Thursday, January 5, 2012


On the west coast of India and hugging the Arabian Sea, is the temple town of Udupi famous for the Krishna Temple and the eight mutts – a seminary for Brahmin boys.

Into this stronghold of Brahmin orthodoxy, stepped Eva Lombard a young Swiss doctor, diminutive in stature but with a strong spirit and an incredible capacity for work.

Maternal and Infant mortality was very high in these parts as doctors were few, and female doctors were unheard of. Though opposition to missionaries was strong, the town welcomed the missionary doctor. On 15th June 1923, Eva Lombard opened the Basel Mission Hospital in Udupi. It was just a 6-bedded cottage hospital that promised to minister to the needs of women from all sections of society. Most of the work was domiciliary. The brave young doctor travelled to the homes of patients on foot or by bullock cart or boat. A car came many years later. Deliveries were conducted in outhouses or cattle sheds as women were considered unclean for forty days after child birth.

Everyone who mattered turned up for the inauguration. Important men with gilt-edged turbans or colourful headgear drove up in jutkas. They appreciated the fact that at last, medical help would be available to the women and children of the area.

Eva Lombard
Eva Lombard was born in Geneva in1890. Her father a Bank Manager gave up his job to become an evangelist. Her mother worked among women prisoners. From the age of fourteen, Eva was sure that she wanted to pursue a career in Medicine. She graduated from the University of Geneva in 1918, and worked for a couple of years in Basel and Geneva. But her burden was for India, and though she had no inking of her actual place of work, she set out like Abraham ‘not knowing wither.’

In 1921, Eva travelled to Mysore, and spent a year at the Mission Hospital there, getting acquainted with various tropical diseases and learning the local customs and language.

1923 brought her to Udupi. Under her care and guidance, the hospital grew over the years into a multi-specialty hospital with 200 beds, and a nursing school. But this was a Herculean task as money was always in short supply, and most of the patients were too poor to pay or could only pay a pittance. Though the town representatives had promised to contribute towards running costs, they were merely empty promises. The hospital had to rely on subsidies from the Basel Mission in Switzerland.

After World War II and when India became independent, things became tougher. Sometimes there was no money to buy medicines or pay the local staff. It made the good doctor more dependent on God.

TB patients were a sadly neglected lot. So in 1952 a sanatorium was built where patients were cared for with much love and dedication. Outreach work was started simultaneously with the opening of the hospital.

This remarkable woman devoted the best years of her life to service of the poor. They were her friends. Women and children were her special concern, but prayer was her forte. She worked hard and expected the same from her colleagues.

Eva Lombard retired in 1954 and handed over charge to an Indian doctor. She returned to Switzerland in 1957. She lived frugally and in her last years, moved into a Home for the Aged where she lived till her death in 1978. Dr. T. M .A. Pai the founder of Manipal Hospital, who was her good friend, said of her, “There is a spark of divinity in her. Let us have many such people. It does not matter which country they come from. They are angels holding the torch of hope and happiness. Dr. Lombard’s contribution to the healing art has been signal.”

In her was the will to render service. This is what steered her into a life of love, compassion and dedication.

1 comment:

Lakshmi said...

It is amazing to know about Dr.Eva Lombard who has done such amazing service to India.Thanks for writing this wonderful article.