Mistry toiled for years as a manual labourer, a housemaid and a
vegetable-seller. At 70, she can look back with satisfaction at a
two-storeyed, whitewashed building, the realisation of her dream
to build a hospital for the poor - all because she couldn't afford
proper medical treatment for her husband and became a widow at 23.
Her younger son Ajoy is a doctor at the hospital which has 12
doctors and over 25 beds and runs on donations.
Mistry was grief-stricken after her husband died, but she resolved
to build a hospital for the needy so that others would not have to
suffer the same fate as her husband. What followed was a life of
abject poverty and extreme physical labour as the mother of four
soldiered on with the single-minded pursuit of setting up the
Over time, she managed to save enough to buy a one-bigha
(one-third of an acre) plot.
Now 47 years down the line, Humanity Hospital, in Hanspukur
village near Kolkata, stands tall and proud, serving the poor free
of cost since 1996, a testimony to a single woman's grit,
determination and never-say-die spirit against all possible odds.
As Mistry, a pygmy of a woman in girth but an extraordinary woman
in deed, looks back at her past, and says in a firm voice: "This
is all I could do on my own. I don't regret that I had to put two
of my children in an orphanage, that I couldn't educate them.
There were things needed to be done for the greater good."
Mistry told IANS: "When my husband passed away, I was in shock
initially. Then I realised I had four hungry mouths to feed. My
oldest child, a son, was four-and-a-half-years old at the time. My
youngest, a daughter, was one-and-a-half.
"I had no education and couldn't even tell the time. So I decided
I would do whatever work that was available. I started out as a
aayah (domestic help) in the nearby houses."
During that period, she made a silent promise to herself: she
would set up a hospital for the needy that would provide treatment
free of cost.
Gradually she realised that house work alone would not suffice; so
she took to brick-laying and other physically demanding chores to
supplement her meagre income. Her two sons would lend a hand at
work. Early on, she had made up her mind that come what may, she
would educate one of her sons to be a doctor.
Now the younger son Ajoy, a doctor, carries on her mother's
mission at the hospital.
"I did everything. My children used to earn Re.1 while I used to
get Rs.1.25. I never spent on myself. Whatever I earned, I saved
most of it for the hospital.
"Some of my earnings were spent on educating my younger son and
daughter. Unfortunately the other two I had to sent to an
orphanage," Mistry said.
She put aside the majority of what she earned and after around 30
years of scrimping and saving, she had collected enough to buy a
plot of land.
"One of the babus (landlords) was selling off his land. I went to
him and fell at his feet to let me buy the plot for a lesser
He relented and finally a part of my dream came true," said Mistry.
In 1993, the Humanity Trust was formed and a temporary clinic was
set up with the combined effort of all the residents.
"I went about asking them to contribute in any way they could.
Some donated money, some wood, some gave the material needed for
construction while some volunteered for construction work," said
Bit by bit, a one-room clinic came into being. And at Mistry's
behest three doctors from nearby areas started treating the sick
free of cost.
In 1996, a permanent building was inaugurated by then West Bengal
governor K.V.Raghunath Reddy.
Since then Mistry and her small staff, which includes one of her
daughters, has never looked back. In 2009, she won the prestigious
Godfrey Phillips Bravery Award in the mind-of-steel category.
According to Mistry, a lot of things remain to be done which have
hit a pause due to a financial crunch.
"Our main problem is shortage of doctors. They are only available
on specific dates. Since we do not pay them, they are less
inclined to visit regularly.
"Due to lack of funds, the ICU is yet to be completed. I wish I
could somehow get the finance to see these things through," said
Mistry, who presides over urgent matters every day.
Despite the tough road ahead, Mistry refuses to be bogged down.
"My wish will be fulfilled entirely when doctors and nurses are
available round the clock and when we can provide all the services
of a modern hospital," she said.
Humanity Hospital: Kalagachia Road, Joka, Biaage Agns Pukur,
Kolkata, West Bengal 700104. Phone: 033-24670639.
(Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)