Kalyani was born on 25 June 1951 in Karnataka, India. She did her medical training in Pune and gained entry to the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore to specialise in psychiatry. However she left NIMHANS to come to the UK in March 1975 when an opportunity arose. She received some support from an uncle who was working as a GP in England. She did her basic psychiatric training in Charing Cross and St Bernard's hospitals, passing her membership examination at the first attempt at a very young age. She did her higher psychiatric training in Oxford by joining the ‘Married Women’s Training Scheme’ which enabled her to work part time. She has continued to work part time with a job share partner as a Consultant since 1989. When not working as a Consultant she is involved in work with the Ministry of Justice and the General Medical Council which she plans to continue even after retirement in addition to her work in rural India with a charity, BasicNeeds.
Even before I went to do medicine I knew that I wanted to be a psychiatrist because of my experiences in my childhood. There was an uncle of a friend of mine who – now looking back – suffered from schizophrenia. He would collect wooden twigs and would be seen talking to them. He was the ‘village madman’. In India, mothers used to frighten their misbehaving children with a threat of calling the ‘madman to take them away’. My mother did the same. However, I was never frightened of him because he was a very gentle man. I used to think the opposite to what everyone else thought of him. I thought that he had special power to see things/people that others could not see. So I often tried to sit close to him to see if my eyes could see what he saw. Of course I never could see who he was talking to. I remember very clearly when I decided to study wanting to find out the special powers he had that allowed him to see what no one else could... And that’s how my interest in psychiatry grew.