Image and Narrative points contributed by Priyamvada Singh, Ajmer, Rajasthan
The newly born baby in this picture is my father, Jitendra Singh, and the lady holding him is my grandmother, Hansa Kumari This picture was photographed at Saint Francis Nursing home, Ajmer (Rajasthan) in October 1956 – a few days after my father , was born. The lady sitting on the left is Dr. Albuquerque, one of the most proficient gynecologists of that time. The nun sitting on the right is Sister Beatrice – a senior administrator at Saint Francis. The three nuns standing behind them also worked at the nursing home, and even though my grandmother doesn’t recall their names now, she can never forget their kindness and compassion as long as she lives.
My family used to live in a small village Meja, about 125 kms from Ajmer (now a large township in Rajasthan). Our district at the time did not have very reliable medical facilities and so it was decided that my heavily pregnant grandmother would be taken to Ajmer for delivery. As soon as her ninth month began, my grandmother went to Ajmer along with my great grandmother by train. My grandfather went to drop them but returned immediately because someone had to stay back in the village to look after my bedridden great grandfather.
The plan was to find a reasonably priced hotel or a rented apartment for the delivery period, but when the nuns learnt that my family were outstation patients and that only two ladies were going to stay back in the city, they figured it was going to be an inconvenient, especially in case of a medical emergency. So they made a generous gesture and offered my family a room in the hospital itself, in return for a nominal donation.
The offer was indeed a blessing because 60 years ago, even well-educated women like my grandmother (who had completed her schooling from a convent – St. Patricks School, Jodhpur) weren’t very confident about living on their own and that too in an unknown town. The nursing home premises was a safe dwelling place and most importantly, my grandmother would have medical assistance 24X7. My grandmother and great grandmother lived at Saint Francis for nearly two months – the entire ninth month and a month after the delivery – and my grandmother has the most wonderful things to say about that time. She recalls how the nuns showered her with much love and affection, and made her feel so much at home that she never realized the absence of her family. They knitted woolens for her soon to be born baby, made chicken broth (my pure-vegetarian great grandmother was not comfortable touching meat), they accompanied her for evening walks and shared many warm moments.
Even after my father was born and things got more hectic, the nuns went way beyond their professional duties to lend a helping hand. Whether it was early morning or middle of the night, they were always there to offer their unconditional love and care. Soon the baby was about a month old and it was time to leave. But the bonds made over these two months lasted a lifetime, and every time that my family was passing Ajmer, they made it a point to meet the nuns. In fact, my family was so grateful for the kindness of these nuns that for several years after, during harvest season, my grandfather gifted sacks of grain to the nursing home kitchen as a token of appreciation. The nuns were reluctant to accept it at first, but when my grandfather insisted that it would help other outstation families like us, they accepted it graciously. With time, our association with Saint Francis got stronger – four of my father’s first cousins (my grandfather’s sisters’ kids) were born there, and years later, me and my brother as well.
When I had a baby, he was born in another city at a state-of-the-art private hospital. A four day fixed package was offered to me with highly professional staff & efficient service. I was home on the fifth day and I have no complaints, but sometimes I think about my grandmother’s delivery experience and feel that mine was so warmth less, and mechanical as compared to her experience. I wonder why didn’t I form such personal connections? My guess is that not all of us are fortunate enough to be blessed by the harbingers of humanity.
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This Post Has 6 Comments
Dr Clive Fernandes26 Mar 2021
Thanks for the wonderful write up Priyamvada. Care at that point of time had warmth and empathy. It was forwarded on some of my groups. The lady doctor you mentioned is my maternal grandmother, who past away in 2001.
Sr. Carol26 Mar 2021
It’s wonderful to know something very important from the MSA pioneering Sisters ‘ life some of them with whom I lived. I’m grateful to God for calling me to this Congregation. Thanks for sharing those lovely experiences in the social media.
Can I share this photo and the story in our MSA website ?
Priyamvada19 Feb 2018
After this post was published on the Indian Memory Project, I was contacted by one of the Sisters of MSA who informed me that the Sister standing in the centre in this photo is Sister Nathalie who is 94 years old today and presently resides in Mumbai. They even mailed me a recent picture of hers looking almost as radiant as she does in this picture! My grandmother recalled the name immediately and was thrilled to see her photo. This is the power of this platform – it made people connect after a gap of almost 62 years! More power to you Anusha!
admin22 Feb 2018
Oh wow! That is indeed wonderful to know! Thank you Priyamvada. :)
Sr Arlene28 Jan 2018
Very noble act. I am proud of being a Mission Sister of Ajmer. May the Lord continue H blessing us. I am happy that you could put this noble act on the social media. Yes I believe that the Lord sends angels to help and guide us.
Radha28 Jan 2018
A wonderful post, sharing some of life’s meaningful moments.