July 19, 2022

Inspiration for the day

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Sarada Menon, Chennai

Almost 80 years ago, when men wore mere mundu with no upper garment and women with pleated long hair weren’t as socially mobile as they are today, a young girl, one among the 11 sibilings, decided she would study medicine after Intermediate.  And in the fourth year of her study, she had to encounter the psychiatry ward, where the hellish ambience set her on the path to become the first woman psychiatrist of India.

That young doctor is Sarada Menon, now 98.  Born in Mangaluru and brought up in Chennai, she joined diploma course in psychiatry in England after post-graduation but had to return home following her father’s illness.

Later she completed similar course at Nimhans, Bangalore and joined at Government Mental Hospital at Chennai.  By the time she retired in 1978, she was destined to teach the subject and guide doctoral scholars.

During her stint at Chennai, she was instrumental in starting of outpatient wing called Industrial Therapy Centre.  Today, it has grown into a huge organization.

In 1994 she started the Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF).  Its effort at rehabilitation of cured patients won the acknowledgement of WHO. 

Based on all these achievements and toils, the nation honoured her with a Padma Bhushan in 1992.

Has she herself gone through a depressive mood?  There is no one who would not have had a depressive phase.  The demise of beloved ones and the unexpected negative outcomes of life would lead to tension in everyone.  But the antidot for the same is to forget oneself by being engaged in either some creative work or in helping others.

Even at the age of 98, her day starts at 6 am.  In the forenoon she would spend time replying to mail and reading new developments in the professional field.  In the afternoon, from 3 pm to 8 pm, she would conduct online consultation.  Later she would prepare short notes on her patients before calling it a day at 10.30 pm.


Roopa Dayabji (text), Vanitha, September 18 – October 1, 2021


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