Pioneering the emergence of women doctors in Mauritius
A palm reader in India predicted in the 1950s that little Saroj Malik would travel across seas to heal many people in a foreign land. This prophecy turned into reality in Mauritius in 1968. Saroj became one of the first women doctors to serve the nation.
Her long journey started in Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan, where she was born. There she witnessed the horrific events following the partition of Bharat into India and Pakistan in 1947. Three generations of her family were forced to leave their beautiful mansion to move to India where they settled in Mathura. After graduating from Sarojini Naidu Medical College (Agra), Dr Saroj flew to Mauritius to marry her college mate. Dr Saroj Nundoo was one of the first women doctors to practise in the villages and towns of the newly independent country. Elegantly clad in a sari tucked under her white coat, she would go round hospital wards providing solace to patients, and quickly picked up skills from mentors like gynaecologists Drs I. Moollan and F. Espitalier Noel, who grew to value her professionalism and pragmatic sangfroid in safely delivering many newborns. Several women reminisce fondly how she adeptly delivered their babies while she was herself in an advanced stage of pregnancy.
Shifting from a Punjabi background, Dr Saroj gradually adapted to the Mauritian context, speaking Creole and Bhojpuri with patients. Facing the challenges of medical practice with dedication in all the hospitals of the country, including in Rodrigues, in due course she was promoted as the first woman Medical Superintendent of Mauritius.
After retirement, Dr Saroj zealously explored pathways of alternative medicine through Reiki, Ayurveda, Meditation and Shivyog, and also volunteered for community outreach activities organised by the local Rotary Club.
She had indomitable courage and an amazing capacity to bounce back. Having survived the horrors of the Indo-Pakistan Partition and recouped after major surgery in her childhood, she successfully adapted to life in a foreign land, recovered after two total knee replacements and complications to walk normally afterwards! In her last months she fiercely battled a series of illnesses without letting her family feel that it was time for her to go.
Saroj is the Hindi word for lotus, which although rooted in mud rises through the water to bloom. This captures the essence of Saroj’s transcending personality which was innately resilient to adverse conditions, always preserving its purity throughout the trials of life, and looking beyond them towards the fascinating inner resourcefulness of the Self.
One year after her demise we pay homage to this outstanding lady with great grit — a Punjabi tigress who fought tooth and nail for her convictions. She fulfilled her dharma commendably.
Mrityor ma amritamgamaya
(From death lead me to immortality)
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28