I do not look at these three women as individuals, rather I view them as a force that lived and reckoned together. What wonders can women do when they work as a team, when they are supportive pillars for each other, when they help the 'other' flourish instead of pulling her down. In a family full of girl children, I never had to seek inspiration outside. My grandmother (Mrs. Mandakini Shendurnikar), my aunt (Dr. Meena Kulkarni) and my mother (Dr. Preeti Niranjan) are my special trio. What they have achieved may not be exemplary, but the fact that they achieved it with each other's support is something to be celebrated. On women's day as we celebrate the individual identities and accomplishments of women, it is gratifying for me to remember these three special women not just for their individual efforts, as also for their collaborative spirit, ably supported by men in the family.
|Late Dr. Meena Kulkarni (L) and Mrs. Mandakini Shendurnikar (R)|
My grandmother - a simpleton lady with roots in the state of Madhya Pradesh did not possess great education, but was determined to support her daughter and daughter-in-law for the same. Despite being talented and having explored her acting skills on stage with the likes of Jaya Bahaduri, she settled for being a home-maker. Like all grandmothers, I admired her culinary skills and her vast expanse of knowledge, ignorant of the fact that she did not possess degree certificates to back it. It is now I realize that she was far ahead of her times. In a day and age when the 'kitchen' was considered to be a woman's domain, she supported her daughter (my aunt) and daughter-in-law (my mother) to gain a medical education and become successful medical practitioners. Through her, I realized how women could be the best of friends, not hampering the growth of other women in their family but contributing to it. I grew up with her, in the absence of a working mother, who used to work late nights in a hospital. Not once did she grumble, not once did she complain. It was as if she was living her own dreams through my mother. In the three at home, I saw a team, ever ready to support each other. It was difficult to comprehend the relation that the three shared. As in life, so in death, my grand mother chose to be different. She decided to go ahead with body donation post her death despite opposition from other members in the family. My father and mother stood besides her like a rock. I remember her the most for the mouth-watering 'jalebis' she made and her constant instructions to me about saving electricity and water ... only to realize that she meant more than that to me.
My aunt, who also passed away in 2013 spent most part of her life in pain. She suffered from arthritis since a very young age. Before that she was a dancing enthusiast. Ably supported by her family and in-laws, she completed her medical education from Bhopal and went to retire as a professor from Jamnagar medical college. During my vacation visits to Jamnagar, I used to be scared of her obsessive perfection streak and her insistence on finishing the food that was served in my plate. She was the only one I was scared of. I remember as a strict, no-nonsense lady who insisted that nobody mess up her kitchen :) Post-retirement when she shifted to being near us, I recall the affection and warmth with which she used to make different delicacies for me. Rushing from college to spend time with her, I found that she took keen interest in discussing what I did. In her spare time, she took English and Maths lessons for the kids of the domestic help at her house. My family members tell me that she was always in pain. I somehow never saw that on her face. Ever smiling and cheerful, she trusted my mother the most. To witness the sisterly bond that both shared was quite a treat!
My mother, who is a practicing gynecologist and a breast cancer survivor is a bundle of energy. She was the driver of this 'trio'. Educated in a Hindi medium school, she picked up English at the age of 30 and Gujarati when she landed in Baroda. Determined to carve out a successful professional career, she gave it everything that was possible - at times even at the cost of family. In 2011 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the first stage, we all thought she would slow down and take some much needed rest. However, the bundle of energy that she is ... she continued to work, simultaneously taking chemotherapy and operating her maternity home with the same energy and enthusiasm. At 56, she exhibits more zeal than me ... to learn new things, to take risks and to venture into the unknown. Her zeal for life at times puts me to shame. She is a friend whom I jokingly refer to as "the brand ambassador of Glucon D"!!! To me, she is a living example of how one's humble background never comes in the way of achieving greater heights if one has decided to put the best of efforts. Her decision to adopt a girl child in foster care (my sister Rohini) was supported by both my grandmother and my aunt. To me, it was a brave step which exemplified the decisiveness that the three possessed.
|Emerging victorious from cancer, my mother with Dad|
|My mother's tribute to my grandmother - written on her death in March 2013|