Q1. Tell us a bit about yourself, your family.
I am the fourth of nine siblings. My mother was a homemaker and my father was an engineer in the Irrigation Department of UP. He was in a transferable job so my elder sister, brother, and I stayed with our Nani, in Lahore, to study. I have fond memories of my school. Nobody pushed me to study hard but I had an intrinsic desire to stand first in the class and do well in sports.
In 1944 my family moved to Moradabad where I did my graduation and got married at the age of 18 in 1948. I had two daughters and then started my MA in Psychology from Jabalpur University in 1957. My professional journey actually started in 1967, after my youngest daughter went to Nursery School. I got my post-graduate diploma in special education from Edinburgh in 1975 and completed my PhD in the year 2000.
In my final role, I was working with Amar Jyoti Charitable Trust till 2018 when I finally retired at the age of 89. I now lead a retired life, dividing time between my daughter in Bangalore and Delhi. The Pandemic has made travel difficult so I am in Bangalore now and have started learning the keyboard via online classes.
Q2. You have spent all your life serving society and lifting everyone around you in every way possible. What gives you the strength and motivation to do the same?
Working with children was my passion. I got an opportunity to work with developmentally delayed children which then gave me the experience needed to win a Commonwealth Fellowship to study in Edinburgh. No one encouraged or asked me to study more. It was my intrinsic motivation to learn and achieve.
Q3. While you have been working on all these social projects you have ensured that your personal development never stops. So much so that you did your PhD at the age of 70 and as I understand you are now 91 and your thirst for knowledge is the same. Tell us a bit about that.
I was very fortunate that every project I undertook, whether at the Okhla Centre, or the YMCA or the Amar Jyoti charitable trust (all organizations that I have worked with for an extended period of time) gave me an opportunity to study and learn, and I took these opportunities seriously. My association with the Okhla Centre led me to the Commonwealth Fellowship. My association with Amar Jyoti led to my PhD which built on my work done there.
Q4. What has been your proudest moment?
I felt a sense of pride when my result for MA in Psychology was announced and I was awarded the gold medal from the University.
Q5. A whole lot of us accept age as a challenge and compromise of our dreams. What were some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
The most challenging situation for me was when my knees started giving way, making walking and driving painful for me. I had both knees replaced in 2011 which gave me a new lease of life. I am grateful for the support of my family during this time.
The passing away of my husband in 2002 was also a challenge as I then had to live alone for many years. My daughters were all married and in different cities but my work kept me anchored to Delhi. My work kept me going and provided me sustenance. I continued working with Amar Jyoti till 2018.
Q6. What part of your life experience would you alter if you had the chance to do so?
I would have liked to continue my education after my graduation and would have liked to follow the path of my dear friend who appeared for the Civil Services Examination and got into the IAS.
Q7. If you have to give one piece of advice to someone who’s looking to reinvent themselves, what will that be?
I would say be positive and keep learning. Have the courage to face the challenges, and the wisdom to make positive choices. Express gratitude, be compassionate and most importantly practice forgiveness.