It is hard for us today to imagine what Vellore would have looked like a hundred years ago. Clusters of huts and tiled houses; hardly any trees or shade. Famine, drought and poverty broughtdeadly diseases.
The young Dr. Ida Scudder and her team working day and night at the little hospital were run off their feet. Yet, Dr. Scudder found herself dreaming. What Vellore needed most was a bigger hospital! And the hospital needed well – trained Indian lady doctors. She realized that the only way to achieve this was to start a medical college herself. The dream took over from there.
The thought of training Indian women was preposterous to some of the men from the missions who funded her work. Thick, negative clouds floated around for a while, but no opposition could hold back the dream; the heart was engaged; the vision had been seen.Mrs Lucy Peabody, the only American representative of the International Missionary Council in Holland, a no – nonsense -type of lady, firm in her views and speech, came to India to look for a suitable Arts College for women. She did not see the need for a women’s medical college and wasn’t interested in Dr Scudder’s impassioned pleas for one. But seeing the sad plight of the local women who came to the little hospital, Lucy Peabody’s heart was touched. She caught a spark from Dr Scudder’s flame and lit the fires of hundreds of ordinary women in America to pitch in to help raise the necessary funds.
In those difficult years when the American depression made funding difficult, the dream kept Dr Scudder going. She had seen a plot of land at the foothills of the mountains just outside Vellore and knew exactly where every brick and tree would fit. In her dream, it was not just a medical college she was building, but the ‘Kingdom of God’ – a community of doctors and medical workers who like Jesus would walk, touch, heal the sick in body and mind. To do this, her dream had many layers. In the first, a certain kind of person had to be hand – picked and nurtured till she was punctual, hardworking, honest, compassionate and caring. Another layer as important as the first, was community building – to hold together in unity and harmony those who worked and lived together in the same campus. The links that would bind them together would be faith, love and a common mission. So a pattern of Christian living – of worshipping and eating together, studying the Bible in each other’s homes and sharing resources was begun. The CMC way – a way of life different from other colleges was part of the dream. Then, there was the laying of foundations and traditions that would be special to CMC – the personal nurturing of every student, having music, drama and sport as part of college life, the ceremonious planting of trees, student picnics and the gloriously formal graduation ceremony.
Usha Jesudasan is a writer who lives in Vellore and has had a close relationship with CMC for over 4 decades. For many years she wrote the weekly meditation Let’s Think Together for CMC. She is the author of several books. Her two bestselling books are I Will Lie Down In Peace ( the story of her young family’s confrontation with illness and death) and Two Journeys (the journeys two women have to take when cancer enters their lives). She is also the co – author of Living In Harmony, a graded series of Peace and Values Education books for children from Class 1-10.