INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY A Florence Nightingale - C.N.Janaki
To C.N.Janaki, the last of five children, her parents were just faces in a photograph. When she opened her eyes to the world, her mother shut hers in eternal peace. She lost her father, an army man, also soon after. The children were brought up by their maternal grandmother and later their aunt. Two of her brothers too died. Little Janaki, thus grew up with a feeling of insecurity and was too timid to even ask to be sent to school. When her brother and sister got married and went away, she found herself at Avvai Home (an orphanage) where she studied till the eighth standard and then did her SSLC from Seva Samajam.
A chance meeting with Dr. Krishnamurthy of the Cancer Institute opened the doors to a new world. He urged her to join the Cancer Institute nursing staff. The Institute deputed her to do her training in general sickness nursing at the Government Stanley Hospital. She passed with distinction in gynaec nursing at the Women and Children Hospital, Egmore. She came back to the Cancer Institute as a nurse aid, rose slowly to being the Matron and is today one of the most experienced among the nursing staff.
There was resentment from her Brahmin Iyer family. "My relatives were upset that I was wearing a white saree and blouse and tending sick people at an age when I should have been married and raising a family. My brother suggested a clerical job. But this was an environment where I felt safe and it taught me to be independent. As regards marriage, since I had a hysterectomy done and knew I could not bear children, I gave up the idea".
She sees people dying ever so often. Does she not get depressed?
She remembers with tears in her eyes of the time when she grew very attached to a small boy afflicted with leukemia. On one of her night duty rounds, she heard the child moaning and asking for water. She picked him up, put him on her lap. Just as she finished feeding him water, she felt the body go limp. "Such instances make me wonder at times if what I am doing is futile. We go about our work with so much hope and sincerity, and then death makes its claim and all our efforts go waste. I know we are grappling with death and most times we lose, but if I can bring some joy and cheer by my service, even for only a moment, I feel a great sense of pride and joy.
Yes, there are times when I get very depressed. That is when I go the temples and listen to classical music. Prayers and music give me solace".
She was chosen for the Voluntary Service award. "Such recognition makes me feel that I have not lived in vain". What about her hobbies? "Where is the time to indulge in all that", is her smiling reply.
People like Janaki are truly unsung heroines working with dedication in the service of mankind without a thought to personal gain.