Here’s to strong and inspiring women

Being a platform that’s run by two women, it’s our honour and privilege to celebrate women on this International Women’s Day. It’s been sixteen months since we published our first story on The Good Story Project. Of the 68 stories published so far, some are about women who inspire, and some are written by wonderful women writers. All the women-centric stories – including interviews and first-person accounts — that we have published on our platform have moved us, touched us, motivated us, and inspired us. On this special day, we thought about revisiting these stories and sharing them with you. After all, it’s not just about one day. With such powerful women around, every day is a women’s day.

Ajjibaichi Shala … a school for grandmothers

What’s unique about a small village named Fangane, located in Murbad Tehsil of Thane district in Maharashtra? The village is home to Ajjibaichi Shala — a school for grandmothers, which was inaugurated on March 8, 2016, on the occasion of Women’s Day. These grandmothers – all in the age group of 60 to 90 years – had just one dream … to be able to write their names before they reached the end of their lives. Their dream came true in 2016 when Yogendra Bangar, a local schoolteacher, opened a school for them. Now, they proudly shun the thumb impression ink pad and put their signatures on ration cards and bank documents.

Read this inspiring story here.

Kiranjit Kaur’s incredible journey

On April 23, 2016, Kiranjit Kaur’s father Gurnam Singh, 48, a farmer living in Katra Kalan village in Mansa district in Punjab hanged himself by a tree as he was unable to pay the debt of Rs 8 lakh. Kaur was just 23. After struggling emotionally and financially for two years, she formed the Kisan Mazdoor Peedat Parivar Committee to help the families of farmers and farm labourers cope with suicide, a grim reality in Punjab and the rest of the country. Today, 6,000 people are a part of the outfit. The members include families of farmers and farm labourers in Punjab who could not cope with the pressure and chose to take the extreme step. The committee members not just provide moral and emotional support to widows and mothers; they also fight for the government compensation that the victim families are supposed to get and ensure that children from such families do not drop out of schools and colleges.

Click here to read Kiranjit’s story.

“Be kind, be inclusive”

Mrunmaiy Abroal is a communications professional, who is presently working with Amazon in Bangalore. In 2011, she suffered an injury in her spinal cord, which left her in a wheelchair. In this story, she shares her journey of recovering from the accident, getting back to work, and the challenges of working in an office. “If you are hiring a person with a disability, you don’t have to lower your expectations. Also, while calling someone with a disability for an interview, be sensitive towards the kind of disability he/she has and make appropriate arrangements,” she says.

Click here to read her powerful first-person account.

A wheelchair basketball player from Kashmir

In 2019, Kashmir was virtually cut-off from the rest of the country after Article 370 was revoked and the state was put under lockdown. Why the Indian Army and the Jammu and Kashmir police were tracking down Ishrat Akhtar, a wheelchair basketball player, is a fascinating story, but also a grim reminder about how difficult it has been for sportspersons, especially para-sports players, from Kashmir. “There are many talented players in Kashmir, but they don’t get opportunities as there are no facilities. The government should look into this,” she says.

Read Ishrat’s story here.

“We only ask for a level playing field”

In 1998, Preethi Srinivasan went on a college trip to Pondicherry. A freak accident left her paralyzed below the neck. Life has been a constant struggle after that, but the sportswoman in her is always determined to take each problem head-on. “Education is a great leveller. We do not ask for sympathy; we only ask for a level playing field that fulfils our basic right to equal rights in education and employment. The government has several quotas for persons with disabilities, but most of these are not being implemented,” she says.

If you are a girl/woman, you must read this story.

“My daughters complete my life”

Rafat Siddiqui’s journey to motherhood began eight years after her life-altering accident in 2010. In this interview, she talks about her supportive family, the special bond that she shares with her husband, embracing motherhood, and her daughters who mean the world to her. “It was a miracle. I asked my husband to buy me a pregnancy kit. In my head, I knew the test was going to be negative, but, in my heart, I was hoping for it to be positive. Those few minutes were the longest of my life. The result made me numb. My husband is my spine, and my daughters are the miracle that completes my life,” says Rafat.

Read her wonderful journey of motherhood here.

Fighting for better infrastructure … 

Because of infrastructural woes, thousands of students with disabilities are grappling with the challenges of access and inclusion. Garima Vyas, who is in a wheelchair ever since she met with an accident in 2016, is fighting a lone battle as her university says it needs a nod from the government to make alterations in the heritage structure of the building to accommodate her. “There is a flight of stairs right at the entrance of my department building. My mother, who accompanies me to the university to help me around, must literally pull the wheelchair up the stairs. This is very dangerous. Also, it’s a herculean task for me to move from one building to the other in a wheelchair. So, I attend just one lecture in a week,” says Garima.

Read Garima’s story here.

“We need more training institutes”

As a college student, Kartiki Patel would sometimes bunk her classes to play basketball, a sport she was passionate about. However, after an accident that left her in a wheelchair, in the absence of proper information, good infrastructure, and trained coaches, she had to wait for long to get back on the basketball court. This is the story of almost all para-sports persons. “First, there is a lack of awareness about disability in India among the general population. Second, how will persons with disabilities take up competitive sports if there is no awareness? On top of that, where are the facilities? I struggled because of the lack of awareness and infrastructure,” she says.

Read Kartiki’s story here.

“Help us become financially independent”

“For female para-athletes, sports can be a great medium to be financially independent. However, it’s only recently that the government has started promoting para-sports, and there’s a lot that needs to be done. Also, it is very crucial to treat para-athletes on par with able-bodied athletes in terms of cash prizes and providing job opportunities. This will motivate them to continue playing sports”

— Ekta Bhyan, a club throw champion, who participated in the recently concluded Tokyo Paralympics.

Read Ekta’s powerful story here

“I pay tribute to pain”

“Nainika is here!”

These were my words when I first held her in my arms. I was ecstatic as I had silent faith it was always going to be Nainika. To fix the third-degree tear I had had while delivering her, I was taken to the operation theatre and I remember blabbering all the way to the operation theatre, how happy I was today and that I was a mother to a gorgeous little baby girl called Nainika. I told them proudly, Nainika means apple of our eyes.

When the coffin arrived home before the funeral service, someone came and said to me, “Nainika is here!”

Read Nainika’s story here.

“I feel a lump in my throat …”

“Talking of grief and pain getting smoother with time, I can say that when you look back and see the marks of the dried-up wounds suddenly it hurts sometimes. I can feel pain physically somewhere in the middle of my stomach or someplace within. When I think of our daughter and how both of them missed getting to know each other, I feel a lump in my throat and a horrible feeling of loss and of how unfair it is”

Artist and sculptor Zaida Jacob’s daughter was only a year and a half when she lost her husband.

Read her story here.

“In December 2020, I lost my ma to Covid”

In November 2020, Pooja Ganju Adlakha started writing a story which was meant to be about coping with the grief of losing her father, Major Virendra Ganju, in 2016 to Motor Neuron Disease. However, by the time the story could come out, she unexpectedly lost her mother to Covid. In this first-person account, she writes about how, with both her parents gone, she is experiencing a different kind of an empty nest syndrome.

Read Pooja’s story here.

“I was just 13 when my father passed away”

In this first-person account, Eshwari Shukla, a journalist, talks about the day her father passed away in an accident when she was only 13. She mentions how, initially, it was strange for her to see her mother in a white saree. Her empty forehead would remind her of the sudden vacuum in their lives, but, gradually, the mother-daughter duo became each other’s silent strength while coping with their common grief.

Read Eshwari’s story here.

“There’s hope I will meet my mother someday”

Darshana Shukul, a corporate communication professional, lost her mother soon after her baby brother was born. She was just five. She still remembers seeing her mother lying on the hospital bed, pale and lifeless, and the strange deafening silence between the two. In a first-person account, she talks about how, while growing up, she wrote stories, sought solace in God’s grace, and befriended books, weapons that helped her battle the painful emotions of losing her mother.

Read Darshana’s story here.

“Do I look like a person with mental illness?”

“I have been working for more than three decades in the disability sector in India. There are many issues in the sector which are very close to my heart. However, the invisibility of mental health issues is something that hurts me the most. Misinformation on mental illnesses and psychosocial disabilities are galore in our country. Reasons may be manifold. One of them might be that one cannot ‘see’ a mental illness?”

Shampa Sengupta is an activist working on gender and disability rights. Read her powerful story here.

Doodles and mental health

Tanika Godbole is a journalist and a comic artist, who started making doodles in 2017 to get out of a bad phase and randomly shared them on social media platforms. She was surprised that people found her work relatable and funny, and her Instagram followers kept on increasing. In an interview, she talks about how ‘missfitcomics’ has helped her deal with her emotional issues and how art can be a saviour during the pandemic.

Read Tanika’s story here.

“I highly recommend therapeutic writing”

Anjana Deshpande, a licensed clinical social worker based in the US, tells in an interview how we can use our rich tradition of art, storytelling, and poetry to heal from the collective trauma that we are experiencing presently because of the coronavirus pandemic and elaborates on how, as per a study, people who wrote for at least 15 minutes a day about a painful moment are better equipped to deal with painful circumstances

Click here to read the interview

Pandemic and writing for children …

“The lockdown was hard for everyone, especially children. So I wanted the book to work at creating possible connections – our own experience of difficulty can open us out to another’s difficulty – self-awareness versus making it a ‘scolding’, a moralising to create empathy for the ‘other’. I didn’t want the book to become the ‘wagging finger’. But I did want it to talk of the difficult experiences of the pandemic for all children”

Samina Mishra is a filmmaker, children’s book author and teacher who wrote Jamlo Walks – the hard-hitting picture book based on a true story of a 12-year-old girl who walked all the way from Telangana to Bastar in Chhattisgarh. Carrying her little bag of chillies, Jamlo covered a distance of 155 miles during the lockdown

Click here to read the interview.

Writing on human-animal conflict

Between 2015 and 2019, 62 elephants were killed by trains in India and more than 1,700 people and more than 300 elephants died in encounters with each other. The human-elephant conflict is real, and, in most cases, humans are to be blamed for it. In the name of development and wanting more coal mines, factories, railway lines and wider highways, we have entered the homes of elephants and we blame them for coming out and destroying paddy fields and harming humans. In one of the chapters of her recently published book Wild and Wilful, Neha Sinha, conservation biologist and author, has documented many heart-breaking stories of elephants and their calves falling into mine pits, getting crushed under trains or sustaining burn injuries because of fireballs thrown at them.

Click here to read the interview.

Documenting Parveen Babi’s life

Karishma Upadhyay is a veteran film journalist, a specialist on Bollywood. Parveen Babi – A Life, is her first book, for which, she interviewed the star’s former friends, lovers, and colleagues to build a portrait that is rich and multi-layered. Upadhyay spoke to Prerna Shah about the research that went into making the book, as well as about bringing to light several lesser-known facets of Babi’s life and personality.

Click here to read the interview.

Winter diaries from Almora

Eating only home-grown organic vegetables, looking after cows and consuming fresh milk, breathing in the fresh air, connecting with your roots, spotting tiger pug marks in your courtyard, and spending most of your day playing with dogs and pups and shooing monkeys away while working from home and fulfilling your professional commitments … if this sounds like an exciting life, writer, director, and filmmaker Kanchan Pant is actually living it.

Read Kanchan’s story here.

“One April noon, we met our new mom”

“One April afternoon, we left to meet our new mom. I was nervous. When we arrived, I saw a woman wearing a beautiful saree. She came towards us and I said, ‘Hi Ma’am.’ She smiled. Then I said ‘Mom?’ She said yes. She introduced herself, ‘Namaste, I am Rama, your new mom.’” 

Anjali Fahnline, 14, writes about her adoption journey. Fahnline and her two sisters were adopted in 2017, and she is our youngest ever contributor, bringing in the much-needed perspective as an adoptee, and an honest account of her experiences and feelings.

Read Anjali’s story here.

Getting ready for adoption

Smriti Gupta, is a child rights campaigner, and a partnerships and marketing professional. She is working to drive awareness and find lasting solutions for India’s most vulnerable children. In an interview with Prerna Shah, she talks about creating a Facebook group that supports Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs), how a family can prepare themselves prior to bringing home a child, as well as her campaign on Safe Surrender.

Click here to read the interview.

The many challenges of parenting

“Parenting hasn’t been easy. During my child’s first eight months, I suffered from post-natal depression. Instead of counselling what I ended up with was streams of visitors, relatives and friends who would drop in to see my baby at any time of the day or night, often without asking me if I was okay with it. It drained my energy, along with long breastfeeding sessions and sleepless nights, to such an extent that I didn’t want to spend an hour a week talking to a therapist.”

Eisha Sarkar, a communications professional reflects on her journey as a parent and describes incidents, books, and literature that helped her chart her own journey through motherhood.

Read Eisha’s story here.

“Disrupted adoptions have gone up”

Sangitha Krishnamurthi, is a special educator, and adoptive parent. In an essay she wrote for The Good Story Project, she talked about some of the aspects that are often pushed under the carpet when talking about adoption and the need to move beyond a simplistic understanding of adoption to help avoid some of these disruptions.

Read Sangita’s story here.

Published by

Swati Subhedar

Meaningful conversations, ginger tea, Maggi, playing Tennis, backpacking, travelling, exploring, photography, adventures, meeting interesting people, mountains, beaches, and dramatic sunsets ... these are just some of the uncomplicated things that keep me going.

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