Krishna's love of singing came from joining his school choir.
Krishna's love of singing came from joining his school choir.

Retired surgeon turned chorister lives life to the full

WHILE Krishna Rao may have now retired as a surgeon he has found how to live life. Fully.

His outgoing nature is infectious. He sweeps all he meets along with him.

As the latest member of the Sunshine Coast Oriana Choir, having joined just four months ago, he has fitted in perfectly as a bass singer.

"If you had told me a year ago that this is what I would be doing, I would not have believed you," Krishna tells me as we travel between Budapest and Bratislava on the choir's tour of Central Europe.

This comes from someone who has done so much in his life already.

An event that stands out in an already active life was that at the magical age of 50 his wonderful wife Sona took him on a dive adventure to the coral atoll of Lakshadweep, north of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.

It was scuba diving and he even scared the instructor with his enthusiasm.

Instead of falling in backwards off the boat he tried a forward racing dive ... with full equipment on.

The force of the dive with the weight of equipment he had on could have been fatal.

It wasn't and he lived to write another chapter in a rich life.

Born in Ootacamund, which was the summer capital of Madras residency during the British Raj, Krishna worked at various places throughout India, Malaysia and the UK.

Mysore was where he worked most, a city of 1.2 million famous for its temple, silk and sandalwood, teak and rosewood furniture as well as coffee.

Going to school with the Irish Christian Brothers at St Edmunds in Shillong, Krishna had always wanted to be a doctor, but whether that was due to his mother or his own wishes remains in doubt.

"Mum always wanted to be a doctor and couldn't," he said.

"I thought it was my idea. Yet wiser now, I believe it was my mother who influenced me."

Krishna's involvement with Australia started with Richie Benaud's touring cricket team of India in 1959. His heroes were Norman O'Neill and Neil Harvey.

Krishna's uncles were good cricketers - one played first class in India.

As for Krishna, he was a good cricketer at school - opening bat and as he describes "a butter-fingered fielder."

His next contact with Australia was through his father, who was a good tennis player and coached as well.

"He made me read Lawn Tennis, The Australian Way. Players such as Rosewall, Hoad and Mal Anderson had chapters in the book.

"Then while doing the English O levels, I read The Far Country by Neville Shute. It is about a Czech doctor and his experience as a displaced person in Australia."

Not surprising perhaps, Krishna has written a novel, The Coucal Collaterals. It's about mistaken identity which leads to an innocent doctor being arrested as a terrorist.

It's set in the UK, US, India and Iraq.

So how did Krishna get into singing?

"One thing I wanted to do was write my memoirs," he said, "but I got writer's block.

"I mentioned to my dad's carer that I would like to sing, in a band or something like that.

"She mentioned Oriana Choir. That's where it started.

"To my total surprise, I was accepted.

"That was four months ago. I am the baby of the choir."

Krishna's love of singing came from the school choir, starting as a soprano.

"A major success was The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves.

"I would like to sing more opera. It has to appeal to me, to my peculiar taste in music.

"Mozart, Carmen, La Traviata, Marriage of Figaro.

"I also like other music ... The Beatles, some old country such as Jim Reeves.

"Oriana has given me an opportunity. Even though it's intensive, it has supplemented what I was trying to do by learning to play the sax.

"It's helping me to do all the sorts of stuff I wanted to as a medical student at the age of 16."

Krishna met Sona when he was a house surgeon and she was a third year medical student.

That was in Delhi. Her father had fractured a collarbone from riding a motor scooter.

"She came in with him. And I continued to pursue her relentlessly.

"A year to the day later he fractured his leg. I believe he thought things were not going fast enough."

Krishna came to Australia because after completing surgical training in Delhi he went to Malaysia as a lecturer in surgery and was training Malaysians for the Royal Australasian Palliative Surgeons College.

They allowed him to sit for an exam and he was accepted without setting foot in Australia but that enabled him to go to the UK for further training.

Back in India, he worked nearly 20 years with some sabbaticals in the UK.

In 2006, nearing the end of his career, he set out to see if he could work in Australia.

It was the one thing missing from his cv.

After a short locum at Redcliffe in 2006, he enjoyed it so much that when a position opened up at Rockhampton he joined as a staff specialist surgeon.

Now living at Twin Waters, he regards the area as paradise.

"My wife has got to do her training as a paediatrician.

"We have two boys. One is a mechanical engineer in Sydney and the other a computer software engineer with Deloite in New York."

The highlights so far for Krishna on the choir's tour of Europe include the very first performance at Matthias Church in Budapest.

"That was stunning," he said, "just like Budapest itself.

"And the fact we were able to satisfy our audiences in terms of their enjoyment."

For a man who has achieved much, Krishna's tips are simple: "Take life one day at a time and take the rough with the smooth.

"Enjoy what you have and not hanker for what you don't have."

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