Campus reconnect: Cherished forever

Dr. M. Subhadra Nair (second from right) with her colleagues

Dr. M. Subhadra Nair (second from right) with her colleagues   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement


Gynaecologist M. Subhadra Nair recalls her stint at Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram

My mother, the late Madhavi Amma, was a gynaecologist and it was a natural choice for me to follow suit. She practiced in an era when specialisations in medicine were unheard of. There was no proper means of transport then, except for bullock carts. She was in the government service and day or night, rain or shine, she would attend a case. A lot of hard work was involved and her spirit and devotion to the profession inspired me to become a doctor.

But when it came to enrolling in a college, after my schooling at Irinjalakkuda, there was a problem. During those days, the minimum age for enrolment in colleges under Madras University was 14 and a half. I was not old enough to fulfil the criteria. Thankfully, in those days, there was no such rule for colleges under Travancore University [the present University of Kerala]. So, I joined UC College, Aluva, for my intermediate course. When my age again came in the way of taking admission for medicine, I joined for BSc Physics at Maharaja’s College, Kochi.

Though I don’t remember much about my student days at Maharaja’s, I cherish the fact that I studied at one of the best colleges in the state. Also, I was a contemporary of many who later went on to become celebrated names. Author and teacher Professor M. Leelavathy is one of them.

It was the pre-Independence era and patriotism was at its peak. And the best example was set by my mother herself, who insisted that my two brothers and I wear only Khadi. We had charkas at home and she ensured that we knew how to make the yarn from cotton fibre.

After graduation, I applied to Madras Medical College. But I was not sure about getting admission because in those days two seats each were allotted to Travancore and Cochin states. And in most cases, those with influence got admission and usually those seats went to candidates from the royal family. Luckily, the year I joined (1947), there was only one member from the royal family and I got admission.

On completing the course in 1952, I got posted at Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram. In 1954, I became a tutor. Except for the six years I worked in Kottayam, I taught at the college, till my retirement in 1984 as director and head, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. In between, I did higher studies in Madras and later in Lucknow.

The college had completed just one year when I joined and so the campus was pretty much deserted. We teachers were inspired by the enthusiastic, disciplined and studious bunch of students. But students have changed over the years. More than a service, becoming a doctor is considered a lucrative job by many. There are doctors who insist that they are paid for the extra time they work, whereas there was a time when we doctors would work for hours without bothering about the pay.

What I fondly remember about my teaching days is the respect the students gave us. That respect is still there. The students of the second batch used to sometimes call me ‘akkan’ and it was nostalgic to hear them address me the same way at a recent get-together.

I lived and practiced medicine in a time when there weren’t any hi-tech diagnostic machines. We would talk to patients for a long time before arriving at a conclusion. In the case of a pregnant woman, we had to be extremely careful. Everything depended on our acumen and judgement. And the patients, placed us next to god.

Things have changed. But yet, I am contented as a teacher and a doctor. I feel happy when I learn that I have attended cases from two or three generations of the same family. That is something unique about this profession.

Proud moment

Dr M. Subhadra Nair is among the recipients of Padma Shri award 2014. A senior consultant with Cosmopolitan Hospital in the city, she is extremely touched by the honour. “It feels great to be recognised, but I am not overjoyed,” she says.

(A column to commemorate the platinum jubilee of the University of Kerala. Eminent teachers and people from different walks of life talk about their student days in various colleges under the University.)

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 9:31:28 AM |

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