Sitting in her chamber in Kolkata, with a framed picture of Samuel Hahnemann (founder of homoeopathy) facing me on my right, little did I foresee how inspiring this meeting with Bimla Goenka would turn out to be. She greeted me with a smile before telling me about her journey.
She was just a matriculate at the time of her marriage, having studied at a Hindi-medium school. Now she is a practicing homoeopath at 74. “Shri Radhakrishanji, a very well known homoeopath and a family friend, came to see me when I lost my son to a disease. He saw me losing all hope in life. He inspired me to start afresh and suggested that I start learning homoeopathy. At that time, I was ready to take up anything that could revive my interest in life and relationships. Now, I have been practicing homoeopathy for around thirty years, starting as late, or you might say, as early at 44,” she said.
Her husband looked fondly at her as she narrated how she treats her patients for free. She does this not because she considers it a charity, but because she likes to treat people and to see them fit.
I was curious to know how a ‘traditional’ Indian lady who married very early was able to achieve what she did considering the patriarchal setup surrounding her. Bimla belongs to a culture where women are expected to follow the rules rooted in tradition. She smiled and told me that not only was her husband supportive of her decision and walked alongside in this journey of self-realisation, but also encouraged her to stay professional in her approach.
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“Initially, I was not very comfortable dealing with male patients who would come for all sorts of ailments. So, one day he sat me down and told me that I must treat everyone who comes to me as patients, irrespective of their gender. That changed my perspective. Often I have not been able to cook a nice meal for him because I was preparing for my exams or had to leave early for my chamber visit. Not even once did he complain. He understands me and my passion and I draw strength from his conviction and faith in me. He is 76 years old and never gets cranky with me. There were times when he was very ill and I wanted to be by his side to take care of him. He would insist that I did not ignore my patients and made sure I visited my chamber,” she added.
From buying the software that she needed for her studies to ordering a journal from Britain, and purchasing astrology software to fulfill her interest in the subject, Bimla’s husband Anand Goenka helped her source everything she needed. He initially felt that it was God’s gift that Bimla, with her limited education, is now able to treat deaf and mute patients, among others, with the knowledge that she gained over the years.
“We take our morning tea together before going for a walk. Later, we leave for work. On returning home in the evening, we discuss the day gone by and spend some quality time together,” he said.
In current times when relationships are defined only by convenience, I found the story of Bimla and her husband profoundly inspiring.
Here is a couple who not only endured the untimely death of their 26-year-old son, but stood by each other in overcoming the tragic event. Her passion, coupled with her husband’s unconditional support, helped her not only sail through the rough patch in her life but also opened new frontiers of alternative medicine.
The beauty of their relationship lies in the immense respect and faith they have for each other. The couple celebrated 55 years of togetherness in 2016. We hope they have many more in the time to come!