Lakshmi Swaminathan, nee Lakshmi Sahgal, is no more. She breathed her last on 23rd July’2012 at a Kanpur nursing home. She was 98. A great revolutionary, a patriot, a social worker, a politician, and a medico, she had no parallel in Indian history. Awarded Padma Vibhushan by the then President of India, K.R. Narayanan, she also contested the election against A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in July’2002 for the post of India’s 11th President. At the young age of 26, she left for Singapore and started playing active role in India Independence League, where after she joined the great Subhash Chandra Bose becoming the head of Rani Jhansi regiment, an army segment exclusively run by women. She was an MBBS and, as such, she was professionally a doctor, of course focussing her all out attention to the poor and the destitutes, but after she joined Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’ army to fight for independence to India, she was popularly known not as a Dr. Lakshmi Sahgal but as a Captain Lakshmi Sahgal. Her contributions, in whatever field she worked, are immemorial. Later, after her marriage with a colleague of hers in Netaji’s brigade of army, Colonel Prem Kumar Sahgal, she chose to settle in Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh), where she continued harnessing herself to the task of helping poor, both as a doctor and as a social worker.
I came in contact with her in later 1960s, when my wife Shashi was under her medical treatment at her the then Arya Nagar (Kanpur) clinic. I found she was was so generous, affable, practical and kind. We became friends. The country has lost a great freedom fighter in her, and I have personally lost a great friend of mine whom I adored.