Thank you, wonder women

They say, behind every successful man there’s a woman. We say, behind every successful woman there’s a woman too. On International Women’s Day, The Telegraph talks to achievers who remember with gratitude the women who 
have been the wind beneath their wings. Guess who wins hands down? The mother!

Rafia Naaz, 21

Yoga teacher & college student, Ranchi

She: She is a popular yoga teacher despite fundamentalist fatwas, and a firebrand student leader pursuing MCom from Marwari College who speaks her mind on issues ranging from triple talaq to women’s education. She bagged over 52 medals and certificates of appreciation in yoga at national and international events

Her women

Mother Jamila Khatoon: “She and my father Rizauddin Khan have stood behind me when conservatives were against my pursuing yoga. Yoga has nothing to do with religion. It’s all about health and well-being. My mother understands this”

Sister Rabia Naaz: “She is my biggest fan” 

Rumi Kumari, 20

Counsellor, receptionist, college student, Ranchi

She: This girl from Burmu in Ranchi ran away twice when she was not even 10 and her father Sanicharwa Mahto forced her to work as a domestic help in Simdega and Patna. A self-made girl, she requested her block education officer to enrol her in Kasturba Gandhi Girls’ Residential School. Now a political science undergrad at Ramlakhan Singh Yadav College in Ranchi, she is a receptionist at NGO Vikas Bharti at Bariatu, and counsels girls who have survived trafficking, child labourers and school dropouts. She also campaigns against underage marriage

Her women

Mother Lalo Devi: “She never wanted me to work as domestic help, but couldn’t go against my father. When I wanted to study, she was my rock. When my father fixed the wedding of my underage brother for dowry, she convinced him not to”. 

NGO worker Soumi Guha Halder: “I was very shy. She taught me how to put my views across and speak for others”

Premlata Agarwal, 54

Everester, Padma Shri, Jamshedpur

She: Hailing from a conservative Marwari business family and married to another at a young age, Premlata was a homemaker for decades till she met India’s first woman Everester Bachendri Pal. Naturally fit and athletic, Premlata trained hard to become the oldest woman Everester in 2011 at age 48 and gradually the first Indian woman to scale all Seven Summits. Now, she conducts adventure and fitness classes for women. 

Her woman

Mentor Bachendri Pal: “She has had the deepest impact in my life. She showed me the road to my dreams. I was a homemaker, but she was the one who instilled confidence in me that I could do anything, even scale the Everest. No dream too high. That was it”  

Biyot Projna Tripathy, 54

Filmmaker & writer, Jamshedpur

She: Biyot Projna’s documentary, Ladakh — The Land of Mystery — won two National Awards (best film and best production). She’s written two novels and short story anthologies. Daughter of a professor father and a communist mother, she is a feminist and a traveller and has “raised my two daughters to be feminists too”. 

Her women

Maternal grandmother Padmavati: “I saw her farm, fish and milk a cow, all considered men’s jobs. Though a villager, she listened to the All India Radio news every day and so was very well informed. If I looked good, she’d call me Reita Faria (India’s first Miss World). From her I learnt that a woman could do anything” 

Hollywood actor Marilyn Monroe: “She was a woman ahead of her times. She knew what she wanted and was confident about her body” 

Suman Prasad, 28

Artist, art school founder, Jamshedpur

She: Suman and her three sisters lost their father early and have grown up the hard way. But she went ahead to become a live artist whose energetic performances on the canvas are much sought-after at XLRI, NIT and corporate office events. She also runs her academy, FlaminArt, in Uliyan, Kadma

Her woman 

Mother Lakhsmi Devi: “It wasn’t easy for a homemaker with four daughters to lose her husband at a young age. But, somehow mom realised I loved to paint even before I did. When I was in Class VI, she admitted me to Jamshedpur School of Art in Kadma, but I left it as I wanted to play. She dragged me to the art school again. And here I am!”

Dr Neha Priyadarshini, 35

First IVF clinic founder, Dhanbad

She: Neha founded Satvik, the first in-vitro-fertilisation clinic of Dhanbad.  Doing her MBBS from PMCH, Priyadarshi went on to do her PG from Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College from Wardha in Maharashtra and later topped the IVF exam held by Indian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in Mumbai. Back in Dhanbad, she opened Satvik in 2015 

Her woman

Mother Dr Shivani Jha: “She’s a well-known gynaecologist who first pointed out to me the pain of Dhanbad women who face problems in getting pregnant. Not all can go to metros for infertility treatment”

MILES TO GO: A loader at Godhar colliery of BCCL in Jharia, Dhanbad, takes her daily basket to a waiting truck on International Women’s Day on Thursday. Poorly paid and overworked, women like her have no idea of what the day means. (Gautam Dey)  See Metro 10

Compiled by Vijay Deo Jha, Antara Bose & Praduman Choubey; pictures by Bhola prasad


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