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Meet Sonia, a stay-at-home working mom clocking company revenues in millions!

“Sometimes when I am on a call with my clients and my daughter calls out for me, of course, they hear her voice and ask me, ‘Are you working from home or have you brought your daughter to work?’ It leaves them wondering because they never realized a stay-at-home-mom was running the organization.”

3 days ago No Comments Views

Meet this Delhi girl who is kicking patriarchy in sports, one game at a time! | Tanvie Hans

In 2013 after returning to London she made it to three club’s open trials that she had applied for. She got into Tottenham Hotspurs Women’s FC. The competition was massive indeed and she continued to strive hard. Tanvie Hans is a forward and plays multiple offensive positions.

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मज़बूत होने का मंत्र सिखाते हैं मेरे किरदार …क्योंकि हर कदम एक नई जंग है। Preeti Shenoy

महिलाओं का जीवन बहुत खूबसूरत है। बशर्ते उन्हें खुलकर जीने दिया जाए। यह उनके हित और हक़ दोनो के लिहाज़ से उचित है। जब दुनियां में ऐसा होता नहीं देखती हूं तो इस व्यवस्था को अपने लेखन में उतार देती हूं। मेरा हर वुमन केरेक्टर ज़िंदगी ख़ुद की शर्तों पर जीता है। – प्रीति शिनॉय

3 weeks ago No Comments Views

कभी-कभी सिर्फ एक हां पूरा जीवन बदल देती है – अनुराधा पौडवाल से चायपानी पर चर्चा | Anuradha Paudwal

मेरे लिए तो खज़ाना हाथ लग जाने जैसा था। जब मैं रिकॉर्डिंग करने पहुंची तो दादा ने लाइव सुना और खुश होते हुए बोले – क्यों ना श्लोक तुम्हीं से गवा लिया जाए। बर्मन दादा की एक हां ने मेरे ज़िंदगी बदल कर रख दी।

4 weeks ago No Comments Views

This earthquake survivor from Gujarat shares her story after sixteen years. And it is so inspiring!!

They decided to amputate my right hand but again there was a problem as the doctor said that he won’t be able to give anesthesia to me and would have to cut the hand without giving any local anesthesia. I said go ahead I will bear the pain but just take me out. And the next thing I saw was a team of doctors and rescue team tied a tightrope on my hand and amputated my hand with a big knife and I can’t even express the pain I went through.

4 weeks ago 1 Comment Views

Abandoned by her husband, this woman didn’t give a damn and is now raising her kids like a boss!

“They did no wrong. Hence, they didn’t deserve any of it. I was devastated but I had to fight for them. The lady whom I worked for at that point helped me a lot. I filed a divorce against him after few months”

1 month ago No Comments Views

Jayalalithaa – A woman who nurtured a permanent love-affair with adversity, but nothing stopping her

I fail to recall a numbness as halting as this. A roster of the tallest icons of this age have risen and lapsed in my lifetime.

3 months ago 1 Comment Views

Its almost 2017 and these women from Arunachal are still fighting polygamy and child marriage

Ngurang Meena and Reena are from Arunachal Pradesh. A state of multiple tribes. The state of the famous Ziro Festival. A state with immense beauty of mountain ranges from the Himalayas.  The kind of scenes we drew as children in our drawing class, a mountain range with a rising sun with a valley and rivers. There is a bitter reality that the people in the Arunachal face. Polygamy. Child marriage.

Reena is one of the 9 siblings in her family from 2 mothers. Reena’s mother was married to her father at the age of 13 even before she even hit puberty. The tribal customary laws support the ways of child marriage and polygamy, exchanging women in marriage for Mithuns and stones. Her mother was a victim of both these practices. Reena’s mother got married at the age of 13. Her father married another woman when Reena was around 10 years old. The practice of multiple marriages is followed without restrictions as there is no registration of marriages which would, in an ideal scenario, prevent it. Meena the eldest among the siblings in the family understood her mother’s dilemma and repercussions of another woman in the house.

“We don’t have grudges towards our father anymore”, says Reena.

They come from a very rural family. Reena’s father lived his entire schooling in one vest and two underpants. He walked barefoot until he was 16 when he got his first pair of slippers. Her father was interested in politics and worked hard to make a name in the society.

Both Meena and Reena understood that the only way to lift their region out of the abyss of these horrifying practices was to educate themselves. Meena moved to Bangalore to pursue her graduation in Economics, History, and Social Sciences. Whereas Reena moved to Delhi to pursue her graduation with a major in Social Sciences from Delhi University. Even in their colleges, they were both very active in politics and student unions, a trait that Reena says they might have inherited from their father.

“I think the silence of women towards these atrocities is what pushed us to Social sciences and to educate ourselves so that we could be their voice. The way they couldn’t voice their troubles and fight for themselves made us want to do something about the way things were.”

Meanwhile, Meena was all set to move to London to pursue further studies, but family’s financial constraints she had to return to Arunachal in 2011.

“Once you’ve had experienced new cultures, opened up to new possibilities, formed a certain mindset, and then you come back, the society doesn’t allow you to let alone change but even have an opinion different than their own”, says Reena.

This is when Meena started questioning the institution of Arunachal, the way things were. So Meena decided to leave the family and started living on her own. Things had to change. But the habitues looked at a woman living by herself as ‘weak’. She protested for proper roads to women rights, and in the past three years set up the ‘Ngurang Learning Institute’ with the aim of giving opportunities to women like their mother who were never given a chance to read and write.

“Since they were illiterate they aren’t able to enroll their children in schools, fill forms, use banking facilities.”

For a long period of time, Meena ran the institute without any money from the women she taught. She used to pursue part-time jobs and fend off for herself and teach these women. Reena would come to Arunachal for 2 months every semester and help her sister run the institute.

“These women didn’t know how to thank us. They used to bring in royal food, or native rice and meat to show their gratitude.”

In return, they had endured threats from the husbands of women. ‘She is my wife. She is supposed to cook. This is no age for her to learn how to read and write’, they would say. Since their father had a political influence, people didn’t act on the threats they made.

“One of the husbands of the women came to my sister’s place with a sword and threatened to stop teaching his wife or else..”

The women they taught, inspired and enlightened told them that they wanted their stories to be heard. They wanted the world to know what they went through so that no one ever endures what they did.

“One of the women who went through such atrocities was 3 years of age when she was married.”

Both the sisters decided to organize a pageant based on the stories of these women to share the progress they have made and to enlighten others about the prevailing condition of the state. Mrs. Arunachal Pradesh, Mother of Substance. The first proof that things are changing is the fact that, their father wholeheartedly supports the event and is the chief advisor for the same.

With so much news about how we’re progressing, initiatives to employ and empower women, help improve education, advance technology and what not, there is still a part of where such unearthly traditions are followed. Communities here do not appreciate the change. But as Elon Musk said, “Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is a disaster.” And these sisters have certainly put the first dent towards a change.

The finale of Mrs. Arunachal Pradesh is on 26th of November, with Mary Kom as their chief guest. Here is how you can get in touch with them to know more about them and the pageant. Email r.ngurang@gmail.com and Facebook page to know more about the event. I would strongly recommend people who are in the vicinity to visit the event and show support for the courage of these women.

They have started a movement to celebrate brave-hearted women who have stood up for themselves and others as well, who for some haven’t been able to. Here’s their page to know more about the same.

Do you think you have a story that could inspire several out there? Email us on contact@chaaipani.com, or join us on Facebook and Twitter (@chaaipani). To get inspiring stories on WhatsApp, just drop your number here.

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3 months ago 1 Comment Views

A successful businesswoman in Hong Kong and now Mrs. India Earth Title Winner, Kanchan’s story is inspiring!

Today, I write with the utmost respect for mothers, working or homemakers. You might be able to relate to this. I have a mother who tries that neither me nor my sister has to cook a meal unless necessary. And then I wonder what is it that she has done solely for herself. Not for the lack of space and time, but she didn’t pursue her passion. Not that she ever complained or didn’t have the support from us, believe me, she did. But what was it, age, apprehension, judgment, convention, or the just fact that she wasn’t given a chance to do so? Only a mother would be able to answer these.

So, I had the opportunity to meet a Mrs. India Earth contestant. A mother of two, 39 years old, Kanchan Korani from Rajkot lives in Hong Kong with her spouse. I know better now to say that these pageants aren’t just about tainting and painting.

Kanchan got married right after she completed her B.Com and moved to Hong Kong for her husband’s work. She started her own shop there, importing Indian groceries and food for people living in Hong Kong and other countries.

“Meri khudki pehchaan chahiye thi mujhe (I wanted a name of my own)”, she says with pride in her voice.

She started after her son was born. Kanchan wanted to have some connect with her native place and hence she started off with Indian food, sharing it with others who felt and craved what she did.

The wife of a man who assembles watches, Kanchan was trying to find her feet, nurture her kids, and do justice to her life in Hong Kong. Not that her husband wasn’t supportive, he was, but there are things you want to do, things you love without giving up on either one of them.

The 39 year old Kanchan Korani I met is beautiful, elegant, graceful, and looks way different from socially accepted convention falling under mother-of-two. But she wasn’t the same after she got married. With a shop to run and kids to manage, Kanchan had gained weight. Her daughter persuaded Kanchan to apply for the Mrs. India Earth Pageant.

“I had come to India for my brother’s marriage. All through the marriage I heard comments from relatives, ‘She’s married and has two kids, her youth is done for’. That moment shook me. I realised that I am not what I used to be. It wasn’t about how I looked, but how I felt about myself. In  my head, I didn’t prove to anyone but my self. ” 

That is when she joined a gym and started working out. Simple, no? No.  A fit body undoubtedly requires a lot of hard work, which too doesn’t matter, if not clubbed with patience and determination.

She adds,

“I used to weigh above ninety kilos in my brother’s marriage. Today I am forty-two.”

With the support of her husband, her kids, her younger brother and his wife, Kanchan participated in the Mrs. Earth India and moved to becoming a finalist.

“With their support, I won the subtitle of ‘Mrs. India Earth Beautiful Skin’.”

Kanchan is known amongst the Indian community in Hong Kong because of her established grocery business.. After her recognition in the pageant, she was approached by a lot of women in the community so that she could give strength to them as she found her strength in her kin. She is even the face of Closet Love a fashion app who styled her during the contest.

With this, I ask her what’s the next mountain she wants to climb? And she was ready with her answer.

“I want to study, I wanted to become a Chartered Accountant. So I’ll pursue that, I’ll help further the cause of education. I didn’t pursue higher education. But I want to and would love to help others who want the same.”

Kanchan believes if she will think that she’s forty and is too old to pursue such endeavor, people will always accept the easier and let her, because we have grown up in an environment where no one wants us to step out of the box but keep steady at our places, maybe because that challenges their way of life.

 

4 months ago 1 Comment Views

Hiral is a customer care executive at a bank. Big deal ? No. Big deal ? Yes.

“On the day the results were out, I was absolutely confident. I didn’t have to check my result.” the girl says with a smile.

The class – students preparing for competitive exams – falls silent, apparently uncomfortable with the touch of bragging in the girl’s voice. I too stare at the girl.

The girl’s smile broadens and erupts into a laugh, “I knew it! I was sure I’d fail!”

The girl’s self-effacing humour immediately touches base with everyone. We all laugh out loudly. She has won our hearts.

“And you know, I have appeared for umpteen exams – 18, to be precise. Two more and I would have crossed the “-teen” threshold of exams, with 20,” she continues to joke about herself as the laughter subsides. More smiles.

It’s been a year now, but this incident is fresh in my mind. I was witness to this girl talk confidently to aspirants about her umpteen failures and subsequent success (comprehensive success; coming up later). Against all odds. Her good humour cleverly conceals what she has gone through.

But then, this brave girl, Hiral Malvi, is no stranger to overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Being blind – she has zero vision – is just one of them.

“As a kid, I was quite naughty. And also quite headstrong,” Hiral says,

“So it was a shock to me when I lost vision before I was four.”

She puts it so matter-of-factly, without the slightly tinge of complaint, you’d think you didn’t hear her right. But Hiral is quite objective about herself.

“One evening, a little before my fourth birthday, I suddenly started having blurred vision. Before long, I completely lost my eyesight,” Hiral recalls, her smile never leaving her lips.

“My father was an auto-driver and my mother is a home-maker. Even with the extremely limited resources my parents did everything possible for my treatment, including taking me to Nethra, Chennai. Everything failed. I was blinded forever. Just like my sister who lost her vision before she turned 3.”

Finance was always tight in this family of 6. It was simply not possible to offer any special facility for the two differently abled sisters. Things couldn’t have been worse for them.

The two girls were enrolled at a local institute for the visually challenged.

“I did all my schooling, right up to class 12, from V D Parekh Blind School. Often, Braille textbooks were not available in some subjects, so I had to rely on my memory and audio recordings.”

Hiral, in spite of all the limiting factors, did well in academics. When she cleared class 10, her interest and achievement strongly indicated she choose science stream. However, strained finances, among other things, dictated she opt for arts.

“I won’t say I was very committed till I finished graduation. I worked sincerely, but not very hard. And suddenly computers happened.”

Her voice betrays her excitement.

“I was absolutely swept off my feet! It was sheer magic!”

She had found her calling. From Braille to bytes, her life was set to change.

“I learnt about PGDCA (Post Graduate Diploma in Computer Applications) during my college days. I was thrilled that I, an arts graduate, too could study computers!” The headstrong Hiral emerged and without paying attention to naysayers, she applied for and was admitted to PGDCA.

 

“Many people were apprehensive when I, a blind girl, opted for PGDCA. But I was determined to master it.”

And master she did.

Once she cleared her PDGCA, she set her sights even higher: M.Sc. (IT), a course often considered comparable to MCA (Masters in Computer Application).

“The course turned out to be more rigorous than I had first thought. The schedule was hectic and the deadlines were often insane,” her giggles resurface.

“It didn’t involve computers just for fun; it was serious programming…. something so conceptual! But I had already been handling a variety of stress since long, so I somehow managed.”

I thought ‘somehow managed’ would translate to ‘barely passed’ or something similar. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

In 2014, Hiral passed her M.Sc.(IT) with 92% – the first visually challenged student (repeat student, not girl) in the state to complete the course.

“By then I was already on the lookout of a good career with the central government or a bank. So I started my preparations during my M.Sc. (IT)”

In the middle of 2013, Hiral and her teacher from the school for visually challenged, Jagruti Ganatra, walked into a coaching institute. They met the coach and asked whether he’d allow Hiral to enroll.

While eager to help, the coach was visibly confused,

“But how will she read what I write, or my printed handouts, let alone solve questions?” the coach wondered aloud.

That was swiftly taken care of. Hiral carried a recording device to the class. She would attentively listen to every word the teacher spoke. Once home she’d play back the day’s lecture. A special software in her computer would read out all the PDF notes to her.

(How the computer had reached the humble household that Hiral was a part of is also one of the many feathers in Hiral’s cap. As one of the earliest visually challenged person to have finished the degree, Hiral won the computer as a part of the state government’s drive to help differently-abled individuals.)

Daily her father would come to drop her at the coaching institute. Two hours later, her brother or father would return to pick her up. Any waiting period was used in playing back the previous day’s lecture. Her co-students, all with regular vision, were impressed with her involvement, but getting decent marks, even in the practice tests remained elusive.

Not surprisingly, things were difficult. On the one hand, she wouldn’t be able to read anything that the faculty wrote during the sessions; on the other, it was impossible for the faculty to speak everything that he wrote.

So no matter how diligently she prepared, gaps remained. And then, she was also studying for her M.Sc.(IT).  

The 4-month course ended, but she couldn’t crack any competitive exam.

In case you aren’t aware, the kind of competitive exams that Hiral was preparing for (Staff Selection Commission and IBPS Bank Exams) test quantitative, language and reasoning skills of candidates. Calculators are not allowed. (Such exams attract around 1.5 to 2 million applications, of which no more than 20,000 are finally selected from all over India.)

If you are a fully sighted individual, please take a moment to read the above paragraph once again.

Hiral had zero vision, and yet she’d be doing math and reasoning. Everything in her head. Without calculators. Without diagrams.

So why didn’t she give up since she didn’t clear the early exams, I asked. What kept you going?

“Oh, I think I had started to love the contents of the exams – they needed a great bit of logic and thinking. I found it too exciting to quit!”

And how were the exams going on, I ask.

“I had to seek help of sighted scribes in each exam. The scribes would read out the questions – puzzles, arithmetical computations, long passages, grammar, algebra, general knowledge…. I would understand the question, do things in my head and ask the scribe to record my answer.” (These exams are multiple choice types.)

“Things aren’t always easy for the scribe too,” Hiral laughs, “For exams that were conducted outside Rajkot, getting scribes willing to travel wasn’t all that easy. And often I wouldn’t understand some questions in the first reading, so the scribe would have to read it out again! It’s tiring for them too.”

But you weren’t successful in the early exams, I say. So how was it like handling failure?

I am met with the same disarming laugh.

“I think nobody likes failure, right? But I knew my road was a long one and there was no point giving up early. My parents, who have always been my Rock of Gibraltar, stood by me. And Jagruti madam remained my constant motivator.”

But before she tasted her first major success, a tragedy struck.

Hiral lost her father in 2014.

Hiral’s father Natvarbhai was the sole bread-winner of the family. With him suddenly gone, things went haywire.

“Not only did we struggle financially, but also emotionally. My father was a constant source of inspiration for me. Any time I’d feel low, he would encourage me,” her voice cracks, but she quickly regains her composure.

Her mother worked as a domestic help at nearby homes, thereby keeping the family afloat, but only just so.

“And then look what happened! I cleared not one but two exams after that!” she beams.

Hers was a resounding success, pun intended. She was selected at two different banks Central Bank of India and State Bank of India (SBI) through two different examinations. She chose the latter over the former.

“I have witnessed her struggle, her anguish, her grit, her losses, her resilience…But one thing I have never seen – she has never ever complained about her circumstances, personal or social. She’s always been a doer rather than a cribber.”

Jagruti Ganatra, who was her coach at the V D Parekh institute and who has accompanied Hiral at all exams and interviews outside Rajkot, told me some time back. I can only nod.

* * *

I am at the Gymkhana branch of SBI where Hiral works. Hiral successfully – and popularly – completed her probation at State Bank of India some time back. I stand aside, watching her deal confidently and patiently with customers.

“Since I take care of Customer Care, most of my time is spent explaining various technology tools my bank offers. I’m so happy doing this – staying in tune with technology,” Hiral tells me during her lunch break.

“Marketing and technology are two things I love, and that’s what I get to do here!”

“I aspire to grow to a senior role within this great organization. There’s so much to learn. I almost can’t wait!”

“And my seniors and colleagues are extremely supportive, but never condescending!”

“That makes me doubly proud that I am giving my best to my organization!” she says, finishing her lunch and returning to her desk five minutes ahead of time. “It’s been said so often, but I’ll still repeat. Differently able people don’t need sympathy, they need opportunity.”

Her satisfaction is palpable, her enthusiasm infectious, her potential limitless. Evidently she’s seeing that I am blind to.

5 months ago 1 Comment Views
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