All five sisters alumni of Mysore Medical College
By Sujata Rajpal
Many decades ago, long before the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao slogan was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015, some people were already implementing this. One such couple was Nanjaiah Marimadaiya (born in 1916) and his wife Javanamma (born in 1930), the residents of N.R. Mohalla, Mysuru, who followed the mission of making their five girl children medical professionals. The couple is deceased now.
Even though Marimadaiya, who retired as Accounts Officer at KEB, was only SSLC pass, and Javanamma had studied till 3rd std., they were aware how education can transform lives, especially of those belonging to the Scheduled Caste category. They had only one wish — to give good education to their children. In those times, not many cared to educate even their sons, forget about educating their girl children. Daughters were married off before they attained puberty.
Marimadaiya (hailing from Banav, a remote village near Talakadu in T. Narasipur taluk) and Javanamma (of Malavalli taluk in Mandya district) struggled, inspired, motivated, made physical and financial sacrifices to give quality education to their seven children (five daughters and two sons). Medical profession had always been considered the noblest, safest and most respectable profession for women, so medicine was the preferred choice for the daughters. All five are alumni of Mysore Medical College and also pursued Post-Graduation. The two sons are a Bank Officer and a Marine Engineer.
Even when the children were very young, the parents had decided that their daughters and sons would get high education, and have a career. Good if the marriage happens but that wouldn’t be the only objective of their daughters’ lives.
“We are living our parents’ dream which later became our dream,” tells Dr. N.M. Indira Devi (MBBS, DGO), the eldest child, a Gynaecologist, who recently retired from Cheluvamba Hospital. “It’s only because of the determination and dedication of our parents that we sisters have carved an identity for ourselves in the society.”
Indira Devi got married when she was still in PUC, but marriage did not disturb her life’s plans. She completed MBBS and later obtained a Post-Graduate degree from Mysore Medical College.
The second daughter Dr. N.M. Chandramani Devi, a Gynaecologist, who worked mainly in the rural areas, decided to tie the knot when she was in her first year of MBBS. She was granted permission to get married only on the condition that she would not only complete her graduation but also pursue Post-Graduation like her elder sister.
The third daughter Dr. N.M. Bhagirathi, at whose house in Vijayanagar I met the three of the five sisters, also followed the footsteps of her sisters and opted for Gynaecology as a specialisation. She too recently retired as RMO from Cheluvamba Hospital.
“I had topped the College in MBBS,” Dr. Bhagirathi tells, a modest smile playing on her lips. “In childhood, whenever we kids fell ill, mother would take us to Dr. Ankegowda (father of Dr. M.A. Shekar, who is now the Vice-Chancellor of Adichunchanagiri Institute of Medical Sciences, Nagamangala); she was awed by the doctors who went about in white coats (aprons) commanding respect from the patients and their relatives. It raised a dream in mother’s eyes — she wanted all her daughters to don the white coat and command respect from society,” tells Dr. Bhagirathi, her voice trembling with pride and mixed emotions.
“Because of our lower caste, we were denied opportunities, and looked down upon. Since our childhood, we have seen exploitation around us because of our caste. I remember no maids were willing to work at our home but despite that we (all the seven siblings) have made a place for ourselves in the society.”
The next in line is the son N.M. Prem Shankar, who retired as a Bank Manager.
Dr. N.M. Thara (MBBS, DPH, MBA), the fourth daughter (fifth child), lives in Mumbai. She retired as the District TB Officer at Bombay Municipal Corporation.
The youngest among daughters (sixth child) Dr. N.M. Mukthamba (MBBS, DCH), who resides in Bengaluru, is the Senior Chief Medical Officer at a Central Government Hospital.
N.M. Sridhar, the youngest sibling and the baby of the family, who did Mechanical Engineering from NIE, is a Marine Engineer.
“Our father motivated us, and mother supported us physically by staying awake all night when we burnt the midnight oil literally to study late,” tells Chandramani Devi, who is quietest of all the siblings.
Only studies, no play for doc sisters
“Our parents were middle-class people. We didn’t know life beyond books. No friends, no cosmetics, no movies, no story books or anything. Only medical books and pep talks to help us stay motivated,” the eldest sister Indira Devi explains.
“We had no friends. We were a close-knit family, so we didn’t need outside friends. Our father was a disciplinarian, and a man of principle. The home atmosphere was like hostel. We would take a bus or walk to college to save money. We didn’t have too many desires and wants anyway. Like clothes, books were also passed on, and some they borrowed from the library. Life was only about studying well and becoming a doctor.”
As and when the elder siblings started working, they not only guided but also started financially supporting the younger siblings. And one after another the family produced five doctors and two non-medico professionals.
Until SSLC, the medium of instruction in the Schools was Kannada. In PUC, they switched to English medium.
“Wasn’t the switch from Kannada to English difficult? How did you manage it?” I ask.
“We put in more hours. That’s it,” the three sisters reply almost in chorus, and look at each other at the absurdity of the question.
Empowerment in true sense
Not just educating their children, Marimadaiya and Javanamma couple was progressive in many other ways. All seven children got married without any dowry. All daughters except one are married to the medicos. Also, the daughters didn’t change their second name after marriage. They still have their father’s name and not husband’s name as is the custom in most cultures and communities.
“Interestingly no one objected, neither the in-laws nor husband, they were okay with whatever we wanted,” chuckles Bhagirathi.
“It’s not that we would’ve changed if they wanted to,” the other two sisters, now septuagenarians, join the chuckle.
Interestingly but not surprisingly, the next generations have followed in the footsteps of their elders. Most of the siblings’ children took up medicine as their profession.
“We are now 18 doctors in the family and many are in the pipeline,” Prof. H.B. Mallikaarjuna Swamy (retired Principal, Maharani’s Science College), the third son-in-law, chips in.
Wishing the family many more. May their tribe increase.
Quota candidates: A misconception
“It is true that for our caste, the cut off percentage is low as compared to the general category candidates, but it would be unfair to say that we are not well-qualified. Even in quota, merit list is followed. How about those who get admission under management seat? Not just the seat but candidates also pass by paying money. Sadly, no one talks about that,” rue the doctor siblings.