Pune has always been in the forefront of change. The battle for women’s rights and change for the better is what makes Pune a progressive thinker’s paradise. For this, we want to give due credits to the following women achievers of Pune who have made our city proud. Some names come back to greet us from the past, while others walk with us towards glory.
A lot of credit for women’s empowerment in Maharashtra, particularly Pune should be given to Ramabai Ranade. This 19th century women’s rights’ activist made kit a point to educate herself so she could be an equal part of her husband’s, Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade, active life. Justice Mahadev was a towering personality in terms of women’s rights, education in general and more. He supported her education and activities, post which, she started the Hindu Ladies Social Club, Seva Sadan Society, Huzurpaga School and spent her life working towards women empowerment and carrying her husband’s dreams for social service forward.
The name of Savitribai Phule is known throughout the state and she deserves every bit of attention. She struggled to realise the dream of girl child education and her work with her supportive husband Mahatma Jyotiba Phule has had a lasting effect on women’s rights and education. A series of incidences impressed upon the duo to work towards women’s empowerment and other social reforms. She not only started the country’s first school for girls but was also the first female teacher in the history of India. Abuses, ostracisation and hurdles came by. But she carried on, with the able support of her mentor, her husband. The rest is history!
Pune thrives to carry forward the tradition of upholding art and culture. The city has churned out literary legends in many languages, especially Marathi. And, when it comes to Marathi literature, Shanta Shelke is one name to reckon with. This poet and writer par excellence wrote novels and also worked for the press. Her poetry and songs touched millions of hearts. Her fans found her language to be smooth and her writings, speeches and conversations showed the kind of hold she had over literature. Although she left us in 2002, her work keeps Marathi literature heavily indebted to her.
Dr. Banoo Jehangir Coyaji
Dr. Banoo Coyaji is another Puneri gem who provided solid support to fields like family planning and population control. She was a renowned name in Gynaecology and Obstetrics. The King Edward Memorial or KEM Hospital in Pune has become what it is today due to the efforts of Dr. Coyaji. What’s more, she was repeatedly consulted by governments and international organisations. Doctors are considered God and Dr. Banoo Coyaji was one for a lot of her patients.
Her foray in business via her family-run ventures came in with her husband Rohinton’s unfortunate death. She took the responsibility of making Thermax Ltd., an engineering solutions provider in energy and environment. Now, her daughter Meher Pudumjee follows her mother’s successful footsteps. This tycoon, however, has not stopped at business. Aga is active in the field of social work with the Thermax Social Initiative Foundation and is a Padma Shri recipient.
Simple, funny, sensitive and very relatable are adjectives used to describe Sai Paranjype’s films. And why not? Her Puneri connection is so strong! She is the daughter of actor-writer and social worker Shakuntala Paranjype and the grand-daughter of well-known mathematician and social worker, R.P. Paranjype, who is also known as Wrangler Paranjype, and niece of filmmaker Achyut Ranade. It is but obvious that her creative juices found their way out. This NSD graduate’s films include works like Sparsh, Katha, Chashme Baddoor, Disha, Bhago Bhoot. Her plays and other writings too have made a mark in the history of Indian Cinema.
Honorable Mentions: Prabha Atre (Music), Leela Poonawala (Social Work), Vibhawari Deshpande (Films and Theatre), Gauri Deshpande (Literature).
Would you add more names to this list? Tell us!