Some years back, i was invited to give the keynote address at the graduating ceremony of nursing students. As usual, i went with a well prepared speech. But i hadn’t bargained for the intense solemnity of the occasion, and when my turn came to speak, i couldn’t. I was overwhelmed by the sight of the forty odd graduating nurses dressed in white, looking up at me expectantly, seriously. I suddenly felt a lump in my throat and i found myself questioning my locus standi. My position on the rostrum implied the possession of a level of wisdom and a certain degree of competence which qualified me to advise these young ladies who had made a conscious decision to do God’s own work on earth. I felt humble and wholly inadequate all on sudden. My well prepared speech suddenly looked hollow and lacking in auchitya.
My extended silence must have puzzled the audience comprising the graduating students, and members of the management running the nursing school. I could have reeled out the well crafted speech but something wouldn’t let me. On an impulse, i took the audience into confidence. I told them about my predicament. Now i don’t remember the details of the speech, but i do know that whatever i told them came straight from my heart. And the feeling uppermost in me then was a sense of awe at the nobility of those young ladies who chose a life of sacrifice in the service of mankind in pain.
Recently, i had the occasion to go to the Heart Hospital in Bandra. Almost all the nurses there were from kerala. The patients were raving about them, their efficiency, their dedication and friendly nature. I felt proud of belonging to the state they hailed from.
The contribution of these women to the famous kerala model cannot be overrated. I wonder if we in Kerala realise and acknowledge the role of these professionals in enhancing the economic condition of the state. The Diaspora of our women nurses not only to other parts of India, but to all parts of the planet has brought economic stability to a huge number of families across the state. Many of these families would have gone under in those difficult days of social change when land failed to support them, and unemployment was rampant. Young women from traditional families trained themselves for this noble profession and went far and wide to serve humanity and bring income to their struggling families.
I do not know if the heavy contribution of this category of women is officially acknowledged. I do not know if statistics are available to see how many families have prospered on the hard-earned money of these heroines.
And women taking up the nursing profession is not a recent phenomenon. The trend had started long before independence and increased geometrically after that. When times were bad for the once moderately landed gentry in the interiors of kerala, the brave young daughters took upon themselves the onus of taking care of the families. They did not leave it to the males as was the tradition in the heavily patriarchal society of kerala. They chose not to languish in overprotection that the society decrees for women. Instead they decided to stand shoulder to shoulder with the sons to find a profession for themselves and sustenance for the families.
Today nurses from Kerala are a much sought after category, thanks to these women’s exemplary performance in this field for several decades. The profession has become not only very lucrative, but also a launching pad to go abroad. This has attracted males also to this profession and there is a marked increase in men taking up nursing as a profession in kerala.
Kudos to our superwomen, and big thank you from us in Kerala.