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Mothers who make us proud

Thursday, May 10, 2018

With Mother’s Day being celebrated on May 13, Women’s World salutes four inspiring Indian mothers

Sunday, May 13, is Mother’s Day, and restaurants, stores and florists are on overdrive, urging you to take your mom out, or buy her flowers, jewellery, clothes and other goodies.

It’s an old tradition, going back to a far less consumerist age. Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced way back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who organised festivals in honour of their Mother Goddesses Rhea and Cybele. In more recent times, the modern precedent for Mother’s Day was an early Christian festival known as ‘Mothering Sunday’. It fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was meant to be the day when the faithful would return to their ‘Mother Church’ Eventually, children began to present their mothers with flowers and over time, the celebration evolved into the Mother’s Day celebrated in America in the 1930s and 1940s.

The official Mother’s Day holiday, however, arose earlier in the 1900s, when Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis, thought of Mother’s Day as a way to honour sacrifices that mothers made for their children.

In 1914, after years of lobbying, President Woodrow Wilson established Mother’s Day.

This Mother’s Day, Women’s World salutes four mothers who have made India proud.

Swati Mahadik
On November 17, 2015, Swati Mahadik’s world was shattered. This frail mother of two, was informed that her husband Lt Colonel Santosh Mahadik had been killed in an encounter with the militants in Kashmir’s Kupwara district.

Col. Mahadik, an officer from elite 21 Para of Special Forces was, renowned for his bravery and leadership. He had been involved in several anti-insurgency operations in the North East and Jammu and Kashmir. For his role in Operation Rhino in 2003, he was awarded the Sena Medal.

Posted in Kupwara, Col. Mahadik, was also keen to develop the district as a tourist destination. He believed that if the youth of the area were provided with alternative employment opportunities, they could be turned away from militancy.

On that fateful day, Col. Mahadik was leading his troops from the 41 Rashtriya Rifles, Indian Army famed anti-insurgency unit. They were in pursuit of heavily armed militants in the forests near the Line of Control. During the combing operation in the afternoon, the troops came under heavy fire from the militants. Col. Mahadik who was hit in this head and chest, succumbed to his injuries.

As Swati Mahadik said in an interview later, her husband was everything to her and their two children. Both came from families of modest means and conservative outlooks. Santosh, Swati claimed in the interview, had liberated her from the mindset that women have to return home before dark. She completed her MA and during Col. Mahadik’s various postings would teach in local CBSE schools.

On the day of Col. Mahadik’s funeral, Swati took a bold decision. She announced that she wanted to join the Indian Army.

Though she had crossed the upper age limit to join the Army, on a recommendation from the then Army Chief, Dalbir Singh, the government decided to waive the age limit in her case. Swati then prepared for the tough Staff Selection Board examination and the physical tests to follow, where the 36-year-old had to compete with girls half her age. Having passed the examination and tests, Swati was selected for the Officers’ Training Academy, Chennai, where she had to undergo arduous training for nine months.

After completing this training, Swati has been commissioned as Lieutenant in the Indian Army’s Ordnance Corps. Speaking to various media organisations after her passing out parade Swati said that she decided to join the army to fulfill her husband’s dream. On being asked how her late husband would have felt, she said, “He would have danced”!

Flavia Agnes
From a battered housewife to one of India’s top women’s rights lawyers working with issues of marital, divorce, property law and sexual violence, Flavia Agnes’ story is  truly inspiring. Married at 20, she spent 13 years in an abusive marriage before walking out with three children—two daughters and a son. “People asked how I would manage to get my daughters married,” she once declared, addressing an Indian Merchants’ Chamber meet. “I said I would educate them and then they would be able to build their own lives”. Taking a few minutes off to speak to us on a busy day, she said, “All my children are doing well.” In fact, her youngest daughter is now director of Majlis, a forum for women’s rights discourse and legal initiatives that Flavia co-founded.

Since the early 1980s, Flavia has played a key role in Mumbai’s feminist movement, participating in protest marches and at a more personal level, helping victims of violence. Her autobiography My Story… Our Story of Re-building Broken Lives was published around this time, and has been translated into several languages and circulated globally. In her late 40s, she pursued a post-graduate degree in personal law and constitutional law from University of Mumbai, and acquired an M.Phil degree from the National Law School, Bengaluru, when she was 50.

Flavia has authored several books, such as Law and Gender Inequality, Family Law (two volumes) and Defending Muslim Women Rights: Bridging Muslim Personal Law and Court Judgements. She has received the prestigious Neerja Bhanot award for her contribution to women’s rights, and a tree has been dedicated in her name in the Garden of the Righteous in Milan, to recognise her role in combating violence against women.

“We started RAHAT, a survivor support programme for victims of sexual violence in 2011 and so far have reached to nearly 1,000  victims to help them to become survivors,” says this truly amazing lady.

Ashwini Bhide
Ashwini Bhide is an arts graduate, tasked with executing the most expensive and complex infrastructure project in Mumbai’s history. Yet such is her reputation that almost no one doubts that this mother of two will ensure the timely completion of Mumbai Metro 3. Ashwini Bhide, IAS, is Managing Director of Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation, a joint venture between the Government of India and Government of Maharashtra. The corporation is tasked with building a 33-km long fully underground Metro line that extends from Colaba in South Mumbai to SEEPZ in the north.

It is a project that even the legendary E Sreedharan, builder of Konkan Railway and then Delhi Metro has described as the most complex in the country. This is because it involves not only engineering challenges but also issues of rehabilitation and resettlement of project-affected people, coordination with multiple agencies besides facing myriad legal challenges from a variety of opponents. Yet Ashwini Bhide is ensuring that the project stays on course, in a calm, unflappable and efficient manner.

Born in Sangli, this university topper in literature, joined the IAS in 1995. During her training at Mussoorie, she met and fell in love with her batchmate Satish Bhide. They were married in 1999. The initial years were difficult as both were posted in different districts. In 2000 both husband and wife were posted to Nagpur. Over the next three years, their kids, Jhanvi and Malhar, were born.

Transferred back to Mumbai, she was initially assigned to the Governor’s office, then posted with Mumbai Metropolitan Region Area Development Authority (MMRDA), initially as Joint Commissioner and then as Additional Commissioner. During this stint, she played a key role in building the 16.8 km long Eastern Freeway. This was followed by a stint as Secretary, School Education and Sports, before her appointment as MD of MMRCL.

The work on Mumbai Metro 3, despite controversies, is proceeding rapidly. When asked about her method of managing such large projects, she recently told a newspaper, “Projects are not always about engineering, there are a lot of social aspects involved. It needs managerial skills and good co-ordination to complete an infrastructure project.”

Mary Kom
Mary Kom is without doubt India’s most celebrated sportswoman. An indication of her star appeal is the fact in our cricket-mad country, a biopic on her, starring the then reigning diva of Bollywood, Priyanka Chopra, was released before a biopic on the India’s World Cup winning cricket captain, M S Dhoni.

Chungneijang Mary Kom Hmangte was born in a small village in Manipur to parents who were tenant farmers. Inspired by the success of fellow Manipuri Dhinko Singh, who won a gold medal in 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok, Mary Kom, always an athlete, took to boxing.

In 2002, she won the first of her five Women’s World Boxing Championships. After her marriage in 2005 and then birth of twins, she took a brief hiatus from boxing only to return in 2008 to win her fourth world title, a feat she repeated in 2010.

In the London Olympics of 2012, she won the Bronze medal, thereby becoming only the third Indian women ever to have a podium finish. (Karnam Malleswari and Saina Nehwal being the other two. They were joined by PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik in the Rio games).

Her third son was born in 2013. A year later she was back in the ring winning the Gold in the Incheon Asian Games.

Last month Mary Kom at the age of 35, won the Gold at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. At an age when most boxers hang up their gloves, she is still hungry. She has set her eyes on that one medal which has so far proved elusive—the Olympic gold.

And given the determination and commitment that this champion athlete is known for, you would be stupid betting against her.

A Gift for mom 
From relaxing spas to Holidays, here’s how some Indian women want to SHOW THEIR LOVE

When my son was born, so was I, as a “mother” and my joyride began… He is two, and phew! I am not able to recollect the “exclusive me time” I have really got in these two years. This makes me think about my mother, that probably she also did not get her “exclusive time“ from me for many many such years! Thus, on this lovely occasion of Mother’s Day, I would want to gift her a relaxing holiday, where she can just sit back and get pampered just the way she keeps doing to all of us.
 - Shweta Ghosh VP Program Manager, Yes Bank Ltd, Mumbai

"I don't know why only one day in the year is attributed to Mothers Day, it should be Mother's Day every day. My mother has helped shape my value system, thought process and she has shielded and protected me from so many hardships as I was growing up. It's a bit unfair to have only one day dedicated to her. If we consider our mother's contributions and are thankful and appreciative, we should count our blessings on a daily basis and pamper our mothers every day!"
 - Tanya Swetta is Founder & Joint Managing Director of a media solutions company

The sparkle in their eyes whenever they see me; the trust when they hear me; the warmth when they hug me is all I expect as a gift from my little munchkins, not only on Mother’s Day but forever
 - Ketki Torane Entrepreneur, Pune 

It’s not possible this year as I am not in India, but if I  could, I’d like to gift both my moms a relaxing day out: take them out for a movie, followed by a relaxing spa and then end the day with a nice dinner (dessert included!)
 - Dr. Mansi Rao Research Scientist, USA

Mothers and daughters are closest when daughters become mothers. There is nothing as powerful as mother's love, and nothing as healing as a child's soul.
The gift I'd love to give my mom is that of time.. I would like to turn back all the times she skipped things she liked so that she could provide me more. Be it those diamond earrings which she liked but didn't buy to pay my fees or that ice cream which I dropped and then she gave me hers. I would like to assure her that I have enough now, but not enough of her smiles.
 - Riddhi Doshi Design Engineer, Rolls-Royce Marin, Pune

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