One doctor and thousands of life stories

Kriti Billore

A laureate, a doctor and a humble human being, Dr. Veena Sinha, has made her mark not only in the field of medical science, but also through her contribution in the field of literature. Her books reviving the mythological stories have given a new blend to writing. Having won accolades for her book 'Path Pragya', she is now bracing herself for a new project.

Having lived in the remote areas of Madhya Pradesh mainly Maihar, Balaghat and Panna where myths worked more than medicines, she was only female doctor playing a major role in bringing out changes in mindset of the people here in regards to medicine.  

She was born in Bastar, Bihar as her father was working there. She basically belongs to Maharashtra but lived most of her life in Madhya Pradesh. Her husband is also an Opthologist. 

"After completing my MD, I was offered a job as a lecturer in college as I was a scholar but I couldn’t pursue it for some reasons," she said, recalling her younger days. "My husband and I, later started practicing in Maihar and Balaghat for seven and a half years. We  had relatives there but then moved to Panna in 1993."  

There were seven doctors including her. At that time it was very deserted place where there was no means of communication and Kanha National Park was just about 12 km away. She went to panna to give her application for 3 months leave for her children’s exams; she said “while talking to my fellow doctors I asked them about how many caesarean do they have in a day?”  They replied that it's not practiced here, only in the case where either the mother or the baby could be saved. Once someone over there did a cesarean half of the intestine fell out and they had to cut and throw it away. If someone needs a cesarean they had to go Satna - Chhatrpur which is 70 kms away, but only if they are rich enough to afford. Those that cannot go they die. At that time when i was in Balaghat 5-6 cesareans were done in a day. After she got to know this condition of panna, it became her turning point. When they were leaving she told her husband, “we can make money anytime but we should work here for at least 3 to 4 years. Women die of no treatment we must work here.” He supported Veena. “Our children had to go to school 22kms far from where we were living.” She even says that they could’ve done their jobs in well developed states, but they found this a lot more useful for the society.

At that time Panna was totally a backward area and everyday she had to deal with some new kind of patients and also had to make them understand about their health conditions. Some use to understand and some use to argue. She had very shuddering experiences and has also shared a lot of them. Quoting one such experience she said “once on a Friday night a fourteen- fifteen year old unmarried girl came to my residence and asked me to give some medicine to abort the child as she missed her periods. I said there is no medicine for that; it will have to be cleaned for abortion. She said no madam give me some medicine I need to abort it. I gave her some pill for hormone which had no side effects as prescription and asked her to visit me on Tuesday to clean her womb. She didn’t come on Tuesday then after a week later someone called and asked me to visit a girl who had serious stomach pain with loose motions. I visited there and to my surprise she was the same girl. I asked her what have you done to yourself whose treatment are you taking? Then I came to know that she visited some Dai and that Dai had inserted a wooden stick dipped in iodine through her vagina into the uterus for abortion and that caused infection and made her body septic. Later she died and while doing her post mortem we found that stick inside her body. Her relatives were blaming me, saying that she died because of the medicine which i gave. I didn’t know how to make these superstitious people believe that it was their fault that they believed a Dai and not a Doctor.” There are many such stories.

Teenage girls use to visit her and request for an abortion. She use to advice them to get married. This was her thoughts during those days. But now she has adjusted herself according to the changing scenario and has accepted the modern trends of the society.  

Most of the girls had to marry after they get pregnant and their lives were at risk if they had to undergo a premature delivery. But she remembers an incident which changed her thinking, she quoted, “once a girl came to me for abortion she plead in front of me that please madam abort my child, if you don’t then I have to get married, I want to study and get a job. And I was astonished by this and I did abort her child. She changed my thinking and I really wish she is doing great with her life.”

Recalling some instances that still remain fresh in her mind she said,“One night at 2 am a girl came to me and said that she had not urinated since three days. The reason being that she was on her periods and in the villages and tribal area what they do is instead of using pads they used to put hot ash in a cloth and use it as pads in heavy bleeding as ash is an absorbent. And while checking her I threw out a bale in which about 3 liters urine got collected. The next day a woman came and asked me about “Tharra” I asked what that is. She said coins that were in the bale, which I had already thrown in a bucket. Then I got to know that while she was on heavy periods Dai made a bale of coins and put that into her vagina, because of which her urethra compressed and her urine stopped. These experiences are such that still make me shudder.”

In her 14 years of experience in Panna she has seen worst circumstances and also some changes in the thinking of the people. They started trusting doctors and believed whatever the doctor said. Some also started believing in gender equality and started treating their daughter equally. She says, “Seeing all these changes and meeting the girls who were born in my hospital by my hands are now happy, healthy and successful. This makes me really happy and overwhelming.”

Talking about her writings she said that she always use to write poetry even when she was in Panna and they are published in the form of collection of poems like ‘Phir Bhi Jeena Ladki’. “Till date I have written three novels one is in English ‘Unless a Perfect Rhythm Sets In’ and the other two are 'Pathpraga', 'Sapno se bahar' which are in Hindi.”

Her first novel ‘Pathpragya’ was awarded in Delhi.

Talking about her upcoming novel she told that her novel is based on mythology & history. She is working on it with some special research which revolves around Nalanda and lives of people with malpractices. The book will release soon.

"My upcoming novel is based on Nalanda and people greedy for power and money. I am working on it. The initial draft of the book is about to be ready. I am hoping the book shall launch soon," she said, adding, "Since this book too is based on historic events, I had to do a lot of reading and research to make sure that I do not tamper the facts." 

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