Remembering Sulagitti Narasamma: Padma Shri awardee midwife
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‘Sulagitti’ Narasamma, the traditional midwife who helped deliver over 15,000 babies free of charge in rural Karnataka, breathed her last in Bengaluru on Tuesday. She was 98. Narasamma had been conferred with the Padma Shri by President Ram Nath Kovind on March 20, 2018.

Narasamma passed away at the BGS Gleneagles Global Hospitals in Kengeri on the outskirts of Bengaluru at 3 pm on Tuesday. She had been referred to this hospital from a different one where she had been admitted to earlier. She suffered from a chronic lung disease and had been placed in ventilator support for five days.

Narasamma, born in 1920, hailed from a community that was at the time referred to as ‘untouchable’. She was illiterate, and spoke only Telugu. But accounts say she was a genius when it came to traditional, unassisted deliveries. Over the 70 years that she helped women in rural Karnataka deliver babies, she was given the title ‘sulagitti’, which is the Kannada word for midwife.

Narasamma was said to have a gift for feeling the pulse of the baby in the womb without the help of any instruments. She would also help new mothers with Ayurvedic medicines to help them with any difficulties they may face in the postpartum period.

She told The New Indian Express in an interview earlier this year that she learnt the art of delivering babies from her grandmother, who too was a midwife. She assisted in her first delivery at the age of 20, and there was no end to the mark she would leave on the lives of the people of the region.

Narasamma was conferred an honorary doctorate by the Tumkur University in 2014. Other awards she received include the Vayoshreshta Samman in 2013, Kannada Rajyotsal Award in 2013, D Devaraj Urs Award in 2012, Kittur Rani Chennarng Award in 2013, the Murugha Sri Award from Murugha Mutt, and numerous other awards from NGO and social organisations.

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