Her Story – Lata Raut

Lata Raut

I’ve often heard that those who laugh the most, are the ones who have the most to cry about – surprisingly true. And those who open their ears and heart for other’s stories are the ones who have the most hidden within.

Lata Raut – Lata Didi for most of us, Lata Ma’am and Lata aunty for some – I met her in 2005 while she was the warden of the hostel I stayed in Pune – Umaanchal. She was one whom I could instantly recognize as someone who had iron fists in velvet gloves. She would be up and about as early as any of you get out of your room. Surprisingly, her 8-year-old son would be tagging along too! She was our go-to person, always cheerful but forever stern with the hostel rules.

Her grace and tenacity awed and inspired many a girl in that hostel. I could see it came from a lot of lessons from life. She had her setbacks and her only reason to live was her son. Today, the boy’s growth and success is no surprise or coincidence but a day by day plan and prayer by the mother in her.

Lata is a graduate of 1990 and she was brought up an independent lady, working as an office assistant till she got married at the age of 24. The marriage took unpredictable turns and she found herself in an unbelievable movie plot where the husband is addicted to alcohol and gives into lying, stealing, blackmailing and finally suiciding. She saw the extremes of poverty and haplessness in the 10 years of married life followed by hibernation and depression that came with a death like this in the family.

I have summed up her plight for around a decade in just a couple of sentences here. It takes a lot more to understand how such a trauma can handicap you and the extent of will you need to come out of it.

Her son’s future pushed her to search for ways to get things going again. Thankfully, she got a lot of moral support from whoever she met those days. She applied and got in as a warden in Umaanchal in 2005. The job meant she could have her kid by her side, but she had to wake up early, manage the hostel affairs, go home, cook for her husband’s parents, come back to work, teach the kid after his school, walk home by 9 p.m. again and cook dinner for them again. It was like clockwork. I was a witness to this routine! I still remember thinking that I can count the number of times she sits down – one to eat and another to verify the hostel bills during which she used to teach the kid as well.

And, as her job target, she had managed to increase the number of inmates from 75 to 135 in a span of 6 months, while taking care of the management of the construction work.

Amidst all this chaos, she would come to me to learn English – better. Though I told her to read books, I wondered if she could ever find time to do that. But she did, I’m proud to claim that I was the one who made her read her first complete English book – Chetan Bhagat’s ‘Five Point Someone’. Likewise, she wanted her son to pick up the language and urged the inmates to communicate with him in English. The zest for life, to keep learning and keep moving forward, the restlessness for all things fine defines her.

As if her own life did not give the required complications, managing a house of approx. 250 working women was not an easy task for her. From booze parties to cat fights with men outside the gate to theft – she had seen it all! It was an age wherein households people used to say women are like porcelain, once fallen, can never be glued together. For her, it was like a whole shop of porcelain 😊

She had had her share of setbacks, but she was not the one to consider a fall a failure. She was not the one to run seeking a new destiny and get tired with the leaps in between. She had daily missions which she knew would add up to her long-term vision. Anytime I ask her about her plans, her son’s future – she never told me – let’s see. She would always say what he would do next and for that, what she needs to prepare. The words ‘by God’s will’ often followed her clearly charted out plans.

As her son grew, she found it difficult to manage him in a working women’s hostel. Most of the inmates had finished studies and time after work was for them to relax and have fun. She thought that will not help him focus on studies and sought work in Pimpri/Chinchwad College of Engineering.

Today, her son who had been raised his entire life in a lady’s hostel is in BE 4th year and has scored 69% with no complaints whatsoever from the inmates or his classmates. This may not sound quite an achievement to most of the people here. But I know, I have witnessed, it is the fruit of a tireless effort that went in every day, every minute of her life. She was a walking map for her son’s dream destination

It is very easy for us to victimize ourselves, fall, count failures and think that life has not been fair. Fact is, everybody has their share, in one way or the other. There are a lot of studies which prove that the successful people, the stars out there, share a common vibe. They have it in their subconscious mind that they can do it and they work toward their goal every single day. The differences in the stardom and heights is where you set your goals. We all have our destinations and we all have our journeys toward it, we all have the roadblocks and rollercoasters in it – some hit the brake pedal while the others hit the accelerator and therein lies all the difference!

Her Story – My Teacher – Mercia Selva Malar

My Teacher - Mercia Selva Malar

“A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination and instill a love of learning.” There are many quotes out there on teachers, let me pick this to talk about one of the people who has inspired me to no end.

Teachers are your second parents they say. For me, often they were the first too. While I reminisce about each one of my teachers from the first to the very last academic year, today let me tell – Her Story – Mercia Selva Malar.

Mercia Ma’am – as we all call her – was my lecturer in CMS college, Coimbatore. We all, from the beginning, knew her as an inexhaustible fount of knowledge. College, as you can imagine comes with a collection of jokes/mimes ironically for people like that. Someone drew a cartoon where Mercia Ma’am is on a scooter ride with her husband and even then, she’s reading a book, and I am running behind her asking for doubts😊. I was happy that I was considered for the part in the caricature of someone important! 😊

I remember observing her walk and thinking that each step of hers had a purpose attached and hence the fastened pace. Her story is probably small because we are talking about..well within two decades here and is perhaps simple to many. ‘Teaching’ as a profession is considered, at least by some that I know, as a ‘settled’ job. No pressures, no lay-offs, just a bunch of brats who can no longer be controlled by their own parents 😃

Mercy Ma’am is my inspiration because I could see that she invested purpose, commitment and hard work in every step of her way all these years that I know her. Her journey was/is/continues to be made of innumerable, very meaningful steps. I’m unable to capture the true essence of that line, you had to be a witness to understand. But let me try anyways.

Right from the beginning of her career which she started in the same college she studied, she had overcome what you would call silly obstacles, seen the larger picture and worked dedicatedly toward the same. What I’ve admired in her is the attitude that – maybe there are people who create issues in the world, but I’m too busy creating my own niche. When she was not accepted as a teacher, she committed her time to understanding the students better, giving extra classes and studying both for knowledge to impart and her career growth. When she was not accepted as a colleague, she worked relentlessly toward the betterment of the college, the course and eventually again the students. 

Her milestones, though small in the beginning, started appearing toward the middle of a tedious run. First year of her career she cleared SLET, couple of years down the lane, she joined Republic of Maldives, at GCE O level where the President’s son learnt – Majeediyya School, Male. For family reasons (I’m not delving into the women having to relocate for family topic here – that’s a different debate) , she returned to India where she joined CMS college and was nominated as the course coordinator. What amused me was that since CMS college was just on the verge of rolling out some courses like MFC and MIB, she would, after college hours, read up from the PSGIM library to understand more. In her decade-long stint with the college, she organized two national conferences, one international conference, regularly ran a Commerce Forum, established and actively ran Junior JCI, OISCA-International, Entrepreneurship Development Cell, etc. I have not mentioned the various social forums like Siruthuli that she encouraged us students to participate in. She, with her leadership, managed a high rating from the NAAC for the college.

She then joined SCMS-Cochin where she was a part of DFID-DelPHE Research team and visited Ghana and Tanzania to present the findings of the research study. It was here that she published her first international journal article. Again, for family reasons, she had to leave Cochin and relocate to Palakkad where she joined LEAD College of Management. There she was awarded NFP Scholarship of the Netherlands government and participated in ICHUD Progam of IHS, Erasmus University, Rotterdam.

After 3 years in LEAD, she joined as the Dean-Academic Affairs, Emirates College for Management and Technology, Dubai, UAE. During her term, there, she also served as an adjunct faculty at Wollongong University for two semesters teaching BBA and MSc (Logistics) students. But then, she had to return to India due to her Dad’s demise in 2015.

She was invited by Dr. Thomas George, Chairman, LEAD College of Management to be Dean-Academics at LEAD which she joined with great zeal. As always and everywhere she went, she had a steep hill of issues like lack of discipline, lack of professionalism and power scramble. What I have observed in her is that, she would work her way anyways. She was always in a hurry to identify and materialize great things for the generations she taught that I don’t think she really cared for the hill or mole hill of issues. In her second stint at LEAD, she introduced News Analysis, Value Added Courses, Faculty Think Tank, etc. for an enhanced teaching-learning experience and was awarded the best woman scholar and educator award by National Foundation for Entrepreneurship Development on Women’s day 2016. She was also awarded the Woman of Distinction, by Venus International Foundation on the same day.

Last year, there was yet another milestone that she crossed. She published a book ‘Aspire to be a great teacher’ with ISBN. She had invested a decade long of struggles and efforts in it. Today, the book has reached countries like Germany, Nigeria, South Africa, Republic of Maldives, Hong Kong and Thailand. It will be soon available in Kuwait, Qatar, UAE and Singapore. This year, she was acknowledged by AIMS international for her achievements in management studies.

While I end my note here with that beautiful milestone, she still walks fast 😊 she still is constantly tussl

Her Story – My Mom – T.K. MadhaviKutty

My Mom - T.K. MadhaviKutty

I do not want to deviate much from what this series is all about – A woman’s grit and wit in her own life that often goes unnoticed – leave alone applauded. But this first one is a tribute to the woman I knew during the first 8 years of my life – My mom. Let me be humble where I can, and say “not because of any heroic or incredible feat” – but just because she was my mom.

While I know for a fact that all mothers are the protective, caring, kind, thoughtful and whatever adjectives you can think of – mine was – passionately obsessed. I don’t want to debate she was one of a kind – probably there are millions around. But I can only tell ‘her story’ – so here you go.

She died when she was 37 and I was 8 – and somehow in retrospective, it was as though she knew that her days with me were numbered. Now, I was her third, the others being boys and I’ve hardly seen them getting the attention I got – not sure if they being almost a decade older than me factored in any way.

So the story begins while I was still in the womb – or actually – before that :D!!! 8 years after having 2 boys, she decides that she needs a girl. Apparently, contrary to the social scenario back then in rural areas of Kerala and Tamil Nadu where she spent her days, she asked anybody and everybody around to ‘predict’ that it would be a ‘girl.’ And then, when it was decided to be a caesarean she did not leave the doctor either – “it must be a girl,” she told the doc, “and I will name her after you.”

Thanks to her determination, positive thinking and promise – a girl was born and she named her after the doc – Indira. Realizing that’s too foreign a name for a Malayalee household, dad helped her stich Priyadarshini to it! She called me ‘Priya.’ She was on Mission Priya – for the rest of the eight years of her life. I read couple of her letters to her father – beyond the regular news, it was all about me. The words I said when I was barely two, the qualities she saw in me when I was three and the enthusiastic school goer in me, when I was four.

She hadn’t studied much. So, it was as though her life depended on me learning English and Hindi! And it makes me smile to think of the efforts she took. She would make me watch Doordarshan – especially that ad, and ask me if I could write it down. She made me watch Hindi programs (though she did not understand) and told me that I would understand eventually. When I was seven, she subscribed to ‘The Hindu’ and made me write down all the headings in the newspaper! Neither I nor she knew what those meant back then! I still remember the number of DMK and AIDMK that I had written in those days like an imposition assignment. She would take me to the neighbor, as dad’s time was limited after office, to ensure that I learn to speak English. She called my friends home and saw to it that I spoke to them only in English. Dad wasn’t spared either. He was to make me read a story and record it in the good ole tape recorder – None of us asked her the logic – I was too small and Dad was.. well, her husband – so she ruled! I don’t have a copy – but I remember the story – The pancake who ran down the street 😊

I loved pets, especially birds, until I realized it’s a crime to cage creatures that can fly. So, she maintained a poultry house in the backyard, had a ‘love birds’ cage in the front garden, few turkey birds, and two white rabbits- again exclusively for me! She maintained a flower garden and vegetable garden and won state level awards for each.

Bathing me was quite a feat! I had She maintained long hair for me when I was seven, which, when plaited two-fold would still fall long on my shoulders. She used to have all those homemade treatments to ensure that! Whichever sarees were pretty and expensive, she wrote my name on it! Will you believe that? I don’t have proof! You must take my word for it. “Priya” – she wrote on all those Chinese silk and cotton sarees – the name in her handwriting looked prettier than the sarees themselves. She wrote my name in the steel utensils at home – back then that was a practice – she just overdid it I guess. She had envisioned me as a dancer and carefully drawn and asked a jeweler to make me an earring (traditional jhumka) – which again I lost (I got the nickname ambalamani in college for that)!!!! She did enroll me for dance, but the lazy me was never regular.

She was obsessed – but wasn’t blind. I remember when I was four or five – I slapped her. She hid meat in the rice she was giving me and I pushed the plate and slapped her on her face. I remember the dress I wore and the place still. I probably would not have remembered if she slapped me back or made a fuss of it or scolded me or reacted in any normal way. She looked at me with this sad eyes and told me that I can continue to slap around till I had someone to take it. I don’t think the five-year-old in me understood a word of it, but I remember feeling so damn guilty and shameful about it. When I was seven, a friend of mine got a fancy black purse to school. It was a shiny black purse and had a bunch of shiny one rupee coins in it. I admired it a lot and when the coins fell off the purse, I took one and kept it to myself. You can imagine my mom’s fury when she got to know this! That was the only day I remember being beaten up by her. The Only Day. I got beaten up black and blue with a thin cane from the garden, and was taken to the Pooja room to promise that I would never, ever commit the act of stealing, and then was taken immediately to the friend’s house to tell her and her parents that I did this, I’m shameful that I did it and I’m returning this. That was one lesson well learnt for me.

While her loss is, irreparable and draws tears till this date, her zeal for these few years to bring up or dote on a little girl was awe inspiring. I’m a mom now, had been one while away from work and am now while I’m working, I could never do, or imagine to do, for my child as much. For the sake of readability, and due to the lack of memories, I have only given a short account here. It is her relentless dedication to the mission Priya that I owe this story to.