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Captain Lakshmi Sahgal - a tribute!

Today, when I learned about the demise of Captain Lakshmi Sahgal, a strange feeling engulfed me. Even though I have never met her personally, I have heard many anecdotes about her that I feel a certain closeness to her. Her death today has truly brought an end to an eventful era of the Indian political history.

Though I have heard her name in school (while learning about the Indian Independence struggle and the role of INA), it is not until I got married into a family which knew her personally that I began to take interest in her. Subsequently, I learned about her activities and had come to regard her as an important player in the Indian Independence movement.

I confess that I am unaware of her history in detail. But what little I had learned about her has only fortified my respect for her. She has been an iconic figure, who, I am sure, was an inspiration to a multitude of people. A doctor by profession (she had an MBBS degree from Madras Medical College as well as a diploma in gynecology and obstetrics), she had joined the INA of Subhash Chandra Bose as the leader of 'Rani of Jhansi Regiment', the women's army unit of INA. It was the first of its kind in Asia.

Captain Lakshmi got married to P K Sahgal, who was an officer at the INA, and they settled Kanpur. She continued to live in the 'Manchester of the East' and continued her social service activities. She was also a Rajya Sabha MP (represented the Communist Party of India - Marxist)  and was even nominated for the post of President in 2002. Her social activities included organizing various relief camps (in Calcutta) and providing medical aid for the Bangladeshi refugees. Moreover, her clinic in Kanpur was a refuge to the poor and downtrodden people of  this erstwhile industrial city. Befittingly, it was in Kanpur that she breathed her last.

One of the most memorable stories about Captain Lakshmi Sahgal was the one I heard from a family friend of mine. Once, she (my family friend- lets call her chechi) and her husband was travelling to Kerala from Kanpur by train. In those days, there were no direct trains from (or to) Kanpur and so, one had to get down at Jhansi and catch another train to Kerala. To chechi's irritation, an elderly lady in the same bogie was giving her instructions like aisa karo, aisa na karo (do this, don't do that) continuously. Our Chechi, who was  pregnant at that time, was very much irritated with this lady's unsolicited advice. She expressed her displeasure in her mother tongue (Malayalam, which a Hindi speaking lady wont understand) to her husband. In spite of this, the elderly lady continued to give them her advice.

Soon the train halted at Jhansi and Chechi went to the washroom to freshen up before the change of trains. As she entered the dirty washroom with wet floor, guess who she sees? Yes, the same elderly lady. As chechi ignored her and proceeded towards the toilet the lady says -  സൂക്ഷിക്കണം,  വഴുക്കലുണ്ട് (take care, the floor is slippery)!!! Chechi got the shock of her life and didn't know what to say!!!

It later turned out that the elderly lady was none other than Captain Lakshmi Sahagal. When she had advised the young couple, it was not because she liked to interfere in other people's lives, but because she was qualified to do so as a gynecologist and because she was genuinely interested in the welfare of others.

This incident taught me two lessons - lesson no. 1 is that just because one think that the other person cannot understand what one says, one is not at a liberty to say anything about another person. Lesson no. 2 is that people may not be what they seem. A person whom we think a nuisance might be a blessing and vice-versa.  So, it would do us good to remember that appearances can be deceptive.

This incident also show us how caring and thoughtful Captain Lakshmi was. It is no wonder then that even at the ripe old age of 97, she used to go to her clinic in Kanpur where she provided medical aid to the poor and needy.

She was the messiah of the poor and I do hope that her life story will inspire the generations to come, to work for the upliftment of  poor and needy...

I salute the social spirit in her and her service mentality. And I bow my head in respect to this unsung daughter of India... May her soul rest in Peace!!!


  1. Nice tribute, Nisha. I too hugely respect this wonderful person. But, as happens with so many of those who fought so hard and selflessly for the country's freedom, it is so sad that India and Indians have not celebrated them while they were alive. What's worse is that even in death, they are not given more than a small mention even in our leading dailies and newschannels. A far cry from the multi-full page tributes and non-stop scenes from his movies that Rajesh Khanna's death evoked. Not to take away anything from the superstar of yesteryears, it's sad to note that those who gave us our todays and tomorrows are having their yesterdays also snatched away from them so mercilessly.

    RIP, Captain Lakshmi Sahgal. We salute you.

    1. Cant agree more with you!!! We seem to have forgotten the real heroes of the country and devote all our attention to the reel heroes... though I have nothing against them, it goes to show how wrong have we set our priorities!!! We live in a thankless world, where real superstars die an anonymous death while some lesser topics / people bask in limelight...

  2. Salutes to an extraordinary lady.

  3. വീരവനിതയ്ക്ക് ആദരാ‍ജ്ഞലികള്‍


  5. എഴുപതുകളുടെ അവസാനം മുതലാണെന്ന് തോന്നുന്നു രാഷ്ട്രീയത്തിലും, രാഷ്ട്രീയ പാര്‍ട്ടികളോടും യുവജനങ്ങള്‍ക്ക്‌ മതിപ്പ് കുറഞ്ഞു വരാന്‍ തുടങ്ങിയത്. അടിയന്തിരാവസ്ഥ ഒരു പരുതിവരെ അതിനു നിമിത്തം ആയിരുന്നിരിക്കണം. ഉള്‍ക്കാഴ്ചയും ദീര്‍ഘവീക്ഷണവും ഉള്ള നേതാക്കള്‍ നമുക്ക് ഇല്ലാതെ പോയതും പകരം സ്വാര്‍ത്ഥരും അധികാരമോഹികളും രാഷ്ട്രീയ പാര്‍ട്ടികളുടെ നേതൃനിരയില്‍ വന്നതും നമ്മള്‍ ഇന്ത്യക്കാരുടെ വിധി.

    കോളേജുകളിലും മറ്റും ചര്‍ച്ചകളായിരുന്ന 'കറന്റ് അഫയെര്‍സി' ന്‍റെ സ്വഭാവം തന്നെ പാടെ മാറിപ്പോയി. ക്യാപ്ടന്‍ ലക്ഷ്മിയെ കുറിച്ചൊന്നും ആരും ഓര്‍ക്കാതെയായി. 2002 ല്‍ അവര്‍ പ്രസിഡണ്ട്‌ തിരഞ്ഞെടുപ്പില്‍ മത്സരിച്ചപ്പോള്‍ മീഡിയ ശ്രദ്ധ കൂടുതലും എതിര്‍സ്ഥാനാര്‍ഥി ഡോ.അബ്ദുള്‍കലാമിനാണ് കിട്ടിയത്.

    അതുകൊണ്ട് തന്നെ നിഷയുടെ "Captain Lakshmi Sahgal - a Tribute!" എന്നെ എത്ര മാത്രം സ്പര്‍ശിച്ചു എന്ന് കൂടുതല്‍ പറയേണ്ടതില്ല...

    എഴുത്ത് തുടരുക...

    1. വളരെ നന്ദി സര്‍ !!!

  6. A very heartfelt tribute, Nisha!

  7. Good to know more about a person who was a compatriot of my idol, Subhas Chandra Bose. In those days being a woman and leading a regiment, speaks volumes about her strength of character. I never knew about her caring personality.

    INA is a forgotten chapter in India's history, carefully wiped out from the consciousness of the people by stiffling all the information about Subhas Bose and others. They have even been branded as traitors.

    It would have been fitting if she could have become President of India. Or perhaps on second thoughts, after looking at the recent presidents, one may think that persons like Capt. Lakshmi Sehgal are much higher than the personalities required for the post of president.

    India owe's you a lot. I am too small to beg forgiveness for the inability of this country to adequately respect you. May you inspire many more Lakshmi Sahgals.

    RIP Capt. Lakshmi Sahgal.

    1. Sabyasachi Patra! thanks a lot for your wonderful words! Captain Lakshmi was indeed a legend, who was forgotten... I was shocked when I knew that there are people who have not even heard about her!!! Shame on us for forgetting / not knowing about such inspiring leaders...

  8. Captain Lakshmi was far better than our useless 'touring president' Prathibha Patil'.. She knew what India really wanted to have.. Such a brave lady. RIP.
    Your tribute, indeed a good one.

    1. Thank You Sangeeth! I too feel that such enterprising personalities would have national interest as their priorities than their own personal interests...

  9. തീരാ നഷ്ടങ്ങളുടെ പട്ടികയില്‍ എഴുതിച്ചേര്‍ക്കാന്‍ ഒരു പേര് കൂടി.. ഈ ധീര വനിതക്ക് പ്രണാമം.

    1. അതെ ഈ വിയോഗം ഒരു തീരാ നഷ്ടം തന്നെയാണ്! ഇവിടെ വന്നതിനും പ്രണാമങ്ങള്‍ അര്‍പ്പിച്ചതിനും നന്ദി!


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The Lost World

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