TM Rizwana Buch
“JOSHEE- A CRATER ON VENUS” “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”, I am sure most of us have read this book, but an “Indian Woman on Venus”? Recently I came across this topic which left me intrigued….. Simplicity, pursuit of dream and determination are the pi llars of a legendary Indian woman, whose story I am about to unfold. Many Indians may be unaware that a hundred and fifty years ago a mother who lost her ten day old child due to lack of medical facility, decided to become a physician. Who else could have understood the pain of losing a new born than she herself? As Dalai Lama once said “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” May be it was her compassion and dedication, that later when we were born, our parents were able to provide us the best health care facilities. She was none other than Anandibai Joshi , who is believed to be the first “Indian Woman” to set foot on American soil and receive a degree in medicine . Anandibai was born on 31st March 1865 in Kalyan, a small town near Mumbai in India. Her parents named her “Yamuna”. I am glad that I share the same zodiac sign with great Anandibai. As per the practice in those days she was married at the age of nine to Gopalrao Joshi, almost twenty years her senior. He changed her name to “Anandi”. Gopalrao was an ordinary postal clerk, but had great interest in learning English language unlike learning Sanskrit which was prevalent those days. He noticed that his wife too shared similar interest .In fact he had married Anandi on the condition that he should be permitted to educate her and she should be willing to read and write. Gopalrao started teaching her Marathi, Sanskrit and English. Anandi gradually turned into a well -read intellectual girl. At the age of fourteen came the turning point in her life. She gave birth to a child who lived only for ten days, due to lack of medical facility , and non-availability of female doctor. This incidence of her life inspired her to become a physician. Anandi’s liberal husband stood by her side and acted as her biggest inspiration.
This became more evident when, on expressing her desire to study medicine, he got her enrolled in Women’s Medical College Pennsylvania with the help of Mrs. Theodocia Carpenter, a rich lady who read Anandi’s story while waiting for her dentist appointment. Anandi addressed her community in Serampore College Hall, people applauded her decision and financial contributions poured in from all over India. When she was in Calcutta her health started to decline. She suffered from headache, weakness, occasional fever and breathlessness. Despite her poor health she travelled to New York from Calcutta by ship. Due to constant transfer of job and financial difficulties her husband could not accompany her to New York. She began her medical education at the age of 19. D ue to cold weather and unfamiliar diet her health deteriorated further. She contracted tuberculosis, but she did not give up on her studies. On 11th March 1886 she graduated as Doctor of Medicine. On her graduation Queen Victoria sent her a congratulatory message. She returned to India as Dr. Anandibai Joshi and received a hero’s welcome. The princely state of Kolhapur appointed her as the physician -in-charge of the female ward in the local Albert Edward Hospital. Sadly she pas sed away on 26th February 1887, at a young age of 22 . On request of Mrs. Carpenter, Anandibai’s ashes were sent to New York for placement in the family cemetery. During the time when equality of women was unheard of and a professional degree in medicine was unthinkable, Anandi took a bold step to fight and go against the flow to become a doctor. This was possible because she had the courage to dream and a big supporting hand from her husband Gopalrao, who never let her quit and always inspired her to do more. Anandi has left a great impact through her dedication on conservative Indian soc iety. She lived a mere 21 years but she achieved so much in that brief span that a crater on Venus is named “JOSHEE” in her honor. I am sure her contributions to societ y will inspire many women for generations to come……… Toastmaster Rizwana Buch