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Friday, March 10, 2017

Women Who Inspire Me

Woman is a ray of God. She is not that earthly beloved:  She is creative, not created – Anonymous

All women are beautiful. They are powerful too. The world that we have is vastly indebt to the female race for making it a place to live. Throughout our life cycle we learn a lot from women in various form, be it our mother, or our loving sisters, or our caring wife, or our giggling daughters; all add a lot of meaning to the life that we lead and live. I am no different here. I am being influenced by lot of women in my life. Few of them are from my family and the extended part of it, while many others are from outside of my family chain. But the common thing that binds them all is their self-assertion and their overwhelming passion in doing something against all odds. It is these women, who have fought against all odds to achieve, may not be huge always, what they wanted, that inspires me a great lot. On this 'World Women’s Day' week, nothing can be more befitting than writing a post on all those women who have inspired me and continue to do so. Please be noted, the list is not on any accreditation scale. All women in my list are equally powerful and I revere them with equal respect. It is just a compilation of few lovely women whom I always look up for inspiration.

Yazidi Women Fighters:

It was all lost for the people of Iraq. The notorious ISIS seems to have engulfed an entire nation with torture, slavery, unending war and religious fanaticism. Innocent people were killed in hoards, women were getting raped and kidnapped to be used as sex slaves, young boys were forcefully thrown into war zone to fight for ISIS; in nutshell it was complete chaos. Even the Iraqi army were running away like cowards leaving their people to fend for themselves. When all is lost, believe your women to stand up and win it back for you and precisely that is what a handful of 20+ year old young women went out to achieve. When the men failed or were too coward to fight for their survival, these young women lift their guns to challenge the monster head-on. In 2014, after witnessing massive genocide, a group of Yazidi women formed a battalion group to take the fight to the enemy camp. They named it ‘The Sun Ladies’. Only motto – fight back. Not much ammunition in hand and no immediate support from outside world insight, these brave women stood up for their right to live free and their right to live with respect. While their army already showing their helplessness, these young women believed in what they are out to achieve. I remember a BBC documentary on these very brave souls and the reaction of a young fighter – we are not doing this for anyone. It is our existential crisis and we don’t want to go to the deep of the night without giving a fight. Honestly, for a long time, I didn’t find anyone so crisp and clear on what they want to achieve. And didn’t these brave women proved yet again – when there is a will, there ought to be a way? Who had imagined that a bunch of young women would defeat the mighty ISIS on their own backyard? Yes, the world came out to these women’s support later but it is these brave women who showed the world, how a war for rightfulness should be fought and won. My standing ovation to these brave-hearts.

Rockstars Of ISRO:

If today ISRO is considered one of the best in the business, a lot of credit must go to these rock-star women scientists of India. Saree clad with big ‘Bindis’ on forehead might tempt you to call them aunty or ‘Behenji’ but underestimate these rock-stars at your own peril. When India dreamt of competing with the best in the world in Space science, it is none other than these women of India who stood up to the challenge. Notwithstanding racial mock of the likes of BBC, these scientists proved what India can achieve if she makes up her mind. Not to forget, they have their families to manage back home. During the ‘Mangalyan’ mission many of them spent their weekends in pursuance of this space brilliance and that too for years together. It must also be mentioned here that most of them are from humble background and struggled all through their lives to make a name for themselves and that for India. Most of them are self-made in a period when a largely parochial society saw women education as a taboo. Many fought with their family members, the society and their own shortfalls to reach where they are now. In a befitting tribute our PM praised them and hailed them as the group that the world must look up to for inspiration. As rightly put by someone – who knew that the women of India would make a transition from rhyming lullabies like ‘Chanda Mama Dur Ke…’ to their kids to landing us in Mars itself?  

Padma Sri Kalpana Saroj:

She was a born Dalit. Like an average woman of India, she had a childhood of apathy and negligence. At a tender age she once even tried to commit suicide. She was married by her parents when she was only 12. To her bad luck, her in-laws were no lesser than animals. She went through abuse and humiliation by her husband and his family. Finally she left her abusive husband’s home and the slum for a better future. Equipped with no formal education she strolled out to the open world to face the challenges. She joined a small garment factory as a daily wage worker. She struggled hand-to-mouth for a decade before starting her own tailoring shop from her savings and government loans. And as they say, rest is history. Almost everything against her and yet she managed to achieve what many ably supported souls wouldn’t even dare to. From a small tailoring shop to garment export with huge furniture business in-between, Kalpana now is considered one among the successful women entrepreneurs of India. She belongs to the league that has become an inspiration to every aspiring business person, not just women. Latest to her credit, she successfully revived the fortunes of a dying ‘Kamani Tubes’ to profits. As the board of the company agrees – she not only saved the company but also saved the livelihood of thousands of workers. For her tremendous achievement she was conferred with ‘Padma Sri’ in 2013.

Women Of Lijjat Papad:

‘Sri Mahila Griha Udyog’ was the first all-women co-operative society in India. Seven Gujarati women living in the slums of Mumbai thought of starting something where they can earn a livelihood to survive in a big city. All they are equipped with were their only skill – cooking. The women borrowed Rs 80/- from a social worker and started their venture. In 1959 on the terrace of their home they kick started something that now rules most of the kitchens in India and abroad. From the four packs of Papads they made on their first day, today they are a multi-million dollar company savouring the taste-bud of lakhs and crores across the globe. From the beginning they had a rule – The Rs 80/- would be the first and the last amount of money that they would ever borrow. They never would borrow again, even if the society goes for a loss. I remember an old DD-National interview of one of these founders. The lady in a white Saree taught all business school graduates a very vital lesson – we don’t understand business neither we want to. What matters to us is the quality and we always remember those who would be consuming our products. They would also have a family like ours. So we ask ourselves, will we let our kids consume our own product? Business couldn’t be made any simpler than this. Be honest to yourself, the world would recognize your honesty. Lijjat is perhaps the only company in the world which stands merely on its decades of honesty.  

Tessy Thomas:

We all know APJ Abdul Kalam. Now let’s meet the ‘Missile Woman’ of India Tessy Thomas. She was the project director for Agni-IV, Agni-V and Agni-VI missile projects. Like any other Indian working woman she too does a tight rope-walk between her family and career; between a mother and a renowned scientist. She belongs to a family of not many means. Her father was a small time businessman with little to afford for her ever expanding dreams. I am told, she self-financed her education post her 10th standard through various scholarships she won at both state and central level. From seeing the rockets getting launched from her neighbourhood launch station to head the mission herself, Tessy is an example that many would want to miss. It is none other than Kalam who named her ‘Agniputri’ and hailed her achievement in a predominantly male dominated bastion as something as a nation we should cherish. No wonder why she features in my list of women who inspire me.

All Women Gram Panchayat Of Sisva Village:  

These are a rare breed of women who not only challenged the status-quo but also the mind-set of parochial dishonesty. And their efforts and fight for equality led Sisva village of Gujarat to become the first all women Panchayat of India. These 12 member gang are achievers in their own right. Most of them are graduates and having stable jobs while three among them are still perusing their graduation. With families to manage, these exceptional women have yet again set a mark on the field that is predominantly male oriented. All started when four of these women requested their earlier Panchayat to construct toilets in schools for the girl students. No one heed to their request which led to these women form a group and build one on their own. Next they challenged the mighty Panchayat in polls to get rid of their nonchalance and incompetence. They not only won the polls but for the last five years they have worked 24/7 to prove what women can do if given a chance. Now the village has good sanitation measures, doctors regularly available in the hospital, regular electricity and now they have managed to open a branch of a leading private bank. It even speaks volumes of their achievement when PM Narendra Modi personally visited their village and congratulated these young women on their achievements and perseverance. He too mentioned these women in one of his ‘Maan Ki Baat’ episode.  And you ask these young girls on what they have to say about their achievements – We are normal girls, who have big dreams and who love to have fun with our friends. However, we are aware of our responsibilities as Panchayat members and hope that our example will motivate parents to encourage their daughters to participate in grassroots politics.

Chaavi Rajawat:

She is the first woman Sarpanch in India with a MBA degree. Not only was that, she at her time, also was the youngest in India to hold the office of a Sarpanch. While we take pride on our high paying corporate jobs, she is the woman who ditched her job to serve the people of her village, a small hamlet called Soda, 60 Km from Jaipur. And ask her, why she left her high-flying job and her urban life – my grandfather was the Sarpanch of this village when I was a kid and I can still see some unfinished dreams of my Grandfather. I am here to fulfil those very dreams. She not only is dreaming but also doing it on the ground. Out of her many dreams, first of them being her Grandpa’s vision of having a government college till graduation in the village. Proper road connectivity to the village so that farmers could benefit is what she took up next and successfully executed. For her exemplary work, Rajasthan government conferred her with the ‘Best Administrator’ of the year award in 2014. She is an example for many who want to see clean and efficient politics in India. No wonder that she was awarded the ‘Young Leader Of India’ in 2013 for her work, dedication and honesty.

Kiran Bedi:      
   
She needs no introductions. The first female to join the IPS in 1972 and she still holds the honours of being one of the finest officers the institute has ever produced. From being an upright police officer to being a politician, she has executed her duty in every role with extreme brilliance. Among her many fine acts, one that stands out is when she confiscated the convoy of the all-powerful PV Narasimha Rao, the then prime-minister, for traffic violation. That lead to her being invited by Mr. Rao himself to 7 RCR and praised her for being so honest towards her duty. Her tenure as Delhi police chief has many accreditations. Sharp fall in crime rate is one that was well acknowledged by one-and-all. No one can forget the pictures of her fighting the hooligans of 1984 riots on the streets of Delhi. She was as steadfast as a police office as she is now as the governor. As the governor of Pondicherry her works speaks for themselves. She is actively getting involved with the state government to make sure that the state gets overall development. She personally monitors the welfare schemes and sees to it that they get employed as planned. Praised by her fans as well as her critiques, she is one woman who would stand tall among all the police officers of India for years to come.

Rockstars Of My Project Team:

They are no one and yet I get inspired every time I look at their work and dedication. Stretching themselves beyond the call of duty is just a small part of their charisma. They are overall winners. When we first took up the project, it was everything that was new for us. From the technology to the domain, it was learning all through. But these lovely women took the black hole ahead as a challenge, not as a hindrance. They not only mastered the technology in double quick time but also took it on their own to pass on their accumulated knowledge to anyone getting inducted later. They slogged over the weekends to make sure that the deadlines are met. Like any other working woman, they too walked a tight-rope between their family commitments and professional demands. And didn’t they come out with flying colours? The praise that the team received, both from the client and the internal management, has got to do a lot with the efforts and dedication of these rockstars. They came, they saw and they achieved against all the challenges that were thrown at them, one among many being having an irritating and demanding superior like me to continuously demand the best. It leaves me no option but to admire them at the end of the day and look up for inspiration when I am down. Cheers guys!! 

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