Lady with the lantern!
12MAY


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In the field of medical profession, the name of Florence Nightingale is very popular. She was Italian born (1820), but grew up and studied in England, heard her inner voice calling her to services to the sick and adopted nursing by ignoring unwillingness of her parents. She was from an upper class family and nursing, in those days, was considered to be an occupation with some little respect. But, association of Florence with this profession changed the concept of the people throughout the world. She was devoted to her work and took care of the patients even at night moving about here and there with a lamp in her hand. The patients were so grateful with her services that they gave her the affectionate title of ‘Lady with the Lamp’.

My Readers will, perhaps, mind to read ‘lantern’ in place of ‘lamp’ in my title, but I am going to talk about another woman who was a local Nightingale of our village, some decades ago. Just before some days, when I had gone to the local graveyard to perform my religious services for the peace to the souls of the deceased people, the grave of the Personality of this Article was being renovated. I recalled her memories which have inspired me and I am trying to offer my homage to the soul of the Late through this Article in brief.

With consent of her successors, I don’t hesitate to disclose her name. She was Hajiyani Avalben w/o Seth (big merchant of repute) Haji Noorbhai Mamjibhai Mukhi, author’s cousin. She kept lantern while going to houses to render her services to women in childbed (confinement). I myself have thought out the title ‘Lady with the lantern’ similar to that of conferred on Florence Nightingale for the reason that many similarities are there in both these Nightingales, no doubt, with some exceptions. According to Alfred Adler’s quote “To be human means to feel inferior.”, both were gentle ladies and therefore they considered themselves and others as human first. The field of nursing for Florence was wide to attend all kinds of patients and moreover she was qualified in her profession, but the Late Avalben’s field was limited to maternity only and she had acquired the knowledge through her skill, intellect, intuition and profound experience under her senior elders.

Those were the days when medical facilities were rare, maternity homes not available and female gynecologists found nowhere. Besides, women disliked to be attended upon by a male doctor in confinement. Midwives (દાયણ) were the most common attendants everywhere. It was the tendency of the women to deliver the child in a natural and normal process at home. Particularly, in rural and remote areas, midwifery has proved to be a boon for women in such days when death seems to be just a span away. My Aval Bhabhee (brother’s wife) was the soul-mate of the wealthiest man of the time and was not in need of any earning. Moreover, as being a Sethanee (Mistress of Seth), she might not have ordinarily preferred such filthy and troublesome work, but she did prefer it; for, she said such as, “I have not chosen midwifery, midwifery has chosen me!” What a great thinking of a noble woman, totally illiterate!

The village of Kanodar was of some 1500 families of all communities with Muslims in majority. My Bhabhee rendered her services to all without any discrimination of creed, cast, religion and economical status. She undertook the responsibilities of only such cases which seemed to be normal at first sight. In complicated cases, she advised them to have a physician’s assistance. She attended the women in confinement fully and remained present until the process of delivery ended successfully. She kept her watchful eye minute to minute and offered sensitive support and encouragement particularly to those women who were experiencing their first motherhood.

Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine and a Greek Physician wrote that “Nature is the best physician and that it should be allowed to function without the intrusion of meddlesome interference.” Accordingly, Avalben followed strictly the natural process of delivery ignoring the worries of the assisting women and labor pain of the woman in confinement. As soon as the critical task of labor got over, she never missed to tell the mother of the child in somewhat like these words as “Giving a birth to a baby is not the end of your journey, but it is just a beginning.” She never hurried to cut the umbilical cord.

She recommended the rest ladies of the household to allow her full rest for at least 40 days, not even to ask her for laundry work of both child and herself. She suggested the recipe of food for the mother for her early recovery of health and decoctions (ઉકાળો) also. She stayed a few hours more after the birth of the child to make sure that both mother and baby were stable and fine. While bidding goodbye to all like a Village Mother, she counseled the baby’s mother to continue to breastfeed the baby as long as the Almighty God produces the natural nutrition (milk) in her chest and to ignore maintenance of figure of her body as the child is initially like the Prophet of the God (અર્થાત્ બાલગોપાલ), quite innocent and sinless.

Before reaching my conclusion, I cannot withhold myself to mention the painful miracle or irony of my Bhabhee Maa’s hard luck, whatever you may call it, that she had given the births of three sons subsequently one by one and each son just before reaching the age of a year died in the same modus (style) of his fate or destiny. During the first monsoon of each son’s birth, while raining heavily in those years with loud thunder and lightning, the ends of the cradle cloth disconnected, the child fell down on the floor and died on the spot. These mysterious happenings inspired her to think over the will of the Almighty Creator positively. Her motherhood got diversion and she devoted her whole life to see uncountable mothers happy with their offspring.

Sheikh Saadi, a Persian man of literature, has said, “The beloved of the Almighty are: the rich who have the humility of the poor, and the poor who have the magnanimity of the rich.” We should always remember that service to the human kind is service to God. The Late Avalben, over and above her Midwifery services, helped the poor women in confinement financially with the funds of her own family and who-so-ever offered her willingly. Let us pray to the Almighty Creator to bless the soul of the Late Avalben in heaven for eternal peace with patronage and recommendations of the Infallibles (AS) and in the words of the recitations of holy verses of the individual Readers as per their own faith and creed.

Hope this Article be read particularly by those ladies who, with the grace of the God, have been lucky enough to enjoy motherhood and also those my daughters and sisters who, now or later on, are going to be mothers.

With deepest affections,

- Valibhai Musa
Dtd.: May 11, 2008

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