Home India News A midnight’s child wishes empowerment for rural women

A midnight’s child wishes empowerment for rural women

By Prashant K. Nanda, IANS

New Delhi : Her birth on Aug 15, 1947 was not celebrated – because she was a girl. In fact, she was given a boyish nickname, grew up like a boy and had to walk every day to a faraway school that did not even have a fan.

But Shyama Bharti fought all these odds and is today the general manager (administration) of Delhi Transco Ltd, the power distributing body of the Indian capital.

She sports a hairdo like Indira Gandhi’s, makes it a point to have the national flag at home and office and has the surname ‘Bharti’, symbolic of being one of India’s midnight children.

Talking about the day she was born – coinciding with India’s Independence Day, Bharti said her mother and grandmothers were not happy because she was the third girl child of the family.

“I was from a poor family and most in my family were not happy over my arrival. But today I am a proud woman. I took birth on Independence Day and grew along with the country,” Bharti told IANS.

Born in Gurgaon, Haryana, to revenue collector Choudhury Nathe Ram, Bharti was nicknamed Shyam and grew up like a boy. From having her early education at small Hindi medium schools, she went on to qualify in the Haryana Public Service Commission.

“In spite of all odds, I had one aim – to become something in life. Now I have achieved my target. Though I am from a Scheduled Caste background, I have made myself counted among others. I am a proud mother, a loving wife and an obedient daughter-in-law,” she said while showing a photograph of her husband and two sons.

Speaking about her unique birthday, Bharti said: “I have never celebrated my birthday. I just light a candle for the prosperity of India on Aug 15.

“When the whole country is celebrating my birthday, why should I celebrate it?”

Elaborating on her special bond with important days in India, she said: “Apart from sharing my birthday with the country, I had the opportunity to represent Haryana twice in the Republic Day (Jan 26) functions in 1967 and 1968.

“I was representing my home state atop the Haryana tableau. Decked in ghagra, ear and nose rings, and bangles, I did not miss the opportunity to wave to the prime minister, president and senior ministers sitting across the road.

“I also got an opportunity to meet then prime minister Indira Gandhi during a tableau rehearsal. I still remember her pat on my back and was enthralled by her presence. Since then I have changed my hairstyle,” said Bharti, who was doing her graduation during that time.

“Boy cut hair, sari with a bright border and brisk walking are three of her qualities that I made a part of my life,” she disclosed, adding that the “Mrs. Gandhi changed the face of Indian women”.

Comparing the India of today with that of her childhood, she said: “When I was a child, Independent India was also a child. There were not enough schools, roads and we were lagging behind in science and technology.

“I had to walk almost three kilometres to reach my school. Forget about playground and other facilities, there was not even a fan in my headmaster’s room. The school building was in a very bad state, there were very few students.”

She said things have changed over the years and now India has assumed the status of a reforming country.

“India is now a power to reckon with in the field of IT, textile, space science, medicine and education.

“We have world class institutes like the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Students are no longer walking miles to reach their school and the majority of schools in the country are in good shape and have all kinds of facilities for the growth of a young mind.

“India has progressed in many fields but I have one regret about rural India. Women in rural India are still suffering and empowerment is far away from them,” she said.

Bharti said even as India was spreading its wings across the globe, social menaces like child marriage, dowry, domestic violence and female foeticide were continuing.

“From Indira Gandhi becoming prime minister to Pratibha Patil becoming president of the country, Indian women are achieving new feats every day but at the same time rural women need to be empowered.

“India must grow in both urban and rural areas,” she remarked.

As for her approaching 60th birthday, she said: “I will celebrate with over a billion people.”