, free consultation, free managings once a month. And that is due and then whenever they come, they have got a very subsidised attention.

Hannah - Has your experience of working selling fruit when you were very young, has that made you build a hospital that then these people can now afford to go to?

Robin - Well, I was very ambitious and I wanted to be somebody. And then when my childhood was such that I can't forget these guys. So, this is the thing. So, I am to do something great but at the same time not forgetting these guys.

Hannah - And we'll continue to follow Robin's journey later in the show. But first, to find out more about his early years, I met his childhood friend.

Robin's childhood friend - Dr. Sengupta and myself, both of us came from same village of Bangladesh. His father was a homeopathic doctor but not so well to do. That's why in his childhood, I saw him selling banana and green vegetables in a local market. Since his father was not able to bring in lots of money, he was unable to give proper education even their clothing to his children. he used to come to school barefooted. Robin, he was not in a position to pay for his education. He could not attend school regularly but he used to collect school notes from other classmates. To sustain his livelihood, at that time, he started teach small boys just to earn his livelihood. He was good in all subjects. So, the thing is, his ambition was to be a doctor, that's why he got himself to medical college.

Hannah - So, even when he was very young, he had a vision that he would build a hospital?

Robin's childhood friend - It was his dream, it was his ambition from his childhood to be a doctor and to make a hospital to some of the people - poor people of our country.

Hannah - And we'll be discovering later Robin's experience during his 53 years working within the National Health Service in the UK.


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