A true model of perseverance and commitment…Dr Bhesham Hari is a ‘Special Person’
“There is no substitute for hard work. Real success is something that one can only earn; you can’t buy it and it certainly doesn’t come easy.”
By Sharmain Grainger
The notion that success doesn’t come easy has been amplified time and again by many over the centuries. However, there are perhaps only a few who can really speak of achieving success with the conviction that they went the extra mile to realise this outcome that most desire.
Maybe it is this very quality that has caused Dr Bhesham Hari to standout.
It is certainly not an easy task to readily deduce what makes an individual special, but after engaging in a conversation with this medical professional, there is no doubt that his life experiences can inspire. His journey speaks to the importance of never giving up on personal goals, even in the face of oppressive obstacles.
Born to Hari and Seerajie in Best Village, West Coast Demerara, on August 20, 1953, Bhesham Hari was the eldest of five children. He recalled during an interview with this publication that his was a poverty-stricken upbringing, stressing that absolutely nothing came easy to his family.
In 1960 his father was able to acquire a small plot of land at New Road, Vreed-en-Hoop, West Coast Demerara, which runs parallel to Best Village, where he built a modest family home. However, it was not until the following year that they were able to move to that property.
At the time young Bhesham was attending the St Swithin’s Anglican Primary School. The youngster was brilliant when it came to his school work. He aced every test he was tasked with writing. However, by the time he was 14 he was entrusted with making the decision of his life – one that would ultimately determine his destiny.
School was out at the time, so it was natural for him to be excited to accompany an elder relative to catch fish a fair distance off the Best foreshore. He was particularly enthused by the art of catching fish and was anxious to give it a try.
The catch that day was generous, but as fate would have it, a large wave would cause a huge fish to careen into him causing one of its bones to become stuck in his left foot. He was slimly built and could do nothing in the rough waters of that day. His left ankle and the fish had become as one, sailing in and out with the ripples left by the receding wave. The pain was excruciating but he waited patiently as his older relative attempted to rescue him. In his attempt to help the situation the relative decided to cut away the body of the fish leaving the bone lodged in Bhesham’s ankle.
It was a long way out from the Best foreshore and he vividly reminisced on how painful it was to be carried on the back of his relative all the way home. The fish bone was eventually removed with a pair of pliers and efforts were made to treat the wound with home remedies. This ordeal had left him thinking that he could somehow become a doctor himself some day to help alleviate pains of such magnitude. In fact, since he was 10 years old he had an inclination to assist persons with various forms of injuries.
However, his injured ankle coupled with the fact that the school he attended had a senior master who practiced corporal punishment with impunity, saw Bhesham channelling his mind to not return to school.
“I really didn’t want to go back to school. Just two weeks had passed and I still didn’t make up my mind to go back,” he recalled. However, his father confronted him one day demanding that he make a definitive decision either to return to school or take up fishing as a career.
After much consideration he opted for the school life and returned, though underprepared. Fortunate for him he was not placed in the senior master’s class, but would end up with whom he described as “the most wonderful teacher – Miss Smith.” Though he had lost out on some work he was able to prepare for the Preliminary Certificate (PC) Examination, which he passed. The next move was to undertake the College of Preceptors (CP) Examination, which was essentially the school-leaving exam.
Completing this examination would have allowed him to enter a secondary school. It however came with a price tag, as it was a London-based examination. Hari’s father could ill-afford to pay for that examination which saw him remaining an extra year in Miss Smith’s class.
“I couldn’t acquire the money. In those days it was just about $18.72, but that was no three cents money for my father to find, back in 1968,” he mused.
Having turned 15 he could no longer remain in the latter class and was forced to move on to the senior master’s class since he was unable to take the CP examination. Although the senior master’s attitude towards corporal punishment remained the same, Bhesham was not flogged once, as he had committed himself to study diligently.
And since he practically knew all of the school work by heart, he was able to secure some odd-jobs before and after school. With enough money in hand he was able to write the examination and when the results were unveiled in 1969 it was the young Hari topping St Swithin’s. His mind was all set to attend the West Demerara Secondary School, which he was sure he had qualified for having passed eight subjects with outstanding grades. However some logistical challenges within the school system would see him being unable to attend that school, or any secondary school for that matter.
The dilemma left him seriously contemplating a career in fishing. However, somewhere in the back of his mind he was convinced that he had a more prestigious calling.
“My father was a tailor and things were bad. We really couldn’t move forward with my education so I was basically stagnated,” he remembered.
Armed with his school-leaving results, the ambitious lad set out on a mission to find a job. He made several applications to a number of entities but his qualifications were not nearly enough. “I really couldn’t make it with that. I wasn’t getting anything but I knew I had the ability to do more…”
Recognising his son’s plight, the senior Hari decided to engage his eldest child in a serious “father-son” conversation. The result of that dialogue would see the young man convincing his father that he would school himself and prepare for the General Certificate of Education Examination (GCE).
He committed to continuing odd jobs including helping his father to sell newspapers to pay for textbooks and other materials required for his studies. He built himself a chalkboard out of wood collected from the Best foreshore to help with his self-administered lessons.
“I did everything on that board…sometimes when I finished there were piles of chalk dust. I was doing some Science and some Arts subjects, Mathematics and English too, a total of seven subjects and I studied for two full years on my own.”
With the monies accumulated over that time, he was able to pay for his GCE exams. When the results were released in 1973, Bhesham obtained better than average grades in all seven subjects he pursued. Following that he tried to secure a decent job, but this was still hard to find, a development which drove him to pursue even higher education.
With little financial resources at his family’s disposal he was forced to seek a scholarship from the Public Service Ministry (PSM) to attend the University of Guyana. Within 48 hours he was in receipt of a response and was on his way to advanced learning at the age of 19. He remembers Ms Maureen Yhap as one of the individuals attached to the Ministry who was instrumental in helping him in this regard. He graduated in 1975 with a Certificate in Medical Technology and was soon after asked to take up the reins of the laboratory at the Best Sanatorium (subsequently renamed the West Demerara Regional Hospital) as there was a shortage of Medical Technologists at the time.
After working for a few years with the aim of helping to build a better life for his parents, his masculine instincts would get the better of him when he laid eyes on “an outstanding young woman.” Though a man of his early 20s, he assumed a no-nonsense approach and soon began making immediate plans to tie the blissful wedding knot, which he did in 1977.
One year later the union produced a daughter at which point he recognised the need to improve his academic standing in order to better provide for his young family.
He again would benefit from a scholarship, compliments of the government, which saw him leaving for Cuba to undertake studies in General Medicine.
“At the time it was a very tough decision to make – to leave a wife and a young daughter – it was a sacrifice but I made up my mind that I had the ability to do better and wanted betterment for them. You just had to go higher and there was no way I could’ve remained as a Medical Technologist.”
Driven by a fervent desire to excel, Bhesham Hari would spend the next five years of his life dedicated to his studies. He returned to Guyana in 1985 and commenced a one-year period of internship at the Georgetown Public Hospital. The process saw him being rotated throughout various medical departments, and it was while he was doing his favourite rotation of all – Gynaecology and Obstetrics – that the most influential person in his life passed away. His father suffered a massive heart attack in 1986 and died suddenly.
Unwilling to be daunted by the loss of his father, he was forced to bury his emotions, having taken one day off for the funeral, and focused on completing his internship. “I wasn’t a doctor as yet and that is what my father wanted to see, and so I had to put my feelings aside. It was this man who wanted to see me accomplish this feat but he didn’t live to see that, but that goal couldn’t die with him,” he reflected.
After graduating and being bestowed with the title of Medical Doctor (M.D.), he was posted at the Georgetown Public Hospital and subsequently transferred to manage the Leguan/Wakenaam Hospital, which he did with distinction for two years. He mustered up a great deal of experience and popularity having served in locations such as Western Hog Island, Upper and Lower Bonasika, Fort Island and Great Truli Island, among other areas.
He was later posted to the West Demerara Regional Hospital where there were opportunities for promotion in the area of administration, but this certainly was not his passion. He would resign from that institution in 1991 to concentrate on his private practice which he continues faithfully today at his Lot 12 New Road, Vreed-en-Hoop, West Coast Demerara, residence.
“I do general medicine and whatever I can within my scope…whatever I can’t do I refer to the respective hospitals, but it is my passion to care for humanity as best as I can.”
Though a brilliant doctor, his abilities were certainly not enough to save the life of his wife, who like his father passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack in 1997. She had borne him a second daughter before her demise, leaving him with two children to care for as he struggled to build his private practice.
However, given his goal-driven demeanour, a second blow of that nature was not hard enough to keep him down, at least not for long. As fate would have it he would find love again and remarry. The latter union has since produced two children – a boy and a girl.
Today he remains committed to his family and of course his many patients.
“I am satisfied with the things I have done. What more could I ask for? Of course to see all my children get married and have children of their own,” said a contended-looking Dr Hari as he reflected on his life.
In considering that not all persons are able to achieve the things they aspire for, Dr Hari expressed his conviction that persons must have set-goals and ensure that they are not dependent on mere luck or chance.
“I would like to exhort the young and the elderly alike that once you have goals just believe in yourself and work towards them. You must not be deterred or falter from your determination to be what you want to be.”
In fact, this was the principle on which Dr Hari premised his very existence since he was just a young boy. This mind-set, he recounted, was inspired by two books – ‘How to win friends and influence people’ and ‘How to stop worrying and start living’ by Dale Carnegie – which he read as a 13 year-old.
Those publications, he intimated, were his “guiding lights along life’s difficult path”. According to him, oftentimes people hear of success stories but do not recognise that “there is no substitute for hard work. Real success is something that one can only earn; you can’t buy it and it certainly doesn’t come easy”.
The medical practitioner has in many ways sought to give back to the society through various charitable undertakings and ardently believes that motivation is a key factor in realising success. His accomplishments he credits to his deceased father who, according to him, was nothing short of a God-sent motivator.
Dr Hari’s experiences have also taught him to denounce societal issues such as domestic violence and child abuse as well as instances of hypocrisy and to always be grateful to those who contributed to his achievements. This, he opined, has helped him to lead a simple and humble life.