Date: August 24, 2013

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Critique of Pushpa Biswas’ book entitled “Florence Nightingale She Dared to be Different” by Asha Biswas and its companion volume “Caring is: Active Prayer”.

Our world needs every one of us to do more than just exist. Yet, when it beckons, it is in our nature to look the other way and remain ensconced in our comfort zone.

Every period in history however has seen self less and intrepid individuals who respond to the calls of their fellowmen and who make our world a better place.

Today we rightly react with admiration at the awesome generosity of a Warren Buffet or a Bill and Melinda Gates who generate and unstintingly share their wealth and good fortune with the distressed and unprivileged.

Reason? They care.
Then of course there have been those who gave of themselves and unquestionably dedicated their intone lives to a cause. Reason? They cared.

Florence Nightingale could well have cocooned herself in a life of comfort and luxury. Instead, she defied convention and answered the blaring call to care for the risk and dying in horrific war conditions in foreign shores. For Florence, indifference was never an option and her conscience was her sole guide.

She took the call in an age, which did not encourage and indeed actively opposed “genteel and high born ladies” who broke accepted social norms and ventured into untried and untested fields. Reason? She cared.

She dared to be different and Pushpa Biswas has dared to be different too in choosing to write this book as a fresh tribute to the “Lady with the Lamp” whose light, life and work have been this authors life-long inspiration. Reason? She cares.

Beautifully got up, this slim but comprehensive volume is “different in its presentation as well.”

The neat chapters are each material for motivational booklets. The book is thoughtfully and meticulously designed, keeping in view the paucity of time in the lives of medical personnel – specially the sorority of nurses. Who have family responsibilities as well so that the book can be dipped into when not being read from cover to cover.

The book brings out the multi-faceted personality of this hugely-gifted Woman of Action (Chapter 8) as an exceptional administrator; a Hygienist (Chapter 7) when the concept was non-existent in hospitals; a Nutritionist (Chapter 10) at a time when nutrition was not a priority; and an Epidemiologist (Chapter 9) who pioneered infection control.

From the pages of Ms. Biswas’ compendium, Florence Nightingale emerges as a formidable ‘modern’ woman – a fearless visionary but with emotional skills of matchless compassion and empathy in action.

The book gives equal weight to the qualities of her mind (Chapter 3, The Statistician, Chapter 4-The Writer, Chapter 5- Linguist, Chapter 6-The Educationist) and her large heart and indomitable spirit (Chapter 2- The Saint, Chapter 11- The Feminist, Chapter 12-The Humanitarian)

Chapter 14 outlines endearing and little known trivia and the book firmly places Miss Nightingale in a historical niche which reminds us how this spirited lady lived, battled opposition, dreamed, planned, toiled and above all how she loved and cared for her charges.

The book achieves a remarkable feat: by joining the events of the oft-forgotten life work of a heroic woman of yesteryears to the pragmatic challenges of nursing today, it contemporizes this practical-minded Saint who dared to be different.

This is an eminently readable book and it will inspire the reader to dare to be different.

Ms. Biswas needs to be congratulated for this labour of love.

A translation in Hindi would reach and impact a wider readership.

POST SCRIPT – The 28 page “Caring is: Active Prayer” is a gem of a companion booklet to own, read and gift.

Asha Biswas

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