SUBHASHINI MISTRY : Kolkata vendor opens hospital with earnings

True grit that built a hospital

[Everyday Heroes] Subhashini Mistry, at first sight, appears to be a frail 72-year old widow. A facade that belies the story of an incredibly courageous vegetable seller who has built a 'Humanity Hospital' where no poor person is turned away without treatment.

Social welfare in India has a lot more ground to cover. Most of the poor are not protected by any social security measures and are left at the mercy of fate. Any unforeseen circumstance, like an illness in the family or a natural calamity, wrecks havoc on such households. However, despite all the adversity, every now and then, we come across people who are exemplars for the rest of the society. 
Subhasini Mistry is one such person - the result of her undiminishing faith, hope, passion and hard work serves the poor even today from within the walls of an off-white 3-storeyed building

It was the year 1971. Sadhan Chandra Mistry was an agricultural labourer, working on small farms on a daily wage basis. During the off-season, he served and washed utensils in his village tea-stall, which also sold paan and beedi. He supported his family of five- his wife Subhasini and four children, frequently on earnings that amounted to less than one rupee a day. The Mistry family lived in a thatched house in Hanspukur – a village in the 24 Parganas district on the outskirts of Kolkatta.

One particular cropping season, the rains were exceptionally heavy in Kolkatta. Sadhan fell ill while working on the paddy farm. He had diaorrhea, but Subhasini did not know what to do. There was no money in the house. Sadhan could not be shown to the doctor and there was no medicine for treatment. After remaining ill for three days, he succumbed to the disease, and died of dehydration.

Subhasini was left to fend for herself and her 4 children. Married at the age of 13, she was an unlettered woman who had done nothing till now except routine household chores. She was the youngest of five sisters, and had always lived in poverty. With no one to turn to, she resorted to being an agricultural labourer, surviving on Rs. 5 per day (well below the minimum wage in 1971). With the meagre amount, it was impossible to get enough food to sustain four hungry young mouths. She did all kinds of work- from household labour, to selling vegetables at No. 4 Bridge in Park Circus, to helping with the village store. The family ended up going to sleep hungry on many nights, and as a final resort, she gave up two of her kids in adoption to an orphanage.

Today, Subhasini Mistry is over 70 years of age. Her short figure has begun to stoop. She sits in the ground floor office of a three-storeyed building, in a faded white saree with a blue border. She can be quickly dismissed as a fragile old woman if not for the gentle curiosity in her eyes. The three-storeyed building she is sitting at is the multi-specialty ‘Humanity Hospital’ she has set up - occupying a total floor space of 15,000 sq. ft, with two fully equipped operation theatres and 30 beds. There are 22 visiting doctors in the hospital. The hospital treats about 1000 patients per month.
Humanity Hospital is the result of years of toil and hard work by SubhasiniIt began in a thatched roof in 1993, with the money that Subhasini had saved over the 24 years since her husband died. 

In all these years of hardship and difficulties, she kept aside money everyday- determined to set up a hospital some day, so that no poor person goes untreated. When the amount grew, she deposited it in banks, post offices, with people in the village etc. The money was put in a trust and the foundation for the Humanity Hospital was laid. Her son, whom she gave away to the orphanage, grew up to be a doctor- and currently works as a full time resident doctor in the hospital. Her daughter became a nurse, and provides her services at the hospital.

The poor are treated here for a throwaway sum of Rs. 10. The mission is to not let anyone die for want of treatment the way Subhasini’s husband did.
Subhashini at the CNN-IBN real heroes award.

While I was talking to her, Subhasini flipped the pages of the magazines and newspapers that lay in front of her, with the curiosity of a six year old. ‘What are you looking for?’ I asked. “Nothing”, she said casually, “I can’t read or write; I don’t even know how to read the numbers on the vehicle number plate”. I could not help ask about what made her do this. ‘Aami onek dukkho dekhe, tabhi nijer mate bhikhari hobe, te doojer mate raja hobe na’ (went through a lot of difficulties, but you should have a strong will, even if you remain a beggar because of that; and not give up on your determination even if offered to become a ruler).

Humanity Hospital is looking for funds to maintain and expand the hospital facility. You could call +91 9883062354 or visit for more details.