Nursing A DreamNot only the manual worker built a hospital but also made heryounger son a doctorBy Sahana Ghosh, Kolkata 12 May 2013Subhasini Mistry toiled for years as amanual labourer, a housemaid and avegetable-seller. At 70, she can look backwith satisfaction at a two-storeyed,whitewashed building, the realisation ofher dream to build a hospital for the poor- all because she couldnt afford propermedical treatment for her husband andbecame a widow at 23.Her younger son Ajoy is a doctor at thehospital which has 12 doctors and over 25 beds and runs on donations.Mistry was grief-stricken after her husband died, but she resolved to build a hospital for theneedy so that others would not have to suffer the same fate as her husband. What followedwas a life of abject poverty and extreme physical labour as the mother of four soldiered onwith the single-minded pursuit of setting up the hospital.Over time, she managed to saveenough to buy a one-bigha (one-thirdof an acre) plot.Now 47 years down the line,Humanity Hospital, in Hanspukurvillage near Kolkata, stands tall andproud, serving the poor free of costsince 1996, a testimony to a singlewomans grit, determination andnever-say-die spirit against allpossible odds.As Mistry, a pygmy of a woman ingirth but an extraordinary woman indeed, looks back at her past, and saysin a firm voice: "This is all I could doon my own. I dont regret that I had toput two of my children in anorphanage, that I couldnt educate Poor Widows gift to society - Humanity Hospital (Photo: IANS)
them. There were things needed to be done for the greater good."Mistry said: "When my husband passed away, I was in shock initially. Then I realised I hadfour hungry mouths to feed. My oldest child, a son, was four-and-a-half-years old at the time.My youngest, a daughter, was one-and-a-half."I had no education and couldnt even tell the time. So I decided I would do whatever workthat was available. I started out as an aayah (domestic help) in the nearby houses."During that period, she made a silent promise to herself: she would set up a hospital for theneedy that would provide treatment free of cost.Gradually she realised that house work alone would not suffice; so she took to brick-layingand other physically demanding chores to supplement her meagre income. Her two sonswould lend a hand at work. Early on, she had made up her mind that come what may, shewould educate one of her sons to be a doctor.Now the younger son Ajoy, a doctor, carries on her mothers mission at the hospital."I did everything. My children used to earn Re.1 while I used to get Rs.1.25. I never spent onmyself. Whatever I earned, I saved most of it for the hospital."Some of my earnings were spent on educating my younger son and daughter. Unfortunatelythe other two I had to send to an orphanage," Mistry said.She put aside the majority of what she earned and after around 30 years of scrimping andsaving, she had collected enough to buy a plot of land."One of the babus (landlords) was selling off his land. I went to him and fell at his feet to letme buy the plot for a lesser amount.He relented and finally a part of my dream came true," said Mistry.In 1993, the Humanity Trust was formedand a temporary clinic was set up with thecombined effort of all the residents."I went about asking them to contribute inany way they could. Some donated money,some wood, some gave the material neededfor construction while some volunteered forconstruction work," said Mistry.Bit by bit, a one-room clinic came intobeing. And at Mistrys behest three doctorsfrom nearby areas started treating the sickfree of cost.
In 1996, a permanent building was inaugurated by then West Bengal governorK.V.Raghunath Reddy.Since then Mistry and her small staff, which includes one of her daughters, has never lookedback. In 2009, she won the prestigious Godfrey Phillips Bravery Award in the mind-of-steelcategory.According to Mistry, a lot of things remain to be done which have hit a pause due to afinancial crunch."Our main problem is shortage of doctors.They are only available on specific dates.Since we do not pay them, they are lessinclined to visit regularly."Due to lack of funds, the ICU is yet to becompleted. I wish I could somehow get thefinance to see these things through," saidMistry, who presides over urgent mattersevery day.Despite the tough road ahead, Mistryrefuses to be bogged down."My wish will be fulfilled entirely when doctors and nurses are available round the clock andwhen we can provide all the services of a modern hospital," she said. – IANS.