My grandmother (paternal) Indulekha Mitra was one of 6 sisters growing up in pre-independent India. I never had the good fortune of meeting her as she passed away when my dad was a teenager. Even though I never met her – I have this Goddess like image of her in my mind. She was incredibly wise, generous, kind and intelligent lady who was ahead of time and a rebel.

My grandmother was number four in a line of six sisters. All of them went to school and completed matriculation. Three of them studied further to complete their bachelors degree. They were growing up in 1930s India in a town called Cuttack in the state of Orissa. These were difficult times to be a rebel and to stand up for women’s rights. Already being educated made them total outliers in society. All six sisters that is my grand aunts ended up taking various positions in professions of teaching or public office. They never considered themselves any lesser than any man. My dad told us this story about a day when the town of Cuttack came to a halt because my grand mother rode a Lambretta kick start scooter through the city.

My grand mother married a modern man who was a liberal. In 1950 she started Naari Yojna Samiti which translates for Women’s Welfare Association. Women with economic or caste based depravity were taught skills like Learning, knitting, tailoring, cooking to create income opportunities.

She died young due to Tuberculosis but left a lasting legacy of stories and a family culture of strong women.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, this is a tribute to my grandmother and millions more who’s stories never get told but their courage and sacrifices are the building blocks of progress we enjoy.

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