People Of Velemegna
- Dr. Anselm Christopher (“Christy”) Salins (June 10, 1936 – July 26, 2002)
- Dr. Mrs. Sushila (Pauliah) Salins (June 1, 1939 – September 10, 2003)
Velemegna was officially begun in 1968. But the deep desire of its founders to help heal India’s poorest and most needy people was born long before then.
Christy was born into a Christian family. His father, a lighthouse keeper, was determined that at least one of his children would be a dedicated Christian doctor and named his son Christopher, meaning “bearer of Christ’s cross.” My father’s unusual compassion for people was exceeded only by his passion for (and excellence at) the game of Cricket. But dreams of glory as a professional athlete ended with a serious accident at age seventeen. A visit in hospital from a Muslim convert to Christianity helped turn Christy from Cricket to Christ. While studying at Madras Christian College, he accepted Jesus Christ, and very soon felt called to preach the gospel.
Sushila (“Suzy”) Pauliah was the first of six children, raised in the lap of luxury on a tea plantation in Ceylon. Although both parents were Christians, life was not easy for her mother, a strict disciplinarian, married to an alcoholic husband, who made up his mind that his favorite child, Suzy, would be a doctor. After accepting Jesus Christ, Suzy eagerly set off for the Christian Medical Center in Vellore to fulfill her father’s dream, and now her own. She received Bachelor Degrees in both Medicine and Surgery and was well on her way.
Having begun his medical studies at CMC in 1957, Christy soon began sharing his testimony with prison inmates and witnessing miraculous changes of heart in notorious criminals. As thoughts of joining the clergy mingled with medical terms, his life took another dramatic turn when a Christian neurosurgeon observed that “there are far more people who go to hospitals than to churches.” He finished his medical studies, and then, in December, 1963, he listened as a fellow medical student shared her testimony and love of Jesus. Christy decided, in that moment, that Suzy would be his life’s partner.
Deeply moved by the words of 84-year-old Dr. Ida Scudder, the American-born founder of CMC – “I love India. Go serve rural India.” – Suzy and Christy gained experience treating India’s neglected and shunned leprosy patients in Tamil Nadu, and longed to be sent to Nepal or Bhutan. They chose, instead, to undertake the demanding work all others had rejected in the remote district of Bidar, northern Karnataka state. In 1969, Velemegna was officially begun. It stands for all that was dear to my parents, and remains the guiding light for all of us today:
Village Evangelical Leprosy Eradication Medical Educational Good News Association
Suzy was a wonderful storyteller, but it was her simplicity and prayerful lifestyle that most helped the growing family through difficult years ahead. Mum instilled in all four of us – Swarthick, Serena, Sundeep and me – strong Christian values. She saw to it that we received good educations and lifted every care and need to the Lord. Answered prayers were eagerly shared with others to encourage and uplift them. Suzy was a loving and wise parent, missionary, friend to many, mentor and always a doctor. In 1984, she received a Diploma in Public Health and an M.Sc. in Community Health in London, England.
In 1991, Christy underwent major abdominal surgery for early pancreatic cancer. He recovered and cheerfully proclaimed that God had given him “second innings in life to live for the Lord.” For another decade, he dedicated himself to caring for the needs of his beloved fellow Indians in Bidar, until a new, inoperable cancer moved him on to New Life on July 20, 2002. He passed away in the arms of his beloved, life-long companion, Suzy.
In 2002, Sushila underwent surgery for ovarian cancer. Treatment was only moderately and momentarily successful. She too went “home” on September 10, 2003, but remains the inspiration for much of what is accomplished at Velemegna to this day.
In their marriage and work for the Lord, mother’s calm and peaceful manner gave stability to father’s exuberance. Christy was often described as the “visionary,” while Suzy’s positive thinking and sound, practical, common sense transformed dreams into reality.
Dr. Mrs. Sybil (Salins) Meshramkar (director)
Dr. Sybil [Salins] Meshramkar, the current Director of Velemegna, is the oldest child of its founders, Christy and Sushila Salins. With the support, guidance, efforts and prayers of three younger siblings – Swarthick, Serena and Sundeep – she has kept their parents’ work going and growing since 2003. In addition to directing all activities of Velemegna from her home within the Salins Eye Hospital, she is solely responsible for all hospital surgeries.
As a child, Sybil excelled in the sciences and seemed destined, like both her parents, to become a physician. But she had other plans and was attracted to the “arts.” The “arts,” however, were not attracted to her, and in time, she made the difficult decision to attend medical school. After completing her studies, she returned to Bidar to start a small hospital in the nearby village of Baridabad. Except for spiders, snakes, and scorpions, she was pretty much by herself. Only by curing a sick woman who had come to her after all other doctors had turned her away was she able to build confidence in her practice. Soon, people of the village came to her for care and the hospital began to flourish.
Feeling called to pursue post-graduate work, Sybil journeyed to Punjab to study ophthalmology. Several years later, she returned to CMC in Vellore – now with her young son, Vineet – to learn the surgical skills needed to become the best possible eye doctor. In London, she completed a course in Community Eye Health at the Institute of Ophthalmology and followed that with a Masters in Science. The years of living in a large, unfamiliar city with a young son were the most challenging. But by God’s grace, she was awarded an A+ for her studies and was ready to return to India.
When her parents fell ill within six months of each other, Sybil cared for them and felt burdened to continue the work they had given their lives to in Bidar. In January 2002, Velemegna was on the verge of shutting down. Christy’s and Sushila’s children had to decide what to do with the hospital. Sybil felt in her heart that carrying on their parents’ work was what she should do, even though her siblings were pursuing callings elsewhere. In July, 2002, her father passed away, and with her mother too ill to take on the responsibilities of the hospital, Sybil was made director of Velemegna. Soon, her mother also passed away.
At first, Sybil felt drawn to carry on her parents’ dream. In time, their dreams for Velemegna became her dreams, to be added on, expanded and improved. Today, despite major battles that must be waged on an almost daily basis, God has always helped her to see the silver lining around every dark cloud. She has earned the undying affection of literally thousands of people – from little children to the very elderly – whom she has helped to see, or whose vision she has improved, or saved, through her surgical skills. Encouraged by her family, supported by highly-trained and dedicated nurses and other medical specialists, Sybil has raised Velemegna to the highest standards of care in India and been recognized for her service and achievements in her native land and abroad.
She looks forward to welcoming her son, Vineet, into the medical profession after he completes his current course of study and later internship. Even her daughter, Khushi – not yet a “teenager” – wants to become a doctor. With the indispensable help of a loving God, the work of Velemegna will continue and grow for years to come.