Sulagatti Narasamma was all of 20, when as a midwife, she helped deliver a baby. This was in 1940.
For seven decades, she continued to deliver babies, more than 15,000 at that. Moreover, she did this without taking a penny. It was truly service above self for this grand old lady. For this, she earned the title Sulagatti, which in Kannada, means ‘delivery work’.
In what can only be described as a life that was filled with bringing joy and happiness to others, Narsamma breathed her last on December 25, 2018, at the ripe old age of 98.
Having started rather early, Narasamma drew inspiration from her own grandmother, Margamma, who was also a midwife.
In a report published in The New Indian Express, she had said, “I learnt the art of delivering babies from my grandmother, Margamma, who also helped me deliver five of my babies.”
Until 2007, Narasamma was a household name in Krishnapura. However, it was writers Annapoorna Venkatananjappa and Ba Ha Ramakumari who spotted her at work and nominated her for a district-level award.
From there, various media houses picked the story, and the rest, as they say, is history.
In 2014, almost 74 years since the first delivery, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Tumkur University, making her Dr Sulagitti Narasamma.
A resident of Krishnapura in the Pavagada taluk of Karnataka, her efforts received national recognition in 2018 when she was awarded the Padma Shri.
According to the publication, her family members believe that she had one more opportunity to hone her skills. They say that members of various nomadic tribes would come to the village and take shelter. She was kind enough to help them; and in return, she learnt the art of preparing natural medicines for pregnant women. This played an instrumental role in her success, they say. She had a special talent of checking the pulse of a foetus, its health and the position of its head.
The secret of her long, healthy life
A mother to 12 children and 22 grandchildren, Narsamma led a full life. Given the sheer nature of her work, she had to ensure that she not only kept well herself but also had the energy to handle all the deliveries.
She relied on groundnuts, a legume rich in proteins and easily available in her district.
She also consumed millets in various forms. Even though she was over 90, she did not need spectacles, and all her faculties were good.
Known to have a heart of gold, she passed on her knowledge to nearly 180 students, including her youngest daughter, Jayamma, who is now an experienced midwife.
We, at The Better India, wish Narasamma’s family well and hope that her soul rests in peace.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)