As a 20-year-old, she first helped bring a baby into the world. It was her aunt’s. And that day, by sheer accident, Narasamma set off to become a midwife for the very first time, little knowing that one day, she would not only become a messiah for the hundreds of women in her district, but a national honour too, in recognition of her services.
If you stepped into Tumkur, one of the most populous districts on the outskirts of Bangalore in Karnataka, Narasamma’s would be one of the most well-known names in the area. It is her skill and her selfless service that has earned Narsamma the immense faith of her people having seen her deliver over 15,000 babies in the last 77 years. Most people are surprised to know that, until a few years ago, she only did this along with her regular work as an agricultural labourer. More so when they realise that she never charged a penny for it.
With 72.2 % of India’s total population being rural and more than 60% domiciliary deliveries taking place in these areas, the demand for skilled midwifery has never been more. As it happens, in most rural areas, traditional midwifery has been practiced by many illiterate women, called ‘Dais’, who have assisted women for their delivery at home.
Narasamma’s role thus assumes great importance because although lacking in formal training, she is mostly self-taught, learning only by observing her grandmother Margamma, during her growing-up years. When she started out as a midwife, there were no hospitals and roads in the district. It was mainly the trust and faith imposed upon her by the locals that made them turn to her every time a woman was due for delivery. So much so, that even now, although hospitals have come up in the district, people still tend to go to her instead. No wonder she’s earned the epithet ‘Sulagatti’, which literally means ‘delivery work’ in the local language Kannada.
Winning two awards—the Padma Shri and the Rajyotsava Awards has brought Narasamma’s work into the limelight and now, well beyond the borders of Tumkur. Her inspiring story is now prescribed in a Class IX text book which ensures that future generations get to know her better.
Today, at 97, Narsamma continues her service through her 180 pupils, which also includes her youngest daughter, Jayamma, who are expert midwives and who continue the traditional way of delivering babies as taught by her.
If you met this gritty lady today, you’d be charmed by the unassuming smile with which she acknowledges the honorary doctorate that the Tumkur University has bestowed her with!
This post has been written for the We Are the World Blogfest, a monthly event created by Damyanti Biswas and Belinda Witzenhausen to showcase heartwarming stories of hope and light of real-life heroes from around the world, that show love, humanity and brotherhood in a world filled with negativity and hatred otherwise.
The cohosts for this month are Belinda Witzenhausen, Sylvia McGrath, Sylvia Stein, Shilpa Garg and Eric Lahti. Don’t forget to check out their WATWB posts and those of other WATWB participants to get inspired and feel a surge of positivity within you. You’re most welcome to share stories that you may have come across—particularly those that help spread hope and positivity. Just don’t forget to use the hashtag (#WATWB).
Until next time, lets aim to stay hopeful and positive! 🙂