Former NHS worker and “wonder woman" Shobha Srivastava celebrates 90th birthday
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An iconic pillar of many South Tyneside communities is celebrating her 90th birthday this weekend.
Shobha Srivastava, who moved to the UK from India and called South Tyneside home in the 1970s, claims she was the only member of her family who were able to celebrate her birthday in the early years of her life because there was no guarantee she would make it to the next.
Her illnesses started when she was just six months old. She suffered from childhood arthritis and due to her weak immune system, she caught measles, chickenpox, mumps, whooping cough, typhoid three times and pneumonia twice but went on to become a pivotal part of many lives across South Tyneside and the wider North East.
The issues didn’t stop as an adult for Shobha though, with Government policy at the time forcing her husband to return to India every six months as permanent residency was not issued. "My husband was not a doctor and even though he was an engineer he wasn’t able to stay and help the country.”
“It’s all because of him” she says. Between her husband and her father, who was also in the medical profession and helped save her life early on, she claims she owes so much of her life to the two men.
The thanks should also go the other way with so many people now able to assist others with their healthcare needs thanks to support from Shobha. “I taught in the medical field for years before I came to the UK, and I used to have 123 students so my brain is taken up with all those old names, new ones aren’t as easy to remember!
After retiring in 1998 after 17 years as a Consultant Anaesthetist with South Tyneside Health Care Trust, she was been even busier than before, playing a prominent role in running Hindu Nari Sangh, a dance and cultural group which has now been running for well over 25 years with a huge range of ethnicities and religions represented in the hope of increasing cultural awareness amongst generations and supporting women to increase their health and wellbeing, through dance and exercise and local performances.
In addition to the dance group she has been part of the management committee – including a spell as chair – of Healthnet, spent time as a member of the Domestic Violence Forum as well as being a Member of Northumbria Police’s Independent Advisory Group, and of the Racist and Religious Hate Crime Scrutiny panel set up by the Crown Prosecution Service.
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Her career and community work was noticed for a recent Women’s Day event, which listed the former doctor as one of 20 ‘wonder women’ across South Tyneside.
"I haven’t stopped since I retired, I’m trying to stop now. My dance classes are still going and for a long time, before the other girls came along I was chair, vice chair, secretary, treasurer, everything! They’ve made me president now so I’m not supposed to do anything but I’ll find a way!
"It isn’t just South Tyneside, though” she is keen to remind us. “Asian Business Connexions wanted me to give awards away at an event and there was one I couldn’t hand out because I had won it!”
To solidify her status as a true hero of the region, Dr Srivastava was awarded an MBE for her work championing healthcare in the borough as well as for wider community service in 2017. An image of her receiving the award from the now King is displayed with pride on the back cover of her first of two books, A Girl Called Dolly.