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N. N. Wig


This monograph is most lovingly dedicated to Prof N.N. Wig. Read here a brief biodata of Prof Wig, as well as two write ups on him by the husband-wife team of his grateful students, Dr. A.K. Kala And Ms Ravinder Kala.



Brief Biodata

Dr. N. N. Wig


Dr. Narendra Wig is amongst the foremost psychiatrists of India. He had his medical education at Medical College, Lucknow, where he obtained his degrees of MBBS and MD (Medicine). He also holds a double diploma in Psychological Medicine – one from England and another from Scotland. He is a fellow of India’s prestigious National Academy of Medical Science. In 1991, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, London, honoured him with the highest award of the Honorary Fellowship of the College. Prof. Wig is the only psychiatrist from India to be thus honoured. In 1997, Dr. Wig was designated as Professor Emeritus, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh.

Dr. Wig started the Department of Psychiatry at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh in 1963 and was its Professor and Head from 1968. In a few years, this became one of the leading centers of psychiatry in India. In 1976, the department got international recognition as WHO Collaborating Centre for training and research in mental health.

Among his various research studies, Prof. Wig will be particularly remembered for his work in Community Mental Health in the villages of Raipur Rani Block in Haryana, which became a model of Primary Mental health Care Programme in India and in many other countries.

In 1980, Prof. Wig moved to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, as Professor and Head of the Department. In 1984, he joined World Health Organisation as the Regional Advisor Mental Health and remained at Alexandria, Egypt, till 1990. In this capacity, he was responsible for developing mental health programmes in 22 countries, from Pakistan to Morocco in the Middle East and North Africa.

Dr. Wig is a leading figure in International Psychiatry. He has published over 300 scientific papers in different journals and books. He is currently a member of the WHO Advisory panel on Mental Health. For the last ten years, he is on the Steering Committee of

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the World Psychiatric Association’s International Programme to reduce stigma and discrimination due to mental illness.

Dr. Wig has won many national and international awards. In October 2000, on his 70th birthday, a book Mental Health in India 1950 – 2000 was published in his honour in which many leading national and international mental health experts contributed. In April 2003, Bombay Psychiatric Society honoured him with a Life Time Achievement Award. In September 2004, Fountain House, Psychiatric Centre at Lahore, Pakistan, named a newly constructed building as Prof. N.N. Wig Unit, in recognition of his services to the development of mental health in the countries of South Asia.

Dr. Wig has travelled widely to many parts of the world. After his retirement he has settled in Panchkula. He is happily married and has two sons. He continues to be active in clinical service, teaching and voluntary social service activities. He is closely associated with the work of Servants of the People Society, Lajpat Rai Bhawan, Chandigarh, where he conducts free mental health clinic twice a week and also organizes regular lectures and discussion groups on mental health for the general public.


(Prof. Wig has recently joined the Honorary International Advisory Board of Mens Sana Monographs. We most heartily welcome him on the Board. eds.)




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Prof. N.N. Wig : Pioneer, Conscientious Researcher, and a Multi-faceted Personality


Dr. Anirudh Kala


I met Prof. Wig for the first time on 1st January 1970. That was the day I joined the Department of Psychiatry at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, as a junior resident. That was also the day I received a piece of very unusual advice. When, like any keen to please new junior resident, I asked him as to which books should I read as a new comer in Psychiatry, he said, “You have a long residency;” (it used to be four years in PGI at that time), “during the first year, read other things.” When I asked, “What other things?” he said, “Anything but Psychiatry.”

It was only later that I could gauge the depth of that advice about the extreme importance of “other things” in the practice of psychiatry, and that I was being told to absorb those “other things” when I had a fresh mind before I plunged into the main stream of psychiatry.

It has been a matter of joy and pride to have known Prof. Wig for these thirty-five years. One feels special because of this association.

Early seventies were heady days for Indian Psychiatry and for the general hospital psychiatry movement, which I am convinced has been the only true revolution in Indian Psychiatry to have happened so far. (Others were just matters of quantitative growth. Community

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Psychiatry could have been another but it has not happened on a scale to have made a difference). Prof Wig was one of the few pioneers of the general hospital psychiatry movement in the country at that time.

A series of seminal research projects on motivation and psychological sequelae of family planning measures were also ongoing in the departments those years. Prof Wig used to share the progress in an enthusiastic manner with even the junior-most resident. Some years later, when Sanjay Gandhi’s aggressive family planning campaigns during Emergency came into force, he would lament in the coffee room that years of hard work and data had become less relevant.

Thorough and Conscientious

Prof. Wig has been a very thorough and conscientious research worker from the very beginning. He was very particular about details and honesty of data collection. On the other hand, at times, he alone could see the direction a set of data was pointing and would make suitable interim changes. The latter quality I could experience first hand many years later when he was the leader of a task force of ICMR in the early eighties, which formulated and monitored a whole slew of important research projects all over the country. I used to participate as an investigator from Goa in the then famous multi-centred Acute Psychosis study. His contribution as a national research leader in those years was immense and it permeated to the whole country, although it is not often talked about in that deserved a manner.

This expertise as a research leader came to fore many times over the years, particularly during the famous community psychiatry experiment of Raipur Rani.

Prof Wig was trained in UK. He belongs to a clinical tradition, which in those days was very different from the American tradition in many ways (including diagnosing more Affective disorders than Schizophrenias, generally paying more attention to Organic factors and putting emphasis on Phenomenology rather than Psychoanalytic factors). All of these incidentally have borne the test of time and the difference in American and British Psychiatry has now narrowed.

In departmental discussions, whether about a contentious diagnosis or a theoretical standpoint, the atmosphere was highly democratic (we took it for granted then but realized later that it was not so everywhere), and heated discussions were very common. I remember the case of a young woman who had been admitted for a

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month and used to have multiple hysterical fits in the wards. The case was taken to the departmental clinical meeting where the discussion revolved around the early childhood and psychodynamic and psychoanalytic aspects of the symptoms and formulation of analytic psychotherapy as plan of treatment. Everybody, including the residents, senior residents, and two of the three consultants, agreed about almost everything when Prof Wig surprised everyone by saying that the woman was primarily a case of hypomania and hysterical fits were only secondary. None of us agreed till her second admission, a year later, when she was admitted with a frank excitement, and with no fits.

Prof Wig was adept at looking out for and focusing on the hidden positive aspects of even a thoroughly hopeless situation, or a person. During discussions, when we would get restless about a particular resident’s long winded discussion which was even factually wrong, Prof. Wig, at the end of it, would pick up a sentence (which was spoken as an aside, or not spoken at all!) and expand it into something very nice, coherent and positive. His teaching method was through encouragement and by promoting redeeming features of a student, or for that matter of any body else he came across.

Fair and Encouraging

He was very fair and encouraging as an internal examiner, without taking sides. Towards the end of my residency I was posted in consultation–liaison and saw a particularly interesting case which I requested him to see and give his opinion on, since my own diagnosis of the case seemed far fetched even to me. I thought the patient was suffering from Acute Intermittent Porphyria. Dr Wig saw the patient, agreed with the diagnosis (it was subsequently confirmed by biochemical investigations) and patted my back for having thought of such a rare condition. Six months later during my MD examination, the external examiner (Prof K. C. Dube) asked me some questions about episodic psychosis. I gave the standard answers but he wanted more and rarer causes and even gave me a hint about the King of England who was called mad. It did not occur to me till Prof Wig said, “It is the same rare diagnosis that you yourself made on a real patient six months back”. And the penny dropped!

He would sometimes get angry with us, but it was very subtle and would have a long lasting effect. I remember once, Salman Akhtar (brother of lyricist Javed Akhtar, and now a famous psychoanalyst in

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America) who was one year senior to me, came to the wards wearing a flowery shirt of mauve and purple colour. Prof. Wig looked up and down at him and said, “Salman, sometimes I think, it would be a good idea for us to wear white coats.” Salman never wore that shirt again in the hospital.

Encyclopaedic Knowledge

Apart from Psychiatry, Prof. Wig has an encyclopaedic knowledge of almost everything – be it films, literature, classical music, historical maps (one of his hobbies), rare species of birds (bird watching is another hobby), genealogies, wines (he hardly drinks), or Urdu poetry. One of the Indian Psychiatry Society, North Zone’s, Conferences was once held in Solan and a visit was arranged to the famous brewery there. I overheard Prof. Wig talking to the brewery master about the intricacies of making beer. He was so awestruck at the end of those twenty minutes that he came down all those steps with folded hands to see him off. Every winter, Jalandhar (about 150 kms from Chandigarh) hosts the famous Harvallabh festival of classical music. Till a few years back, Prof. Wig would attend it often, in spite of the biting cold.

Prof. Wig’s wife, Dr.Veena Wig is a remarkable person in her own right and would need a separate write up to do her justice. She has a doctorate in the history of art, she is very elegant, very graceful and has a distinct presence of her own, not an easy task under the circumstances. As to who is the scholar in the house, the question is still open. She is his constant companion at most of the academic events. Students in the department were frequently invited to their home and she has been looked upon by generations of residents as a mother figure.

Prof. Wig’s students are spread out throughout the world today but they keep in touch with him out of deep affection and gratitude, and probably also to continue this process of nurturing by him for as long as possible. May God grant him a long life.



( Dr. Anirudh Kala, the Founder President of Indian Association of Private Psychiatry has been a distinguished researcher and clinician practising in Ludhiana, Punjab, India. He has recently joined the Honorary International Advisory Board of Mens Sana Monographs. We most heartily welcome him on the Board and thank him for his engaging write-up on his teacher.)



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Prof. N.N. Wig : A Larger than Life Persona who Makes People Feel Immediately at Ease


Dr. Ravinder Kala



Prof N.N. Wig is a handsome man with a warm smile. He makes people feel immediately at ease. My first meeting with Prof. Wig was in his office at Psychiatry Department, Post Graduate Institute (PGI), Chandigarh, in May 1973. My friend Anuradha and I were posted at Psychiatry Department, PGI for four months of internship from Delhi School of Social Work, Delhi University. We presented our papers at the tiny administrative office attached to the professor’s office and were pleasantly surprised when we were called in within fifteen minutes. His warm smile immediately made us feel calm and confident and we could discuss the details of our training programme with an immense feeling of comfort.

I have had the honour of knowing Prof. Wig as a doctor, a teacher, a researcher and personally as a guide and mentor. During my training period, I found he was a doctor with immense compassion, concern and positive regard towards his patients. His body language, interviewing style, choice of accurate words and his humane approach towards patients were great learning experiences for the trainees. We would often hear the patients and their family members saying that half the illness just went away after meeting Dr. Wig and talking to

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him. He had extremely busy outpatient days. But each patient went back satisfied with the faith that he would definitely recover because the great doctor had seen him.

Powerful Personality

He has a powerful personality and no one can remain untouched by his aura. During my training, Prof. Wig asked me to take up the very challenging case of a severely depressed girl who was admitted in the psychiatry ward. She didn’t recover in spite of being in the ward for two weeks. I remember his expression of deep concern for the patient as he asked me to start the counselling process. I still remember his words when, while referring the patient, he told me that as a young girl, I may use empathy and try to enter her sad inner world to help her find a spark that could help her develop a wish to live. His words filled me with an inner urge to help the patient and to come to the wards in the evenings to assess her psychological state at different times. We all as a team were finally able to treat this patient and all of us seemed to be working through the compassion and concern experienced by our team leader, and enthused into us.

I came for my training under Prof. Wig fired with an ambition to be a successful counsellor and psychotherapist. At the Psychiatry Department of PGI, I found a very rich environment for learning. We all were in great awe of Prof. Wig, and he provided us with a number of suggestions, reading material and lectures, which made difficult concepts seem very easy. We also developed an obsession for researching each and every aspect of a topic before making any presentation. He encouraged us to develop a positive and helping attitude towards each other. So, if one person was working on a topic, everybody gave him/her further references whenever they found anything related to that topic. He encouraged group discussions and valued opinions expressed by each of us, which helped us mature into confident professionals.

I once remember coming to work 15 minutes late. Dr. Wig just looked at his watch and then looked at me. Even today, I remember that incident and it makes me punctual and organized in all my work schedules. He also has an extremely good sense of humour. Once a resident was late for the rounds and Prof. Wig greeted him by saying, “Good Afternoon!”

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When I completed my training on 31st August 1973, I was offered my first job by Prof. Wig. I started my career as a Research Assistant on a project with the Indian Council of Medical Research. Prof. Wig is an innovative researcher and has been actively involved in the research projects of ICMR and WHO. He is an honest researcher and whenever our research results differed from the reviewed literature, he helped us find the underlying reasons for these differences and this helped us develop an ability to look for newer insights into complex problems. In 1976, the Psychiatry Department, PGI, got international recognition as WHO Collaborating Centre for training and research in mental health due to the excellent research work done by Prof. Wig and his team. He started the Community Mental Health work in the villages of Raipur Rani Block in Haryana. I was fortunate enough to be associated with the Raipur Rani Project, which helped me developed the skills of working with the community. Raipur Rani became a modelof Primary Mental Health Care Programme in India and in many other countries due to Prof. Wig’s efforts.

In 1980, Prof. Wig became the Professor and Head of Psychiatry Department at All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, and this gave him the distinction of heading two premier institutions of India. After that, he took long strides towards rare achievements in his career. He joined the World Health Organization in 1984 as a Regional Advisor, Mental Health and was in Alexandria, Egypt till 1990. During this period, he touched the lives of millions of people in 22 countries from Pakistan to Morocco in the Middle East, and North Africa. As a researcher, he has enriched Psychiatry with innovative work and has published over 300 scientific papers in different journals and books. He is on the Steering Committee of the World Psychiatric Association’s International Programme to reduce stigma and discrimination due to mental illness. His contributions to the field of mental health have earned him a number of awards and we feel proud of our Professor’s image in both the National and International arena.

Dr. (Ms.) Veena Wig

Prof. Wig and his beautiful, charming and artistic wife, Dr. (Ms.) Veena Wig have been an inspiration for all the people who have had the pleasure of interacting with them. Dr. (Ms.) Veena Wig is a Ph.D in Fine Arts and has continued to study and enhance herself after her marriage due to a supportive and caring husband. She is an

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exceptionally compassionate and intelligent woman. She is a multifaceted personality with interest in arts and literature, and is today an eminent social worker of North India. She has been a role model and an inspiration for me. She has made a great contribution in shaping me as an individual.

Parties at home and Colourful T shirts too

There were departmental parties to welcome new people and to wish farewell to those leaving the department. This charming couple hosted these parties at home in order to give a personal touch to the professional relationships. These beautiful gestures of Prof. Wig created life-long bonds with him in us all. And then we had those departmental picnics where Prof. Wig used to wear colourful T shirts and participated with us in all group games. The memory of these picnics even today makes me feel immensely happy.

Prof. Wig’s impressive personality also helped in attracting a lot of intelligent doctors towards Psychiatry and has helped in making Psychiatry popular and fashionable. Being a student of Prof. Wig has been a fortunate experience for me. It was the experience of being shaped completely as a professional with a sense of responsibility, discipline, work ethics and developing the personality of a therapist. All the students of Prof. Wig have been so similarly shaped by him, by his ethics and his values besides the clinical training.

I met my husband, Dr. Anirudh Kala in the Psychiatry Department of PGI. We got married and worked together at the Psychiatry Department of Goa Medical College, CMC, Ludhiana, and are still working as a team at our private Psychiatry Nursing Home.

We are grateful to Prof. Wig for shaping us as professionals and we still work with the professional approach, ethics and values given to us by him.

Today, as I look at Prof. Wig’s persona, he seems larger than life. I wish him and his graceful wife, Dr. (Ms.) Veena, a happy, fulfilling and a long life. I will always be grateful to them for being such an inspiration in my life.


( Dr. Ravinder Kala, Ph. D. is a Clinical Psychologist practising in Ludhiana, Punjab, India, and the better half of Dr. Anirudh Kala. We most heartily thank her for this endearing write-up on her teacher. -eds.)



[Read further at:

Medicine as a corporate enterprise, patient welfare centered profession, or patient welfare centered professional enterprise?

http://www.msmonographs.org/showBackIssue.asp?issn=0973-1229;year=2005;volume=3;issue=2;month=November ]




A. K. Kala



Mens Sana Monographs [MSM]: A Mens Sana Research Foundation Publication


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