‘Anandibai Joshee’: Book of poems on India’s first female physician to hit stands

A new book, “Anandibai Joshee: A Life in Poems”, puts into words the struggles and accomplishments of India’s first female physician who travelled across the seas to pursue a medical education before her return to India as a doctor.

The book, published by HarperCollins India and written by US-based poet-author Shikha Malaviya, is a chronological rendering of Joshee’s life — from her birth and childhood in the bustling town of Kalyan in Maharashtra and her marriage to an eccentric man 16 years older, to early childbirth and the loss of her infant, from which her desire to become a doctor was born.

“The more I delved into the life of Anandibai Joshee, the more I realized how universal her struggles were, whether in the 19th or 21st century, to find one’s own voice and purpose in a deeply patriarchal world. Her strength and equanimity inspired me to rediscover my own voice. I hope her story will inspire others in similar ways,” said Malaviya, who has also authored “Geography of Tongues” (2014).

Born in an orthodox family in Maharashtra on March 31, 1865, she was married to a widower thrice her age when she was just nine. Besides being the first female Indian physician, she was also the first woman in India to complete her studies in western medicine from the United States. She passed away at the young age of 22 due to tuberculosis.

According to the publishers, while Joshee’s adventures were cut short by tragedy, her story “lives on through these poems that thunder from across the decades with a voice that cannot be silenced”.

“These beautiful and deeply moving poems tell the story of India’s first female physician. I loved every page and was grateful for the opportunity to learn about a remarkable human being.

I cannot think of a better way to celebrate this phenomenal woman,” said Prerna Gill, commissioning editor at HarperCollins.

The book, priced at Rs 399, is scheduled to release on July 16.

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