As the entire country cheered the return of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, one woman who stood tall amid all the uncertainty is Abhinandan’s mother Dr Shobha Varthaman. Having worked in Liberia, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Papua New Guinea, Haiti and Laos, Dr Shobha has healed the wounded in some of the worst conflict zones.

The nation cheered her for raising a war hero and being a source of inspiration and strength. She herself has been part of many missions as a doctor.

As the wing commander’s parents took a flight today from Chennai to Delhi on their way to the Wagah border to receive their brave warrior son, they got a standing ovation from the co-passengers

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The passengers cheered, clapped and took photos of his parents — Air Marshal S Varthaman and Dr Shobha. Abhinandan was captured by the Pakistan army after his fighter jet crashed in an air duel with a Pakistani F-16. With his father in the air force and his mother working in conflict zones, the wing commander’s bravery is indeed in the genes.

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Dr Shobha’s Valour

A part of ‘Doctors Without Borders’ (Médecins Sans Frontières), Dr Shobha ensured that new mothers survive post-delivery complications in high-intensity conflict zones. She is graduate from Madras Medical College, and a post-graduate in Anaesthesiology from the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Her work has therefore taken her to troubled war-torn places. 

Retired Group Captain Tarun K Singha, who has known the family for decades, said in an article on News18 that the image of “a calm, composed Abhinandan that many saw after his capture by the Pakistani Army just shows the genes that Abhinandan inherited from his mother, Dr Shobha Varthaman, who has worked in many conflict zones all through her career as a doctor.”

“She epitomises the quintessential woman of substance. She has served humanity amidst cataclysmic violence, healed the wounded in some of the worst conflict zones around the world, ensured mothers and their newborn survive post-delivery complications in Haiti,” Gp Capt Singha told News18 about Dr Shobha.

She recalled that when she went to the Ivory Coast in 2005, only AK-47s and machetes ruled 

The Missions

The next mission took her to Liberia the same year. Though the UN kept peace there after the civil war, the situation was troubled. A large number of healthcare personnel were needed and Dr Shobha was a willing volunteer.

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Her work as an MSF Medical Director took her to Port Harcourt in Nigeria. There, she set up a portable emergency section for casualties, a blood bank, and an intensive care unit.

Dr Shobha worked for new mothers survive post-delivery complications in high-intensity conflict zones.

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Standing Ovation for Wg Cdr Abhinandan’s Parenting in the plane they arrived. Picture: Video grab

Some of her memorable stints in strife-torn areas include her work during the Second Gulf War in Sulemaniyah, Iraq, where Dr Shobha encountered a suicide-bomb blast. In Iran, she has taught Pranayama to her patients to promote healing. In Papua New Guinea, she has worked as the Chief Medical Coordinator involving projects on surgical, sexual violence and HIV. In Haiti, when nearly 300,000 died in an earthquake in 2010, Dr. Shobha was there too, offering aid. Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s mother is the perfect example of determination and pride.

We salute you, Dr Shobha!    

Feature Image Credit: Northeast Now

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