Category Archives: successful woman



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

City’s own feminist history

Poetess, courtesan, dancer, warrior, kingmaker; vocabulary may fail us in truly describing every aspect of Mah Laqa Bai Chanda, but we are not giving up! The irony of her story lies in the fact that she is the hero that every feminist looks for, but somehow misses. She was a realist, purist and, above all, a feminist — all rolled into one; a local hero, who can be a strong, contemporary global role model of the 21st century. Ideals that feed the shouting frenzy on news channels every evening today, were her life’s real goals two centuries ago.

Her life was fun, adventurous, musical, political and tragic; but the real tragedy is that she remains forgotten in the very city that she achieved great feats in. A foreigner, sadly, had to come and remind us of her — and this is the biggest thorn in Vinay Verma’s side. Vinay — the director of the monologue Mah Laqa Bai Chanda, brought to life by the words of Dr Bawa.

For Ratika, who plays Mah Laqa, the journey of discovering this wonder woman, and in the process discovering the actress within her, has been nothing but beautiful. “I took up this play for two reasons. I really wanted to do a play in Urdu, and second, I think her story is about the apathy of women; it is so relevant even today. She undoubtedly is the pioneer of feminism,” says Ratika. While she feels blessed for having landed this role, playing it has, at the same time, been difficult. Ratika did not know Urdu to begin with. Moreover, she felt that the director was very reluctant in casting her. “He did everything to dissuade me. I now know, he was testing my drive to do the role; but back in 2013, it became a challenge for me, which I was determined to overcome,” she recalls.

Corroborating Ratika’s words about the monologue’s casting, Vinay says, “She was definitely not the obvious choice, so I wanted to see how much she wanted this. Since then she has come a very, very long way.”

Vinay also believes in maintaining purity of the language, which according to him is what captures the character’s essence. “The audience has to raise their levels. I refuse to bring down the level of this character for them,” he adds. So let’s rise to the occasion this Friday, when Mah Laqa’s words will transcend her grave through Sutradhar’s production. We owe it to our city and its beautiful history.

Tags: mah laqa bai chandavinay vermaratika

courtesy      Deccan Chronicle

Hitting the bulleye

For 21-year-old Jyoti Surekha Vennam, who is all set to receive the Arjuna Award for archery on Tuesday, it’s a dream come true. All thanks to her family that introduced her to sports at a very early age.

When she was four, she set a record in the Limca Book of World Records for having swam across River Krishna thrice in 3 hours 20 minutes and six seconds, covering a distance of five kilometers. Her father Surendra Kumar says, “She learnt swimming very quickly and used to swim with other 20-year-olds and the coach realised she had very good endurance. My wife, my father and I were Kabaddi players. After Jyoti was born, we moved to Vijayawada from Guntur to access better sports facilities. People laughed then, but now I’m proud that it’s paying off.”

As a promising swimmer, why did she switch sports? “There were no international coaches in Vijayawada and I would have had to go to Bangalore. I was quite young then and my parents didn’t want to send me so far away. After some research, we settled on archery,” she says. The beginning was shaky, but the go-getter that Jyoti is, she didn’t give up. “I loved being in the water and initially, I didn’t want to do archery. But as I got better at the sport, I knew this was for me!” she says. Jyothi is hopeful about the sport. She says, “Every sport has its own importance but if archery got even half the popularity that cricket and badminton are getting, it would be great. But I’m glad to say that women in sports are being duly recognised.”

Ask her what the high point in her career has been and she says, “The most special moments were when I bagged an Asian Games Medal in 2014 and won the Asian Games Championship in 2015. The Arjuna Award, of course, is a cherry on top. My goal now is to win an individual medal in the Senior World Championship.”

Jyoti owes it all to her family. “Archery is an expensive sport and there were moments when I thought my parents are spending too much for me. But my father would say, ‘When you’re trying to achieve something big, we shouldn’t worry much about finances’. He would just ask me to focus on the result,” she explains.

She has travelled to around 12 countries for her tournaments. “The country I liked best was Turkey because of its beaches. I am an introvert. I don’t make conversation unless someone comes up to me first. This troubled me sometimes, but I’ve made peace with it,” she says.

But the young girl not only aces archery but also hits the bullseye in academics. “I’ve finished my B.Tech and I’m now pursuing my MBA. I don’t like to spend much time on studies. I remember things after listening to them just once,” she says, as her father proudly recalls how she got 90% in her Class X exams. “She bagged a medal in Rajasthan and had written the exam soon after getting off the plane. Yet, she did so well,” he says.


Telangana’s shooting star

While most kids play with soft toys, little Rashmmi showed a keen interest in guns and ammunitions. She was born in a family of army men. “My father and grandfather are from the Army, so naturally, I grew up seeing guns and air rifles in my house. I first held a gun when I was five and started practicing by aiming at boxes,” recalls Rashmmi, who hardly knew then that shooting would become her profession one day.Thirty-four-year old Rashmmi Rathore has become the first shooter in Telangana to win a gold medal at the Asian Shotgun Championship.

Now 34, Rashmi shares that it was her dad who introduced her to the world of shooting. “When my dad witnessed the National Games of India in 2010, he said that he wants to see me playing in the next championship. Since then, I started practicing sincerely and participated in various tournaments and won several medals at the national level,” she says.

However, despite being a seasoned shooter on the home front, Rashmmi failed to crack the success code internationally — but only until she found Vaibhav Agashe, a renowned sports physiologist. “I was constantly failing to win a medal at international events, and was feeling dejected. I was confused and wondering where I was going wrong. Then, one of my coaches advised me to talk to sports physiologist Vaibhav who had trained Olympians like Gagan Narag,” she narrates, adding, “Vaibhav advised me to start meditating. Hitting the gym, chalking out a diet plan and self-talk were also part of the training sessions. This helped me with my preparation and handling the pressure.”

Days before the 2017 Asian Shotgun Championship began in Kazakhstan earlier this month, Rashmmi received the biggest jolt of her life when her dad, who used to accompany her to her events, passed away. “My dad was my strength and I couldn’t digest that he’s not there anymore. I was leading a distressful life. During that time, I got a call to prepare for the Asian Championship,” she says.

However, an emotional Rashmmi exhibited great endurance, put up a strong fight and eventually struck gold! “It was tough preparing and I wasn’t keen on it either. But I realised that this was not what my dad wanted. So I started practicing seriously and the training with my sports psychologist helped me big time in coping up with the difficult time. The Telangana Rifle Association also encouraged me a lot. When I won the gold medal (with Mairaj Ahmad Khan), it was an emotional moment and I started crying. Unfortunately, my dad isn’t alive to see the medal, but I always have his blessings,” explains the ace shooter.

When it comes to other facets of her life, interestingly, she is not keen on getting hitched anytime soon. “I never had a crush or a love life in school or college nor have I ever been in a relationship. I have been like this since childhood and people are even scared of me,” she says with a smile, adding, “I am happy being single and my focus is now on the world championship in Moscow on August 31.”

And what does Rashmmi do for leisure or when she wants to unwind? Watching cartoons and spending time with friends, she says, are her stress busters.