At the suggestion of Abhishek, my son-in-law, we went to Panvel and visited the maternity hospital set up by my grandfather, a Doctor, in 1920s. I had visited it long back with my father so I remembered the address; it was opposite the old post office in Panvel. With my father I had gone to a room that displayed the photographs of my grandfather and grandmother.
It was [and perhaps is still] a free maternity hospital. My grandfather built it and trained all ladies in the family to be qualified nurses. And he trained many other ladies in the town too. It gave them some income. I have met a few ladies who worked there when I was a child and they spoke about their work with a great sense of pride. Women came to hospital for delivery from nearby villages. Without exception they were very poor. Almost all of them were undernourished, if not starving, themselves; there was no question of affording a paid service. Those were the days under the British Rule and many Indians engaged in work that benefited society without expecting any return.
My grandfather, Dr. RD Patwardhan was also a freedom fighter. The hospital was run on the funds donated by charitable institutions and philanthropists. It ran into some dispute so grandfather handed over the hospital to Municipality and moved out. The municipality named the road that led to the free maternity Hospital after him.
We could not locate that road. I knew it was the road adjacent to hospital, but could not see any signboard. I stopped a motor cyclist to enquire about the road. He was amused to learn that we were trying to trace our roots! So he called up a Nagarsevak [Municipal Corporator] on his mobile! And asked him the whereabouts of the road. The Corporator informed me that my understanding was correct however the road was extended in recent times so I was finding it difficult to identify it. The Corporator was very surprised and amused too.
We went to the Panvel Sutika Gruh [the Maternity Hospital as it is called] where we met an old staff. I explained to her the purpose of our visit and she took us to the room where the photographs were displayed. The photograph shows my grandparents, me, my wife Sulabha and our grand-daughter, Annika.
The maternity hospital is run by Municipality and is in dilapidated condition. There are plans for rebuilding it. Displayed on the walls are the layouts of the new building proposed.
I hope Annika will create an institution with a noble purpose that will survive three or four generations!