Despite a fracture in her femur bone, nonagenarian Dr Bhakti Yadav, the first woman doctor from Indore, welcomes you with a pure and innocent smile that lights up her creased face.
“Never let the smile leave your face, I tell all my patients,” says the good doctor, who was chosen for the Padma Shri award this year, of course, with a smile.
Bedridden for the past two months due to the fracture, Dr Bhakti, or ‘Mum’ as she is fondly called in Indore’s mill areas, has worked tirelessly as a gynaecologist for over 65 years taking little or no money at all from her mostly poor patients.
“I am very happy at the honour (Padma Shri). I am glad that the spirit of selfless service has been honoured by the country,” she said.
The only female student in the first batch of Indore’s Mahatma Gandhi Memorial (MGM) Medical College in 1948, she could have chosen to work at the government-run Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Hospital (MYH), the biggest state-run hospital in the state, but spurned the offer.
“The mill areas needed a doctor so I started working at the Nandlal Bhandari Maternity Home that was run by the Nandlal Bhandari Mills authorities,” Dr Bhakti said.
When the mill closed in 1978, she opened the modest Vatsalya Nursing home at Clerk Colony and continued her work. Her two doctor sons, Dr Chetan and his wife Dr Sunita Yadav and Dr Raman Yadav are now running the nursing home.
Her dedication ensured that her name spread not only in Indore, but neighbouring districts also.
“There were very few female doctors in those days, and her sincerity won her near god-like devotion from her patients and common people of the area. Even now patients come and want her to bless them,” said Dr Ulhas Mahajan, a former president of the state Indian Medical Association and has known the family for decades.
Dr Bhakti says she was inspired by her parents to serve the poor and received strong support from her late husband and batch-mate Dr Chandra Singh Yadav.
“We had to choose a lab partner during our MBBS course, and he stepped forward when others were hesitant. My lab partner later became my life partner,” Dr Bhakti says with a twinkle in her eye.
She was from a Maharashtrian family and there was opposition from both sides to the marriage. But Dr Bhakti was made of sterner stuff and overcame all opposition and got married in 1957.
Born in Mahidpur, then a small village, in Ujjain district, it was her determination that saw her parents sending her to nearby Garoth town where she studied till class 7. Then she studied at Ahilya Ashram School, the only school for girls in Indore and joined the Holkar Science College and topped the intermediate exam.
However, Dr Bhakti is a little pained by the attitude of doctors of the present generation. “They are all running after money and many behave like robots while dealing with patients. I never bothered about my ‘image’, and often rode a bicycle to see patients,” she says.