To think that an American Quaker woman crossed continents and started the first facility for occupational therapy in India – though some even say Asia. This happened at Parel’s KEM Hospital in 1950.
Kamla Nimbkar was born Elizabeth Lundy, the daughter of a Quaker businessman. She studied at the Philadelphia School of Occupational Therapy and married Vishnu Nimbkar. They met in 1920s New York, when he was one of the earliest US-trained Indian engineers. Converting to Hinduism, she moved to India with her new name in 1930, residing at Sabarmati Ashram before reaching Bombay.
This pioneer of rehabilitation for the handicapped served as founder president of the All India Occupational Therapists Association in 1952. She also actively propagated the Froebel approach, educating kindergartners holistically with motor skills, social participation, spontaneity of self-expression and creativity.
Her luminous life is memorialised by the Kamlabai V Nimbkar Pustakalay in Khar. She started this library in 1948, with a committee including BG Kher, SK Patil and RD Char. Stocked with Gujarati and English publications, the popular reading room welcomes students of faculties ranging from SSC to IAS and IPS levels. It often doubles as a hub for children’s activities and centre for civil rights discussions.