Happy Retirement, Mother!

My mother retired today. After 40+ years of dedicated service to medicine and to teaching medicine, she has officially retired. She is an inspiration to many, but most of all, she is an inspiration to me. She is a wonderful mother, the best anyone could ever hope for. But today, I want to write about her as a professional and the impact she has had on me as a professional.

As a child, she was just Amma to me. But as I grew up and started my own working life, I also began to understand and appreciate Dr. Sathiavathy for the professional she was. She started her career in late seventies, in Calicut Medical College and over the next 30 years or so, served in many capacities in the Government Medical College, in the Microbiology department first as a staff and then as the head of the department and eventually as the acting Principal of the College. She has taught many generations of doctors, and after she left Government Service, she joined Jubilee Mission Medical and Research Institute, where she was Professor and Head of the Department of Microbiology. It’s been a long road, with an even longer string of achievements, which I won’t attempt to recount here. Needless to say, I am proud and grateful to be her daughter.

She comes from a generation when being a woman and working full-time was not easy, let alone in a demanding profession in senior roles. I may not have experienced first-hand what it was like then, but I’ve been close enough to know the grit, perseverance and determination that was required of her, every single day, day after day. Honestly, I would not be where I am today without her. Whenever I face challenges at work, I remind myself that I am just a small link in a long chain of progress, holding onto a mantle that I will pass onto my daughters eventually. No matter what life throws at me, I tell myself that I won’t be the one to break that chain. I owe that sense of commitment and determination to my mother.

My mother is kind and generous. Her colleagues love her, her students adore her. She held many leadership roles, and I’ve heard her, on occasion, being sharp, but it was always with kindness, care and love. Wherever she goes, she ends up with lots of adoring followers and genuine friends. My parents’ house overflows with visitors from their professional life, who often travel from far and wide just to come by for a hello. That she manages to build rapport in short periods of time, touching people whether she knows them for a long time or just brief periods, and yet retaining relationships that last a lifetime, never ceases to amaze me.

She is dedicated, when she commits to getting something done, I’ve never seen her waver. I’ve never heard her question whether it was good for her own self – she selflessly worked for others, despite the consequences it might have had on herself. Over and over again, I’ve seen her put the welfare of others above her own.

And somehow despite the challenges of a stressful job and managing a home and other responsibilities, I do not remember my mother ever being distracted. When she was with me, she was present. She made me feel like I was the most important person to her in the whole world, and that she loved me whole-heartedly and unconditionally. Work took a backseat. I don’t know whether it was an illusion, because she must have had many things on her mind, but from my perspective, it worked perfectly. Somehow she managed to achieve that balance that many of us can only hope for.

She worked hard, and she was constantly learning. Just 6 months before her retirement, at 69 years of age, I was surprised to hear that she was listening to webinars to keep herself abreast of latest developments in her field. She co-founded and led the Continuous Medical Education Program in JMMCRI, starting many on the path of learning. She was organized, she was always humble and never felt she was brilliant, and often therefore worked harder than many others who might have taken success for granted or approached life with arrogance.

And most of all, she did everything with a sense of fun. On my darkest days, I close my eyes and I remember her laugh. Loud and hearty, and easily provoked to laughter. Even when she was heading up an entire Medical college, acting as the Principal, when challenges came her way in whatever form they took, she never lost her sense of perspective, and she could always find the time to laugh and smile – and that smile reassured everyone around her, including me.

She might have retired today, a loss to many who know her in professional life, I am sure – but I, for one, am looking forward to enjoying more of her time with us. It’s time to inspire the next generation, as you have inspired mine.