Chechi Nightingale

Chechi Nightingale

Florence Nightingale was a Malayalee in her last birth. I have been in and out of hospitals long enough to have faith in this belief!

The nursing profession would dissolve without a trace, like absorbable sutures, if not for the Malayalee maidens who hold it aloft on their able shoulders. They converge from every nook and corner of Kerala – Thrissur, Kottayam, Allepey, Kozhikode, Ernakulam…or they are Gelf-returned. They win their patient’s heart with their beacon of service shining through as bright as the jet black, generously coconut-oiled hair, severely pulled back in a plaited bun.

Their effective and patient-friendly service is in stark contrast to their stiffly starched white uniforms. A fat, matronly, languishing Malayalee nurse is hard to come by. Most of them are trim, brisk and as lithe as the swaying palm trees that lace the banks of the placid water bodies back home.

Their names, like Sissy, Anamma, Theresa, Joby, Baby… resonate with your inner fiddler on the roof!

Perfect to a fault, the Malayalee nurse is much sought after not just in hospitals across the length and breadth of the country, but the world over! I fondly remember the Malayalee nursing contingent that landed as a swarm in a government-aided hospital in Kitwe, Zambia, three decades ago! Although, physically they paled in front of the gigantic, troll-like, mis-proportioned average Central African, they were the queens of the wards. “Verk is Vership” is their mantra to success.

The Malayalee enterprising zeal for being in the right place at the right time is often the subject of humour – it seems when Edmund Hillary (he was not Sir then, hence the miss) reached the peak of Mt. Everest after an arduous climb that spanned many a stormy night and day, he was rudely shocked to be greeted by a Malayalee in a folded lungi-banyaan, selling steaming chai in a hurriedly put-together shack!! “Chai veno?” he enquired of a startled Edmund whose tongue lay frozen in the pit of his mouth for reasons other than the sub-zero temperature! I wouldn’t be surprised if the Malayalee guy was there because his wife was working as a nurse in a nearby hospital!!

The Malayalee bonding in the nursing fraternity is striking. The older ones are respectfully called Chechis (elder sister), while the younger ones are endearingly addressed as ‘molay’ (child). If you are privileged enough to be placed in a ward that is graced by a Chechi-molay combination, it is fatal attraction, in a good sense of the word! You will be effortlessly drawn into the irresistible web of motherly instinct. Their largesse will hold you together like a cocoon and then, speedy recovery cannot be far away.

A dear friend recently recounted: This dusky beauty of a nurse walked up to him as he lay in bed one morning in hospital, and whispered in his ear, “Ungle, urine pass kiya?” The gentleness of her tone could make any bladder fill up to the occasion!!

During my brief sojourn in hospital last week, I had this Chechi pampering me. We got talking and I asked her the question that was uppermost in my mind. “Yeh nursing ka kaam kaisa lagta hain?” (“How do you feel about this nursing profession?”).

Chechi answered, “maa-baap ne paala, posa, beda kiya. Kis ke liye?” (Sorry, can’t find an apt translation for that!). As I racked my brain for an intelligent answer, Chechi answered her own rhetoric, “Tum log ka service ke liye. Hum nehin, toh tum nehin,” she said flashing a Colgate smile.

Wow, what a philosophy! I was belittled. Long live the Malayalee nurse! As long as they continue to walk through hospital corridors in their efficient demeanour, hospitals can promise their patients at least one happy memory!

Posted on January 6, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Wow! to all the Amanis, Lizzies, Anamols, Lily kutties (I can go on and on if I try & recollect all those I have come across starting from my internship in KEM way back in 1982), this is a fan-tas-tic tribute!!

    Lata, seriously, you have a great gift. Words flow from your pen as easily & rapidly as the gushing waters on the Niagara Falls. It is indeed a pleasure to read your eloquent pieces, embellished as they are with delightful metaphors & similes…..[see the effect you have on a simple soul such as me (or should that be I??)]

  2. WOW!……it’s still tasted so fresh even after almost four hours!……..

    Mentioned of (Sir) Edmund Hillary in your blog reminded me a small story about yet another Mallu who surprised him (apart from your ‘lungi-banyaan’ one selling steaming chai at the top of the Everest!) ………& that Mallu is (no prize for guessing it right) ……..Dr. Verghese Kurien!!

    The story goes like this (well, in this case, it’s a true story)……someone gifted Dr. Kurien a photograph of Mount Everest with an original autograph by the great Sherpa Tenzing on it. After few years when
    Sir Edmand Hillary visited Dr. Kurien at his Anand home, he saw that photograph hanged on the wall, he too offered to sign on it & almost about to sign, when Dr. Kurien seeing him sign above Sherpa Tenzing’s autograph, stopped him!……..& suggested him to sign under the signature of Tenzing!!!

    The story does not end here……..when Dr. Kurien narrated me this incident, he added – ‘these foreigners always want to be ahead or above us………we better check them at every stage……he can’t play with the history……….it was Sherpa Tenzing who was there on the top first!

    I took a photograph of that picture on his wall (with his prior permission of course!)……attached with this email for you all.


    Atul Bhide

  3. Wow lata, very nice. Wonder how you find the topics. If any topic comes to my un imaginative mind, will pass it to you to transform it into a splendid piece of art. . . Good going. . . Keep it up. . . . How about a trip in thee local train. . .

  4. Maneesha Bhosale

    Great, i agree with you Lata. Like Sonali says, How about a trip in the local train. Would love to read that. You know why….. Keshava Madhava…….:)

  5. Enjoyed reading this piece Lata…so many memories of our laughing sessions together flashed past my mind. I think it is time to reconnect!!

  6. Lata, you will convert all of us to be your Ardent blog readers ! Fantastic ! As Suhas has written earlier, you have a great gift with Words !
    Keep blogging

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