Patients who consult Dr M P Salila at her homeo clinic in Tripunithura know that they should visit between Monday and Friday. Come Friday evenings and she would be off on her routine trip to Mananthavady in Wayanad- her bag stuffed with medicines, food packets and clothes. Her savings through the week is spent on patients who can never make it to her clinic in suburban Kochi, or any clinic for that matter.
Dr Salila's tryst with the tribal population of Wayand started during her student days at Dr Padiyar Memorial Homeopathic Medical College, Chottanikkara. Her friendship with author E M Hashim led her to experience first-hand the woes of a people who had little or no access to proper medical care. In the early days, she would hire autorickshaws to travel to the tribal settlements. This continued until some kindred spirit donated a van to ease her difficulty to reach the remote settlements.
Salila went on to open a clinic in Muthireri, a village 8 km away from Mananthavady. It functioned for many years, letting her get more accustomed to the ground realities. “I realised that one major obstacle that stood between the tribal population and proper medical care is their reluctance to go to hospitals. A lot of communities are unwilling to go to a doctor, no matter how serious their health condition is. There has been significant improvement over the years, but the number of people who choose to not access medical care is still alarmingly high,” she said.
This is also the reason why she gave up on her clinic in Muthireri, choosing instead to save up enough money with her regular practice at Kochi so she can take the clinic to the huts. Muthireri, Puthussery, Valad, Kulathada, etc. are the places that Salila covers on her weekly rounds.
Money is often a constraint, admits the zealous doctor. The earnings from her clinic get used up to buy medicines and food on each weekend trip. Those who come to know of her selfless service sometimes contribute money and other supplies. Her friends also chip in with generous contributions. The tribal people can do with a lot more support from outside, she said, reiterating her stand that she will not request for monetary help from anyone. “My dream is to start a school for the tribal children in Wayanad,” Salila disclosed.
Salila inherited the commitment to social service from her father, Mallappaly Parameswaran Namboothiri, better known among the people of Arayankavu village in Ernakulam as comrade P N Mallan. In her spare time, she chooses to pursue her interest in literature. She has five books to her credit-‘Oru Avadhikkalathu’, ‘Kannadi bimbangal’, ‘Rabiya', Al Basri’, and ‘Rumiyude 101 pranayageethangal’.