The Solo Traveller

Subhasini Mistry

“No one should die because they are poor..”

It happens once in a while that we hear stories of people going the extra mile to serve humankind, and setting an example in stone with their iron-clad will.

The woman who toiled for two decades to realise her dream of building a hospital for the needy, is the one and only Subhasini Mistry Padma Shri award 2018 recipient for social work,She is living proof that one does not need to be young, rich or educated to be an achiever, but that immense hard work and the audacity of hope can go a long way. She was also one among the 12 winners of Women Transforming India Awards in 2017.

A one-woman army who worked hard for more than 45 years to build a hospital, called “Humanity Hospital”, for people who can’t afford medical care.71-year-old Subhasini pledged to build a hospital when her husband, for whom she couldn’t afford medical treatments, passed away.Her husband, Sadhan Chandra Mistry was an agricultural worker, who fell sick while working on the paddy farm. Suffering from a case of diarrhea, he was rushed to the hospital, but doctors and nurses refused to pay attention to him, as both the husband and wife were penniless.

She tells,“When my husband passed away, I was in shock initially. Then I realised I had four hungry mouths to feed… I had no education and couldn’t even tell the time. So I decided I would do whatever work that was available”.People laughed at her impossible dream. But Subhasini was no ordinary woman.Widowed at a young age of 23, Subhasini had to take care of four children, all on her own. What followed was abject poverty and extreme hard work to make ends meet. For the next 20 years, she worked as a house maid, manual labourer ,and sold vegetables and made a living. She saved most of her earnings for her dream hospital, while spending the rest on raising her four kids.

One determined soul, Subhasini didn’t let anything come in her way. She tells that she had put two of her children in orphanage because she couldn’t afford their education. This uneducated woman with a powerful spirit, opened a saving account in the post office and deposited whatever she could save. The total amount she could deposit was Rs.20,000, the savings of her whole life. While she could have used it for her own needs, she had promised herself of something bigger and nobler.

She sacrificed, saved, and economised which, as she says, was for the ‘greater good’. Subhasini used her lifelong savings to buy an acre of land in her husband’s native village.She appealed to the community to help in any way they could and they did.Villagers, who could not contribute in cash, contributed in-kind – providing bamboos, palm leaves, truckloads of earth, and wooden planks. The poorest offered their labour. In 1993, the Humanity Trust was formed and a temporary clinic was set up with the help of the residents.Her son, Ajoy, managed to raise Rs 50,000 from acquaintances, friends and organizations. A one-room clinic came into being, the beginning of the hospital-to-be. Three doctors from adjoining areas were persuaded to attend to the sick for free. Patients started streaming in and Subhasini became a household name. “I have a long way to go. I need to ensure my hospitals grow and I am able to afford more experienced staff. One day, I hope to convert this into a 24-hour facility,” she says with pride.                               

In 1995, the foundation stone for the hospital was laid and was open to the public in year later.The hospital building was inaugurated by the then-West Bengal governor, K.V. Raghunath Reddy. Today, the 45-bed hospital spreads over three acres and has the best of doctors and medical equipment.For poor people major surgeries are done for less than Rs. 5000 and minor ailments are treated for under Rs.10.Currently, she has two hospitals, one is located at her village in Hanskhali, Nadia district, and another at Sundarbans.A lifetime of patience and crushing hardwork had led to this moment “I am delighted to have been recognised by the Government of India. But I wish that no one should be denied medical attention. I hope this recognition will influence others to give back to their society,” she says. Apart from building a hospital that runs on charity, her dream was to see one of her children as a doctor in her hospital. Now, among the 12 doctors at the hospital, one is Ajoy, her younger son, who carries on his mother’s vision. This powerhouse of humbleness and magnanimity received Padma Shri earlier this year for her social work. She gathered the award clad in simplicity, wearing chappals. 

She also received Godfrey Phillips Bravery Award in the mind-of-steel category, in 2009. 

Now, Subhasini aims to make her hospital function like any other modern-day 24-hours facility hospital.

Despite all the shortcomings, Subhasini keeps her head high and her heart strong to take down problems as they come. Unstoppable, this woman, is the real star of India. And it’s because of people like her that our faith in the genuine goodness of humankind gets reestablished..

When asked how she achieved so much, she says in an interview: “Inner Strength.” She adds with true wisdom, “God in his infinite grace gave me a vision at the darkest moment in my life. From then on, my life had a purpose. I used whatever strength God gave me to make sure other poor people did not lose their loved ones for lack of medical attention.” 

She further says, “What’s the use of material things like bangles and saris. We can’t take them with us when we die. But the happy faces of the cured poor people have given me such joy and meaning in this life.” 

In a world, faced with crises, violence and struggles we often wonder why superheroes don’t exist. After reading about Padma Shri Subhashini Mistry, I am now sure that superheroes do exist.It’s just that usually they don’t come with a cape or magic powers. They are born with strong willpower, mental strength, and kindness which are beyond any selfish motives or self-promotion.Subhasini dedicated her whole life to realise her vision.

The amazing story of Subhashini Mistry makes us feel that charity doesn’t need funds. It needs noble thought, attitude, and willpower. Funds and resources are bound to follow. It is not how much you have. The essence is in, how far and how much you are ready to give. 

Some people may not even think of sparing a penny when they have crores at their disposal, while pious souls like Subhashini can give everything without expecting any fame, publicity or glamour in return. A grand salute to Subhashiniji!!

By Ms.Priyanka Dilip Gawali

Founder of Mana’s Art

Pune

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