DURGABAI DESHMUKH: Akkiraju Ramapathi Rao; Sahitya Akademi, Ravindra havan, 35, Feroze Shah Road, New Delhi-110001. Rs. 40.
Reckoned among the notable nation-builders of modern India, Durgabai Deshmukh devoted her boundless energies for the welfare of women. Her primary concern was on girls' education and on the rehabilitation of the orphaned/destitute women since that would enable them to lead a life of dignity, marked by self-reliance, and self-respect.
Known for her indomitable spirit, Durgabai came under the spell of Gandhiji ever since she met him at a public meeting in Rajamundhry and instantly gave away her gold bangles. As a teen-ager, she set afire all the foreign-made clothes her family possessed. She had courted arrested and while in prison she taught Hindi and English to her co-prisoners.
Post-Independence, Durgbai was nominated to the Constituent Assembly and later she served as a member of the Planning Commission. As Chairman of the Central Social Welfare Board, she played a remarkable part especially in empowering women. Andhra Mahila Sabha, which evolved from a modest women's association Durgabai started in 1938, is synonymous with her name.
Ramapathi Rao, who has drawn from facts and figures from Neti Sitadevi's biography of Durgabai, has deftly woven into the narrative quite a few interesting episodes related to the Independence movement. The portrait of Durgabai on the cover is captivating.