Charitable Mercy Missions
Dr Jubaida, Photo: Zahedul I Khan
Dr Jubaida, who got her gynaecologist's degree from London, at a time when it was rare for young women from this part of the world to go in for gynaecology– has today settled in Dhaka. She has travelled to numerous capital cities– in her capacity as a gynaecologist and social worker. Meanwhile, her younger sibling, Ayesha, rose to be a professor of Physics, at DU. It had been natural for the two sisters to follow the footsteps of their brothers– who shone in the science faculty. Dr Jubaida, as she put it herself, “studied medicine almost every one of her waking hours”.
Today, Dr Jubaida has opened many shelters for women, in and out of Rajshahi. They range from places for expecting mothers, cancer, tuberculosis, schools for primary education etc. Her husband having been a well-known sports person, she travelled the world at her merit, and also along with him.
The lady of mercy has gone overseas on her own credentials too. Speaking of her student days, Dr Jubaida says that from 150 medical students only eight were girls. The collection of students came from all over the then East Pakistan. It was not the norm for female students, in her days, in 1948, to go in for science subjects. Asked as to who inspired her, she says, “Having passed her Intermediate Science from Lady Brabourne College, the family came from Kolkata to Dhaka. My eldest brother and younger sister studied Physics. Since both Physics and Medicine meant co-education, I said to myself why not study medicine, which would definitely be useful in helping mankind. My father happened to be a professor of Islamic History and English, posted at different places. I myself worked in Rajshahi Medical College of 42 years.”
Talking about whether or not it was difficult to study all the facts, figures, drawings etc in tomes Dr Jubaida says, "All of us eight female students studied hard. We were determined to beat our male counterparts. We spent all our waking hours in studying, apart from essentials, like eating and sleeping. I didn't stay in the hostel, like some of the other students. Medicine is a difficult, we being the first batch of Dhaka Medical College. The female students, who came from outside Dhaka, had to reside in hostels but most students stayed in their own homes, and their time was not eaten up in cooking etc.”
Dwelling on the teachers who inspired her in particular, Dr Jubaida says that there were some foreign teachers who impressed her in particular. There was a Hungarian teacher Dr Novak and a British one, the rest were Bengali in origin. They cared for the eight girls with eagle eyes, and appreciated greatly the fact that the female students studied with all possible concentration. As for the girls, Dr Jubaida says that they studied “literally day and night every moment of the waking hours”.
She says, “We learnt or drew, never putting down the books.” Asked if dissection of human bodies put her off, she has said, promptly “Not at all”. Speaking about the charitable organisations, she says that she was the president of the Rajshahi Diabetic Association for 20 years. When it began, it was a small organisation. When she came away from Rajshahi in 2004 she had headed it years together. She was also the only female member of the executive committee. There were housing problems; there was monetary problems; difficulties in examining patients; shortage of nurses and doctors. Yet, a bit at a time, the organisation took a shape and grew large and became well-known and popular. Today there are 200 to 300 patients a day, says Dr Jubaida, when at first the line of patients use to peter out quickly. Tests like blood examination took. Now, more complicated ones take place.
Talking about whether it is better to take traditional pills like those made of” Neem” leaves were better that taking masses of conventional allopathic medicines, Dr Jubaida says that homeopathic medicines too help. Some say that dried bitter gourd seeds are good too. But this has not been scientifically tested and tried, she says. In Bangladesh there are countless diabetic patients and the number increases daily, it is said. Asked what this ailment is due to, she says, that this is due to shortage of insulin in the pancreas. Anxiety, fear and tension add to causes, somewhat, it is believed. A patient must nibble something every four hours, she advised. The patient passes urine often. Also, a diabetic person feels thirstier more often than normal persons, she adds. Talking about the symptoms she says, "Sometimes, the disease remains symptom less. Even newborn babies can have it.” Diet control, exercise and morning walk help, as we know.
Touching on the Rajshahi Cancer and Research Centre, Dr Jubaida says it is a large organisation housed in a three-storied building. Here too Dr Jubaida was the only female among the seven founding members. “Collecting funds from various sources, the land was obtained and the building made. Investigation for cancer is not easy. Even now, we haven't been able to treat cancer patients properly. There are only small treatments, here, such as that of breast cancer. We send the rest to Medical College, in Dhaka. It has to be much larger even though, at present, it is fairly bigthe Rajshahi Cancer Centre. Some of the tests for Cancer can be done here. We are short of funds here; we cannot carry out the other tests. Every test costs a lot.
“The normal cancers are for breast, chest, throat, lung, stomach– the respiratory and digestive systems. All sorts of cancer prevail in Bangladesh, says Dr Jubaida. Is it true that “Cancer has no answer” “If caught in the early stages, this is not so,” says Dr Jubaida, "If caught in the early stages, it can be arrested. In case of later stages, chemotherapy and radiation is given. These involve injections and radioactive treatments. As they are very expensive we have not been able to start them in Rajshahi.” Asked about donors for the cancer mission, Dr Jubaida says: "Some of the Rotary Clubs, the world over, are helping us. There are few sponsors locally. It is not that they don't have the money. There are well-to-do people in our own country."
Asking for more information, we are told that there are several doctors and nurses at the Cancer Centre but that there not many indoor patients. “There is a little diagnosis. Apart from cancer, other ailments are looked into. When we are more solvent we will try for diagnoses and treatment."
Do people try to hide cases of breast cancer, cue to embarrassment? “Ignorance and shyness may lead to this. Patients don't come for early diagnosis,” says the doctor cum philanthropist. Diagnosis in Bangladesh remains difficult, she says, “We don't have sufficient doctors for the treatment of cancer. The treatment is in its early stages. We expect it will grow gradually.” At Rajshahi there four nurses. More are not required as there are no indoor patients. The others are doctors, most working voluntarily.
There is besides these institutions, a women's voluntary organisation called “Tilattoma". This began in 1978. They mainly work on health problems, mostly deliveries. Treatments for minor ailments (general medicine) for both young and old are also provided. Caesarean sections are done at three centres, with necessary doctors and nurses. The cost for this is a nominal amount, Tk25 to Tk40. Here there is treatment for tuberculosis too. There are 14 branches for this, in Rajshahi, Nowga, Sirajganj, Nawabganj, Natore etc. There is a proper hospital for this. This too Dr Jubaida has been running for 32 years. For Tilottama they got donations from Egypt, Indonesia and Norway.
They began in a village, with a donation from Norway. This is a primary school and two kindergartens. Now there are three schools such as this. The good doctor pumped in resources for this. Yet more funds are needed. The books have to be obtained by the students themselves.
There is also an old people's home. Seven “bigas” of land was donated, and they hope to get more money with time to develop it.
Dr Jubaida is a member of various women's voluntary organisations, both national and international. She herself has donated many lakhs for each project that she began. Such a person with indomitable energy and a big heart is surely someone any society should cherish.