Category Archives: successful woman


Collector of Medak District, IAS officer Bharati Hollikeri has introduced several people-friendly programmes in the district.

When IAS officer Bharati Hollikeri was posted as a District Collector for the newly formed Medak District in October 2016, it was like a homecoming for her. “I started my career as Sub-Collector in this district, so it helped me understand the topography of the place,” she shares, adding, “This is an agricultural district and people are very warm and innocent. Despite being just 100 kilometres away from Hyderabad, the two major issues plaguing the district are health and education.”

Since Medak was in the Phase-1 districts that had to implement the Open Defecation Free (ODF) programme, she battled against all odds. “Despite educating people about hygiene, toilets were their last priority. Constructing a record 58,000 toilets to make the district ODF was an uphill task, especially during demonetisation. There was a delay in funds, logistics issues, space constraints, difficulty in building toilets in rocky areas, etc. But over time, I realised that we also had to bring a behavioural change in the mindset of the people. One of the biggest challenges lies in making the beneficiaries use the toilets,” says Bharati.

Her efforts to provide lunch to the pregnant women who visit the primary health centers (PHCs) are worth mentioning. “When women visit PHCs for treatment, they usually skip their lunch as they come from far-off places and have to undergo tests. As a result, they go back to their homes starving. So I have collaborated with the local Anganwadi centres to supply food to the women in the health centres. We are also educating them on nutrition, diet, etc. at no extra cost to the exchequer,” explains Bharati, who has also brought innovative changes in the educational curriculum to ensure that learning is fun for the children.

“Primary education is very important as it’s the foundation for any child’s development. We altered the syllabus and made sure that children enjoy learning by introducing Multi Grade-Multi Level (MGML) digital classrooms, 3D materials for learning, books, blackboards, chairs and even spectacles for kids with poor vision. All this has ignited great interest among the children to come to school,” she says. A native of Belagavi district in Karnataka, Bharati says that challenging assignments have brought out the best in her. “Serving the people as Collector is a great opportunity and my passion too. My personality has changed and my thought process has widened. Every new assignment has been challenging yet a learning experience,” she says as she ascribes her success to her family. “Without their support, I would not have come this far. They stay in Hyderabad and I catch up with them during the weekends. My husband Shankar Reddy works as Assistant Director (AP and Telangana), Ministry of Tourism, Government of India,” she explains.






‘Frankly, I don’t think people are any more welcoming of a woman percussion player now than when I started out’

Sukanya Ramgopal has been asked more times than she could care to remember what it is like to be the first woman ghatam player in the Carnatic music tradition.

Of course it has not been easy, but the 60-year-old has dealt with it well and long enough to answer the question with a touch of humour. “I think I should thank all the male musicians who did not want a woman ghatam player as their accompanying artiste!” she says with a hearty laugh. “It compelled me to innovate and bring ghatam to the centre stage.”

Doubly marginalised

As her lone female student Sumana Chandrashekhar puts it, Sukanya is ‘doubly marginalised’ in the Carnatic music space — the ghatam is classified as an upapakkavadya (an accompanying instrument that is secondary to mridangam) and she is a woman playing it. Visually too, a woman playing ghatam (literally a pot) on stage challenges ‘all notions of the slender female body’ and defies ‘all conventional descriptions of a woman’s delicate fingers.’

But Sukanya has clearly been able to break out of the margins and stereotypes successfully.

With musicians wary of a woman playing the ‘manly’ ghatam in their concerts, Sukanya has devised a unique reinterpretation of the instrument. In 1994 she designed a performance concept she named ‘Ghata Tharang’, which involves playing six to seven ghatams of different shrutis to give it a broad melodic dimension. A year later she started Stree Taal Tarang, an all-women instrumental ensemble.

These experiments have taken her to stages across India and abroad and won her multiple accolades and has led to some particularly interesting women-centric collaborations. For instance, Sukanya has performed a stunning jugalbandi of sorts with flamenco artist Bettina Castaño.

Reminiscing about the days when a woman aspiring to learn ghatam was ‘strange’, Sukanya says that her guru Vikku Vinayakram was initially reluctant to teach her, but her persistence won him over. The music school started by his father Harihara Sharma, Sri Jaya Ganesh Talavadya Vidyalaya, was in Triplicane, Chennai, where Sukanya lived. There she learnt mridangam first but was soon drawn to ghatam. Her guru, who at first said that the instrument is ‘too hard for a girl’, was impressed with her dedication and prowess.

But the tough part came when she had to step into the world of kutcheriswith all its hierarchies and prejudices. There were many instances of music sabhas, vocalists and even percussion artistes refusing to have a woman ghatam player on stage.

Reluctant to get into details or drop names, Sukanya says that the situation is no better now. “Frankly, I don’t think people are any more welcoming of a woman percussion player now than when I started out. In fact I would even say that the older generation of artistes were a little more generous compared to many today.”

Mega ensemble

This undercurrent of hostility is perhaps one of the reasons why Sumana is the lone woman student among the 20-odd students at Sri Vikku Vinayakram School for Ghatam that Sukanya runs in Bengaluru. While there are few ghatam learners, there are fewer women among those. When Sukanya put together an ensemble of 83 ghatam artistes in Bengaluru recently, to mark her guru’s 75th birthday, there were only four women on stage, including herself.

In the hope of enthusing more people, particularly women, to take to this earthy instrument, Sukanya has also written a book, Sunaadam, The Vikku Bani of Ghatam Playing, a learner’s guide. “Let’s hope things get better,” she says, with genuine optimism.


But Alappuzha Collector T.V. Anupama’s career is only getting more eventful

In a minor reshuffle of IAS officers, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala appointed a young officer T.V. Anupama as District Collector of Alappuzha in August 2017.

Five weeks later, the government found itself in a sticky situation, thanks to two back-to-back reports filed by the new collector with the Revenue Department, endorsing the charge of encroachment and conversion of land in violation of the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act by a resort owned by Transport Minister Thomas Chandy. The rest is history.

Multiple raids

The minister tried his best to stick on and even went to the Kerala High Court with the request that her inquiry report be quashed. The court not only refused to oblige him, but also came down heavily on him with strong strictures for filing a petition against his own government. The minister’s fate was sealed.

It was not the first time that Anupama, a native of Ponnani in Malappuram district and a holder of B.E. (Hons) in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from BITS Pilani, Goa, had taken on the high and mighty.

“There is a greater good in things we do as civil servants. I have chosen this field so that I can serve a larger population and work in diverse fields,” says Anupama, who secured the fourth rank in her first shot at the UPSC examinations in 2010.

She had always nurtured the dream to become an IAS officer and was ready to try again if she failed in her first attempt.

That tenacity was evident once she joined the civil service: she seemed always ready to question and tackle the faults in the system.

In 2014, soon after her appointment as Food Safety Commissioner, she got a CITU leader arrested on the charge of demanding ‘ nokkukooli ’, the money paid to union head-load workers to simply watch the loading or unloading of goods.

Anupama’s stint as the head of Food Safety Commissionarate was action-packed. She conducted multiple raids across the State, took food adulterators head-on and banned a number of products, including several popular brands.

Wrath for her work

The grit of the IAS officer has helped expose high levels of adulteration and rampant use of pesticides in vegetables and fruits bought from neighbouring States, triggering a healthy food campaign in Kerala. In a way, Kerala owes a lot to Anupama for popularising organic farming practices. However, her work earned her the wrath of food adulterators and the pesticide lobby.

“Whether as Food Safety Commissioner or Collector I serve the people and their interest and well-being is my top priority. I follow the rules closely. The important thing is to apply the rules properly and I am least bothered about the impact of my decisions on my career,” Anupama told The Hindu .

She carried over the splendid work shown as Food Safety Commissioner first to the Social Justice department as its Director and then to Alappuzha. As District Collector, she is once again proving her mettle, which was evident from the handling of the crisis arising from Cyclone Ockhi. The district administration led by her ensured proper rehabilitation of the affected people and played a crucial role in bringing the missing fishermen back safely by coordinating the rescue efforts.

She had won praise by launching ‘Sevana Sparsham’, a grievance redressal programme, and is getting ready to launch a ‘hunger-free’ district project with the help of the State government to provide quality food free of cost at least once a day to the needy.

Each of her actions should reinstate the faith of many in the capabilities of the bureaucratic system.

In a way, Kerala owes a lot to Anupama for popularising organic farming practices




Ashla Rani, a paraplegic, lives a productive, fulfilled life, with a job, friends and family

Ashla Rani welcomes me with a smile that reaches her eyes. At the office of Pallium India in Thiruvananthapuram, she has her hands full as executive assistant to Dr M R Rajagopal, chairman of the palliative care centre. Sitting on her wheelchair, with the partial control that she has over her upper limbs, she coordinates his appointments and travel itinerary. She has been here for three years now, and is one among the six recipients of the Kerala Government’s Youth Icon Awards for 2016.

The mishap

It was a near-fatal train accident in 2010, when she was 28, that left her a quadriplegic. And it was at the age of 32, that she had to start her life afresh. She makes it sound simple: “There were so many loving and caring people around me. My mother, Janaki, has been with me since that accident. Then there are my doctors who were very kind to me. None of them told me that I would never walk again. They always said, ‘Let that happen when it has to. Until then, make the best of what you have now’. So it was about taking small steps, learning to do things as the need arose. I realised that I should never stop trying,” she says.

A native of Kannur, she fell off the train on her way to Chennai, where she was working as an IT professional. She was standing near the door trying to throw out the food waste after dinner. But the door banged shut behind her, throwing her out of the train. “I have not gone back to my home after that. My life has revolved around hospitals since then. It was at the rehabilitation centre of Christian Medial College at Vellore that I started learning how to deal with it,” she says, almost matter-of-factly.

She had to relearn how to use cutlery, write and type on a laptop. Since she can’t use her fingers, she now uses the knuckles of the little fingers on both hands to type on the laptop. She can write with a pen with soft nibs, like gel pens. “But don’t ask me how I hold the pen. I place it in a particular angle between my fingers. However, the way I hold it one day may not be the same the next!” she says.

She can now hold a spoon, thanks to the training she received at the rehabilitation centre at Vellore. “They have different types of spoons to train patients and it took me nearly eight months of practice. Now I use a regular steel spoon, which is not too heavy,” she says.

Guiding light

There was inspiration in the form of late M P Anil Kumar, a fighter pilot who was paralysed neck down, but went on to become a writer, typing on the keyboard with a mouth-held stick. “I came to know about him only after his death. He couldn’t move his hands, but he never gave up and I realised how lucky I was, compared to him. I got in touch with the Facebook platform that kept his memories alive. Interactions with them gave me a lot of positivity and hope. They have been a constant source of encouragement and support,” Ashla adds.

While undergoing intense physiotherapy sessions at a hospital in Kochi, she heard about Pallium India from a friend. It is a charitable trust that provides palliative care and pain relief for patients across India. “I didn’t want to go back home because I knew it would be very difficult to continue my physiotherapy. I sent a mail to ‘Rajagopal sir’ explaining my medical condition and expressing my desire to work for the organisation. He replied within hours, and a few days later, I was there to meet him,” she says.

Today, she is actively involved with the half-way home, a rehabilitation project of Ministry of Social Justice, for those who are paraplegic, confined to their wheelchairs. “Their grief stems from their helplessness. We encourage them to stay positive, sometimes taking them out for a ‘walk’ along the footpath. They also attend vocational training classes. I can relate to them and perhaps that’s why they tell me that I inspire them. Since I am also on a wheelchair, they are motivated to come out of their shell,” she says.




Gold Getters

City girls Sharon and Krishna Induja were part of the Indian women’s throwball team, which won gold at the Asian Continental Games 2017.

In an outstanding achievement, both the women’s and men’s throwball teams have won gold for India at the the recent Asian Continental Games 2017, held in Thailand. What’s more, two players from the women’s team, Sharon Pascal and Gaddam Krishna Induja, are from Hyderabad and were coached by Venkat Komu and Jagan Mohan Goud.

“It’s a great feeling. This is our second international win in the last few months. The experience at the Asian Continental Games was different from the World Games 2017. This time, some of the players in the team were government employees; one was a policewoman from Punjab. It was nice playing with people from different parts of the country. We all got along well and our sole aim was to make India proud. We won against Malaysia in the semi-finals and thrashed Thailand in the finals,” says 24-year-old Sharon, proudly.

Induja says that the best part of the series was defeating the home team. “Thailand gave us a tough competition, but we won. I was the captain for the World Games and am glad we could make the country proud again. More parents should encourage their kids to take up sports. The awareness in the city is lacking,” says 19-year-old Induja, who was also a national-level tennis player. “After I suffered from jaundice, I switched to throwball as I couldn’t cotinue tennis. Throwball is tough too as the ball comes spinning in at great speed and we suffer from hand injuries. But I got attached to the sport and will continue playing it,” she adds.

While Sharon works as an Assistant Publishing Specialist at Thomson Reuters and is also pursuing a post graduate degree in Psychology at Osmania University, Induja is pursuing Interior Designing at Hamstech Institute of Fashion and Interior Designing. So doesn’t the schedule get hectic? “Yes, it’ very tiring. I practise in the morning, go to work and study during the weekends. But nothing matters more than making the country proud. Playing a sport can also be a stress-buster. I unwind by playing table tennis and dancing,” says Sharon. While Induja adds, “No matter how tiring it gets, I will continue playing for my father. When he tells people that his daughter plays for the country, it makes me happy.”

While both the girls face problems with funds and lack of opportunities, they want to continue playing for India. “I also want to start playing discus throw professionally. It’s all possible because our parents support us at all times,” concludes Sharon.

Courtesy   Deccan Chronicle


An immortal legacy

One might leave the mortal world, but their legacy stays behind, always encouraging thousand others to follow in their footsteps. This definitely holds true for Girija Devi, the queen of thumris, an eminent classical singer and a Padma Vibhushan awardee, who passed away last month. Girija Devi, too, with the far reach of her music, has left behind a trail of students and other music enthusiasts who vouch to carry on her legacy and spread the art to the next generations.

Both city-based music enthusiast, Amit Barariya and vocalist Aradhana Karhade Sastri, also a music teacher for the past 23 years, have been doing exactly that. The duo is organising a tribute to the legend in their own special way on November 7 at Lamakaan. “The evening will start with the screening of a documentary on her life and music, after that there will be a talk by Amit and an open discussion with the audience,” reveals Aradhana. Elaborating on the need of organising such a meet, she adds, “Girija Devi has contributed immensely to Hindustani classical music through impeccable voice and rendition, especially thumri. We all know how great a singer she was but we don’t know who the person she really was. It’s an attempt to get closer to her personally.”

According to Aradhana, legends like Girija Devi aren’t born every day. “She never thought singing to be a task or a job. I had an opportunity to watch her live show and I could see how humble she was on stage. Not a streak of pride or ego!” she says. Concurring with Aradhana, Amit says, “I have been following her music very closely and she used to sing thumris like no one is watching her. But very few will know she was great at singing khayals too. It’s very difficult to believe that she was 87 years old and yet had that command on her voice. That’s absolutely the result of her practice that she used to do since she had begun singing as a kid,” says Amit. “It isn’t only the demise of India’s thumri queen, but also of the person who brought the art of love poetry with a hint of raunchiness and drama to the forefront and demanded respect from the audience. She is the one who brought thumris out of lavish kothas to pristine stages amongst high-profile audiences and everyone fell in love with it,” he further adds.

courtesy      Deccan Chronicle

The medico @ 56

The story of this homemaker, who became an MBBS graduate at the age of 56, is sure to inspire all, young or old alike.

For Lakshmi Susirani Guntupalli, age is nothing but a number. Her achievement is reassuring for one and all, proving that it’s never too late to finish what you’ve started, even if it takes three decades to do it. At 56, Lakshmi has made history by becoming Guntur-based NRI Medical College’s oldest female graduate.

She shares, “I completed intermediate (Bi.Pi.C) in 1980 and settled down after that. Soon after, I was tied up with domestic commitments. But after raising my children, my elder brother suggested to pursue medicine since I already had the background. My husband Sambasiva Rao, ZPTC, Medikonduru mandal and children also encouraged me. So I gave it a try, and secured a seat through the management quota at NRI Medical College at the age of 50.”

Commendably enough, Lakshmi attended the same college as her son and it was an amazing experience for her. “I got nostalgic stepping into a college after 32 years. On my first day, students thought I was a faculty member and they were scared to talk to me (smiles). But later I clarified to them and eventually broke the ice. My son (who was studying in the 4th year in the same college) and I used to go college together. But we never told anyone that we were mother and son; but those who came to know about it were very surprised. When I look back, I feel glad that I went to the college with my son.”

A native of Perecherla village of Guntur district, the homemaker adds that student life renewed her spirit. “The students there did not show any discrimination towards me because of my age. Once they came to know about me, we had great fun,” Lakshmi reveals. But wasn’t she afraid of ragging? “Not really,” she says, adding, “Initially, the director told me that the college was high on ragging and that they were worried about how I was going to face it. But, fortunately, I got away with ragging since many students thought that I was a faculty member (laughs).”

But Lakshmi’s story is a lot more than just overcoming bullies — it is about insurmountable grit and perseverance. She elucidates, “My family members — father and brother — passed away during my examinations. It became difficult for me to focus on my studies. Also, several people ridiculed me for taking up the course at 50. Waking up at 4 am and doing the household chores, managing the family and focusing on studies took a lot of toll on me, both physically and mentally; but my interest in studies just kept going. In fact, I used to watch films like Dangal for inspiration.”

Interestingly, her elder son, Naga Chaitanya, and daughter-in-law, Chandana, graduated from the same college a few years back.



Courtesy        Deccan Chronicle