Aditi Ray Chowdhury
A trailblazer in many spheres, Kadambini Ganguly, the first female to practice medicine in India, dared to be different and dedicated her life for the service of people.
The 18th of July, 2021 marked the 160th birth anniversary of a woman who broke the shackles of the conservative Indian society years back and changed the status of women in India, especially Bengal to a whole new level. Born in the year 1861 in Bhagalpur, Bihar, Kadambini Ganguly’s father was a school headmaster and an active member of the Brahmo Samaj who fought for women’s liberty and education.
Being an inquisitive child, Kadambini, nicknamed ‘Bini’ always questioned everything that she saw around her, which often led her to get rebuked by her mother and other seniors at home. As she grew up, she refused to accept many roles and responsibilities that were stereotypically assigned to women and openly challenged them. Her father was a strong support for her and he encouraged Kadambini to study and follow her passion.
After completing her schooling, she decided to study medicine and the Madras Medical College was the only one offering the course for female undergraduates. However, she along with her husband, Dwarakanath Ganguly fought to bring the same at the Calcutta Medical College, where everyone completely opposed the admission of women. Her determination and fighting spirit secured her admission to ‘CMC’ but that did not reduce even an ounce of her hardships and struggle, instead it increased even more making her path towards reaching her goal difficult with each passing day.
Her marriage to her teacher, Dwarakanath Ganguly who was much older to her and also a widower, had sparked a whole lot of criticism and backlash but she managed to brave through all that gracefully and strongly without letting anyone else take decision of her life on her behalf. Her husband was always a source of encouragement as he stood strong besides Bini and helped in her struggles.
Her life is a saga of inspiration. The power of questioning, keeping faith in oneself and following the passion and most importantly taking a decision and fiercely standing by it in every circumstances, is what made Kadambini a fighter and a winner.
Taking a closer look to her life and everything that she had done, one can see that she has always preached and practiced the theory of “Humanity above all’. At a time, when most of her contemporaries treated people based on their religion, caste and economic backgrounds, she fearlessly challenged everyone and treated all her patients irrespective of their socio-economic conditions.
One of the anecdotes from her life even narrates her service to the sex workers who were always neglected by the society in terms of their health and economic conditions. She dared to enter the prohibited houses of these women who were always and are still looked down upon by the mainstream society and provide them every kind of medical help that was required.
Kadambuini Ganguly’s life has been exemplary to many women across Bengal and continues to be so. She is an inspiration and source of courage to every single individual who believes, dreams and aspires to put humanity first and bring about a positive social transformation.
(Author is a final year student of Journalism and Mass Communication at Amity University, Noida.)