Gynaecologist Dr K S Maheswari Recounts The Services of Mangalambal Paatti in Maternity Care

Annai Nursing Home on Raja Street is a landmark. The Chief, Dr.K.S.Maheswari is a well known gynaecologist and obstetrician in this area. She was awarded the Best Doctor Award by the Coimbatore Corporation in 2009 and was also honoured with the IMA (Indian Medical Association) Community Service Award in 2019. The popular doctor is also keenly interested in local history. She has collected a lot of information from her elders, friends and is very keen to share snippets about the Coimbatore of the yonder days.
The communicative Dr.Maheswari and her industrious husband C.D.Senthilnathan manage the facilities with service in their mind. “Many years ago, there lived one Mangalambal Paatti. She lost her husband quite early and the veteran freedom fighter and Congress leader C.P.Subbiah Mudaliar sent her to undergo maternity training in the north. She went on to become the most successful and lucky maternity assistant in Coimbatore during her times. Mangalambal Paatti was like a doctor and she delivered from the homes of people. Her success rate was hundred percent and there were zero casualty. She was given a grand retirement function those days. People continue to remember this lucky lady. Those were the days,” smiled Dr.K.S.Maheswari.
She spoke about the panankaattu maternity home (Seethalakshmi Maternity Home) donated by Asoka M.K.Krishna Chetty, R.K.Bai Maternity Home donated by Gokuldas Thulsidas and Korangu Sait Hospital given by the T.V Brothers family. The doctor recalled some practitioners who included Alangarathamma, Meenambal, Maryamma and Sarojini Nachimuthu. The Chinna Aspathiri (Small Hospital) in Raja Street had been the first hospital those days. It was later that the Periya Aspathiri (Coimbatore Medical College Hospital) came up on Trichy Road. She recalled the services of Dr.Devaram, Dr.Saraswathi and Dr.Swathanthra.
Dr.K.S.Maheswari shared details about the ‘Abhaaya Mukku’ water tank in the old town area. This had been created during the world war in order to douse fires that may be created due to aerial bombing. Those were times when an alarm used to sounded out and people had to seek cover. The good doctor recalled the services of Rtn.V.V.Sriram who used to work tirelessly for the Polio Plus programme for decades. He was known to visit the hospital every Wednesday and give biscuits to the kids waiting for their polio drops. About 240 plus packets were distributed every time.
The doctor and husband belong to an ancient heritage. Their house used to be located in Thomas Street which is Subbiah Street. It used to be known as Maadavilagam Street once upon a time. They remember that there used to be a ‘hanging place’ in the Training School area long ago. This had existed during the times of East India Company.
C.D.Senthilnathan happens to be the son of C.N.Dhandayudhapani, a leading mill store supplier. Both the brothers C.N.Dhandayudhapani and C.N.Rajamanickkam were members of the Coimbatore Cosmopolitan Club and their father C.P.Namasivaya Mudaliar was a well known Abkari contractor. Their huge house was known as ‘Singam Vecha Medhai Veedu’ (the house with a lion sculpture of the upper floor). It had been endowed with all facilities including a shed for cows and the bus used to traverse the street those days. Raja Street was known for its good quality drinking water and the old Ananthaiyan Kinaru (well) was the main source for drinking water for the people living in the Pettai (town cum commercial area). Ponnaiyyarajapuram was also known for its good water sources. All the old water bodies including Selva Chinthamani Kulam, Muthannan Kulam, Ukkudam Periya Kulam, Valangulam and Kurichikulam had ensured that the ground water was of good quality. The temple tanks used to be full of water all round the year.
“The city had a number of old photo studios and the popular amongst them were Seenu Photo Studio, Raju’s Electric Studio, Ramu Studio, Crown Studio, IAB and Modern Studios. All the negatives used to be retained by the old photo studios. Actor M.R.Radha used to stay in the Seenu Photo Studio residence those days. The owner was Srinivasan and his brother C.S.Venkataraman had been an Honourary Magistrate and Municipal Councillor. Well known Rathinavel Mudaliar was with the Swatantra Party. He had donated a lot for enriching the medical facilties. C.P.Viswanatha Mudaliar, the brother of C.P.Subbiah Mudaliar was the trustee of the Pettai Visweswaraswamy Temple. Those days the town was from Koniamman Temple to Chetty Veedhi and from Vysial Street to Sukrawarpet. Diwan Bahadur C.S.Rathinasabapathy Mudaliar used to request the residents of the old town to buy plots in R.S.Puram. G.Krishnan, G.Purushottaman and G.N.Sam were among the most popular residents of R.S.Puram,” recalled C.D.Senthilnathan.
The relatives of C.D.Senthilnathan’s grandfather C.P.Namasivaya Mudaliar from Chennimalai had facilitated a meeting between the young C.N.Annadurai to E.V.R.Periyar in Chennimalai way back in 1934. C.D.Senthilnathan’s grandfather Nagappa Mudaliar was the owner of City Matty Stores, a clothing outlet in Raja Street. He used to offer 3 vests per Rupee then and his products were exported. The labels had been sourced from England. Ramaswamy, Angappan and Subbiah had been common names and the Angalamman Temple of Vysial Street happens to be centuries old.
“The Camp Mariamman Temple and the Dandu Mariamman Temple are quite old. Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan used to come through Annur during the eighteenth century. Podanur and Puliakulam were the places for the establishments connected with the East India Company and later the railways came over to Podanur. The small town, railways in Podanur and the surrounding village network has now become Coimbatore. The place was liveable only because of the water bodies. All the educational institutions were located in the Pettai. Many of the girl students who had got educated in schools like the Training School went on to become teachers and doctors, “ added Dr.K.S.Maheswari. Even today one can get to see the bus shelter donated by the old Merchants Recreation Club in Raja Street. The Theosophical Society has a street named after it and several leading lights used to visit the society during the colonial era,” stated the award winning doctor.
Dr.K.S.Maheswari has an excellent recall and she remembers minute details and relationships connected with the past. She has a nice collection of books and photographs. The picture of the heavily medalled Venkatachala Mudaliar is quite unique. Her busy schedule seems to come in the way of chronicling. However she is ever ready to share stories connected with Coimbatore.
—Rajesh Govindarajulu

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