Mumbai Diary page: Monday musings

The city — sliced, diced and served with a dash of sauce

Gear, no fear
The Western India Automobile Association (WIAA) Rally to the Valley, an all-women's car rally from Mumbai to the Amby Valley yesterday, saw participation of nearly 1,000 women in 250 cars. More than the numbers though, it was the message that accompanied the rally, ‘safer city for women’ that had the wheels churning.

For women's safety, especially. Vehicles had a strong message to give yesterday in a rally to Amby Valley. Pics/Shadab Khan
For women's safety, especially. Vehicles had a strong message to give yesterday in a rally to Amby Valley. Pics/Shadab Khan

One particularly liked the way in which the cars were decorated to reinforce the safety for women rally-ing cry (pun intended). We can only say, don't put the brakes on making this a safer city for women. That means using all kinds of mediums including a Time Speed and Distance (TSD) test of driving to hammer that home too.

Here’s looking at them
Women’s Day is occasion for some hurrahs and what better way than looking at those who are part of the lifelines of this city the transport arm? So, we caught a glimpse of Manjula Inamdar co-pilot of the railway engine at Lonavala.

Manjula Inamdar
Manjula Inamdar

She is presently shunting along while staying at Ambernath. Then there is Ahilya Udhav Kendre, working in MSRTC at Thane depot, spotted often on the Thane-Panvel bus. They form a part of the workforce that make the wheels of this city and beyond go round.

Ahilya at work in the bus, just another day in the life for these ladies
Ahilya at work in the bus, just another day in the life for these ladies

Of cheques and balances
Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State, Commerce & Industry, gave the audience at the Veer Savarkar Hall some fiscal food for thought with her talk revolving around the ‘enhanced role of women in business’. The Minister was keynote speaker at Moneylife Foundation’s Women’s Day event, held yesterday morning at the Shivaji Park venue.

Minister N Sitharaman (l) speaks with wit and wisdom. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Minister N Sitharaman (l) speaks with wit and wisdom. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

Sitharaman started by saying sometimes, “bland statistics” do tell part of the story. She explained it is time to focus on the 10 per cent of women (a very small number ) who are self-employed. She said, “Out of these 8.9 per cent are rural women while 1.9 per cent are urban.

Not much is available to them in terms of assistance in running their business, and solid guidance. While initiatives like the Jan Dhan Yojana are good, it is time to take things forward.” The Minister added banks too need to change the way they deal with women, especially in tier-I, and tier-II cities and rural areas where it is still, “ho-hum, is your husband okay? Is your father okay?”

She added that when it came to political empowerment, there were so many people rooting for the women’s cause, that women were not just proxies in the political system today, but financial empowerment of women has to still see the same kind of support.

A thought-provoking, and eyebrow-raising (watch out they may disappear into the hairline altogether!) candid address from the Minister who also touched upon a slight awkwardness about being in politics because of reservation, though she admitted that women were then judged on performance, a fondness for pickles (said in an introduction to her) and once, many years earlier, winning a bottle of champagne as a salesperson in London while working at a home store. From pickles to Perignon, the many facets of Ms. Sitharaman.

Cause for pause
On March 5, Vidya Patil turned 86. Her husband, Padma Bhushan Shivajirao Patil, daughters Anita and Manya and grandson Prateik welcomed friends and family to lunch, to celebrate a birthday they knew too well would be her last. The dynamic and inspiring veteran and much-loved champion of women’s causes had been ailing for some time.

Vidya Patil (l). May she Rest In Peace (RIP)
Vidya Patil (l). May she Rest In Peace (RIP)

Two days later, Vidya Patil breathed her last in the wee hours of the morning, a lamp now lit for her beside the one that has long been lit for daughter Smita Patil. It would seem appropriate to celebrate the Savitribai Phule award-winner’s life, particularly her work in the areas of women’s empowerment and children’s education, yet for the hundreds of people who called her ‘Ma’ the loss is almost too great to bear.

As she left her home in Mumbai for Shirpur one final time on Saturday, those who cared for her deeply whispered condolences through tears. For those who have yet to say goodbye, the family will accept condolences on Thursday, March 12, at their Bandra residence.

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