When at 19, a somewhat quiet but confident Manju Gita Mishra took admission in Patna Medical College and Hospital in 1964 at the insistence of her doctor father, who fought with many conservative colleagues to get her enrolled for the MBBS course, she was one of the few women to set foot into a medical college in Bihar. It was a matter of immense pride to her that after completing her post-graduation, she was offered a teacher’s post at the same medical college. More than 55 years later, now long retired from the college, she is still a practising professional and a star doctor at the MGM hospital in Patna — among the most sought after maternity hospitals in the city — where incidentally her daughter Dr Pragya Mishra Choudhary, an infertility specialist, also practices.
The mother-daughter duo shape and complement each other’s personalities in ways few can understand. “Ever since I can remember, I only wanted to be a doctor and my mother has been one of the biggest influences in my life,” says 50-year old Pragya, who unlike her mother, was into private practice since the beginning. “She motivated me to get the best training and degree possible for a gynaecologist and I achieved that,” says Dr Pragya, who went on to receive membership and fellowship of the prestigious Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London, after a rigourous four-year training.
If the mother takes pride in the fact that she has trained hundreds of gynaecologists who are now spread across the globe, the daughter does not mind reminding her sometimes that communication and positive interaction is the key to healing a patient and make them feel instantly better. “Empathy is something I learnt during my training in the West — that’s an aspect that does not get enough attention in Indian medical colleges,” she says.
But what does women empowerment mean for these highly qualified, successful women? “For me, that’s the freedom to choose and decide for self. The most crucial decisions in a woman’s life are taken by others and I am no exception,” says Dr Pragya. “For a good long time I did not even understand what women empowerment means.” Her mother, who had to fight even tougher societal prejudices to reach where she has, insists faith in one’s abilities is the key to overcome all hurdles.—Sumi Sukanya Dutta