An Exclusive Interview with Tahira Hashim Ali Khan
Let us share some precious moments with Tahira, whom we met at her residence in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad and was willing to break her busy schedule for this writer’s few queries. Incidentally, this is her first interview to the English media after receiving the award. YGOY felt that her receiving the award for improving the conditions of the poor should not go unnoticed, although she herself is averse to any kind of publicity. Find her complete profile Here.
In an exclusive interview given to us, Tahira replies very candidly:
Interviewed by Danteshwari Bhaskar
Q.1 How do you feel after receiving the award?
Ans: I felt very happy and honored that I was receiving it from the President of India.
Q.2 Can you throw some light on your community service activities?
Ans: I was given the award for having worked as a nurse. I started when I was 24 years old and retired at 55. For almost 60 years I worked as a nurse giving services to the community and helping people. I was interested in the community health nursing right from the beginning- visiting homes of the poor people and teaching them principles of health and how to keep themselves and their children healthy.
While working in the slums, I found no difference between the Indian slums and the American slums. Everything is lacking in them. There are no proper housing or education facilities, financially the inhabitants of the slums are poor. Most of the husbands are drunkards and beat their wives. Extremely unhygienic conditions prevail in them.
Children do not go to school and play on the roads. They use abusive language. Respective governments can provide proper facilities, but it is the people who need to be educated to ensure that they make avail of them. They should send their children to schools and make the environment hygienic.
Q.3 Why did you choose the nursing profession, a profession which is given a step-motherly treatment by the ordinary person as well as medical professionals in India?
Ans. I like nurses helping people. I like the attitude of helping people in need. For me service to the patients is like service to the God.
Q.4 You belong to a distinguished family. Did your family have any objections to the profession you chose?
Ans: No. My father was a very open- minded person. He allowed us to choose our own profession. He never interfered with our lives. He gave us complete freedom to choose our profession.
Q.5 As a medical professional, how do the Indian medical services come up to the level of those provided in the West?
Ans: In the West nursing is much more organized. There is a lot of equipment in the hospital for nurses to use. In India, the facilities are poor and inadequate. In the West, there is 1 nurse for 4 patients. Here you have 1 nurse for 60 patients. Naturally, the nurses cannot give very good care as in the West. Training of nurses is also poor in India. Many colleges have been started, but they are not properly staffed. In the West, hospitals function more systematically. They focus more on serving the patient. Here also since the corporate hospitals have been set up, patients are being taken care of more systematically.
Q.6 Did you find it difficult to work on your return to India?
Ans: No. I had to make adjustments. I chose those aspects, which suited India and utilized them. Those not suitable were discarded.
Q.7 What can be done to improve the facilities in the Government funded hospitals in India, which normally the poor avail of?
Ans: The Government can provide more and better qualified nurses and their ratio should be at least 1 nurse for 10 patients. They should be provided with equipment and facilities to give quality nursing care to patients.
Q.8 In the West, nursing profession is highly remunerative and well-respected as a profession. In India, the scenario is different, with many young women still hesitant to take on the profession. Do you agree with this?
Ans: No, I do not agree with this. Now with the opening of many colleges of nursing, the standard of nursing has gone up to a great extent. Nurses qualified in India are very well appreciated in the West as they are very well qualified. Given the proper facilities and equipment, they can perform very well, because they have had very good education here. In India, because of poor facilities in hospitals, nurses are unable to perform.
Q.9 What kind of hurdles did you face in your line of work? How did you overcome them?
Ans: Because I started so many colleges of nursing in Hyderabad, I had to face a lot of hurdles. The people did not know that nurses can be educated at the university level and that they could also be professional.
Q.10 At 78 you are very active and lead an independent life? What is the secret behind it?
Ans: I keep myself busy. I do gardening, I do lot of reading, watch T.V., help people, especially when they are sick and I feel happy and satisfied by doing so. I also socialize.
Q.11 What do you have to say for the young aspirants who would also like to dedicate their lives to the nursing profession?
Ans: Nurses should respect their profession. They should not think that this profession is not good. They are serving the people and helping them to live longer and a happier life. They should love their profession and fulfill their duty with hard work, honesty and dedication.
We have much to learn from Tahira. Her determination and willpower to reach goals has culminated in her receiving the award. She is indeed a Florence Nightingale herself, never saying “no” to anybody who seeks her advice on medical issues.