Although all she can do by way of writing is sign her signature, Sukha Doctor can reel off the complicated names of hundreds of medicinal herbs without a moment’s hesitation.
A training course on the use of traditional medicines changed not only the life of a trolley laborer’s wife, Sukha (born 1944), but also that of her entire village. The village, which had practically no medical facilities and assigned very low priority to reproductive health, is today under “Sukha Doctor’s” care. Adept at finding and processing herbs and administering them in the right doses, Sukha’s cures for reproductive health problems, fever, stomach ailments, and several other common ailments is almost legendary in the area.
Ten years ago, when the people of village Sinkathiya in Varanasi elected Sukha to attend a Mahila Samakhya (women’s empowerment) training course on traditional medicines, little did they imagine that she would be Sukha Doctor to them very soon. Sukha was then known only as trolley laborer Ramkishen’s wife. Today, she tends to the health of men, women, and children in her area. Although all she can do by way of writing is sign her signature, she can knowledgeably reel off the complicated names of hundreds of medicinal herbs. She is adept at finding and processing these herbs, and then administering them in the right doses to the hundreds of poor and unwell people in her village, and the adjoining villages as well. Sukha’s cures for reproductive health problems, fever, stomach ailments, and several other common maladies are almost legendary in the area. Everyone in the region-her colleagues in the herbal medical center Nari Sanjeevani Kendra (NSK), the villagers she tends to, and even doctors in the area’s government hospital-refers to her by the honorific Sukha Doctor. Her medicines are easy to access, cheap, and available in plenty. The demand for Sukha Doctor’s medicines has risen so much now that it has become impossible for the NSK to operate only at the two centers it has. Looking back, Sukha has trouble believing how far she’s come. She had to brave initial resentment from the village’s power-players, who were unhappy that a poor, scheduled caste woman should be practicing medicine. She also had trouble establishing her credentials as a doctor in her own right: people had little faith in traditional medicines, and they would often approach her for a remedy too late. Sukha (which means dry) entirely belies her name. This youthful sexagenarian woman can charm the very illness out of people.
Nari Sanjeevani Kendra (NSK)
South Asia | India