Those Delhi Days (1950-54)
Author: Trixie Marthenesz
Trixie Marthenesz, who obtained her Bachelor’s Degree on Nursing from the College of Nursing of the University of Delhi in 1954, is in her eighties at present. In August, 2009 her book on ‘Those Delhi Days’ was launched through the Sri Lanka Federation of University Women. It is revealed that Deshabandu Dr. Wimala de Silva had inspired her to write this text. I had the opportunity to glance through this publication when she handed over to me a complimentary copy.
I was fascinated and quite attracted to read it in full, purely on its most reader friendly and the anecdotal form of presentation. The way she had skillfully manipulated the language made me to read it at a stretch. While reading the book I was automatically carried away to the scenarios she referred.
The chapters were chronologically arranged and the meticulous care that she has adopted in presenting in minute detail, the events related to the episodes that were described therein is another attractive feature of the book.
The descriptions and episodes addressed in the chapters varied from history (Chapter 10 on Growth and Development of Delhi) to humour (Chapter 24 on A Policeman Sees Ghost) sciences (Chapter 12 on First Semester Blues) to sports (Chapter 15 on Another First - India vs West Indies), professionalism (Chapter 23 on My First Cap) to patriotism (Chapter 20 on Ceylon Independence Celebrations in New Delhi - 1951), Travelling (Chapter 11 on Around Delhi) to Treatment (Chapter 32 on Tuberculosis Care in Kasauli), and Exploration (Chapter 28 on A Lesson, An Adventure and An Escapade) to Experience (Chapter 28 on In the Public Health Field). The preceding examples amply portray the wide variety of issues that were highlighted in the whole text along with the richness of the contents.
It is amazing to note after a period of almost six decades how the author has remembered all the episodes that were so meticulously described and the efforts made in preserving the relevant documents connected with the cited events. The langauge used was very much reader friendly and in simple short sentences. It sometimes portrayed a form of a novel, embodied with true life episodes.
The narrative style of presentation of an event in a mixed approach of combining description and thoughts related to the event being presented simultaneously made the reading more pleasant and sometimes stimulated curiosity. The whole publication portrayed a true description of various aspects and experience that the author had gained that were worth recording even after five decades, to be passed on to the next generation of not only nursing students but to all undergraduates.
The text addressed issues related to the efforts taken by her to enroll on a course of study leading to a bachelor’s degree in nursing in order to become a truly professional nurse. It amply demonstrated the courage and self-confidence she had developed in order to face a competitive interview with dedication and determination.
She also elaborately displayed her multiple interests in history, literature, culture in addition to her chosen profession in health care. Ms Marthenesz amply demonstrated her abilities in self-expression as a novelist as well as a professional author. In many instances she was honest and humble enough to simply express her inner feelings unhindered.
For example wherever they were offered a variety of Indian delicacies how they were enjoying them and craving to have them more and more was a lively unhindered description of her natural feelings.
The book also tried to inculcate such desirable qualities as, to be engaged in many outdoor and extracurricular activities as an undergraduate to become a full blown mature person in the future.
The crux of the presentation gives an important and timely message to all allied health science professionals in this country.
Although at present we are in a dilemma to accept the duration of the degree programs in allied health sciences, even in the early fifties, India had a four year degree program conducted for allied health science personnel.
The forty-two chapters devoted in this book highlighted varied aspects that are essentially encountered by an undergraduate especially in a foreign land.
This is a book which describes the ideal characteristics of an undergraduate. It embodies, maturity, intellectual capacity, ability to adapt to new environment, competency to understand different cultures, responsibility to undertake self learning, the capacity to face challenges and to be compassionate in all the activities to be performed.
In addition the book vividly describes the combination of political and socio-cultural events that had occurred during her period of stay in New Delhi with such accuracy and affection.
The text amply displayed many of the good qualities an ideal undergraduate necessarily should attempt to inculcate, as a result of experience gained in the university days and their significance and merit for the future life.
Even at her present age, the author is very alert and demonstrated her capabilities as a lively author with a distinct style of writing. Her details of expression and descriptions were accurate and conveyed a deeper message to all stakeholders involved in higher education.
Certainly there is ample valuable information and enriched with concepts embedded within the text which needs to be read with intense concentration and care. Definitely I gained a wealth of new knowledge on the circumstances under which the students in those days proceeded on scholarships and survived the elements and the environment.
It also portrayed the best practices involved in socialization, appreciation of nature, tolerance of varied cultures, facing the new challenges and overall to be a compassionate professional. In summary it is a book worth reading by all grades of academics as well as any undergraduate to learn about the difficulties faced five decades ago in pursuing higher education.
I wish Mrs. Marthenesz longer and healthier life to be able to continue to contribute to the nursing education in Sri Lanka in particular as well as to higher education in general.
- Prof. M. T. M. Jiffrey , Vice Chairman , UGC