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QUIET ACHIEVER Lakshmimani is modesty personified
QUIET ACHIEVER Lakshmimani is modesty personified

“Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all…” is this year's theme for International Women's Day on March 8. Lakshmimani, the first engineering graduate of Andhra Pradesh, lived the slogan half a century ago. P. Sujatha Varma tells you more

While talking to her, it doesn't take long to realise that it's great to be old. It's great to be wise and sage and mellow; to be at the point where you understand just what matters in life.

Varanasi Lakshmimani, the first engineering graduate from Andhra Pradesh, revels in the memory bank she has preserved over the years. Wisdom, resilience and a mature perspective are her hard-won prizes and at 76, the lady redefines the beauty of aging.

A native of Vijayawada city, she pursued her intermediate in the SRR & CVR Government College. “Vijayawada was not a very big education centre compared to Guntur.” After passing inter with distinction, her father wanted her to do engineering from Kakinada Engineering College (Now, JNTU College of Engineering, Kakinada). Despite resentment from her paternal grandparents, her father had his way. “I was a shy, docile young girl. Though I did not have any high ambition, I did not see any harm in following my father's advice either” she recalls.

Lakshmimani found education very pleasurable. “The special lab classes, field trips and the rigorous training, I enjoyed it all. Being the only girl, I was denied a hostel accommodation and instead given a staff quarter.”

Of the three branches of engineering –civil, mechanical and electrical, she chose civil engineering. The apprehensive principal suggested that since Electronics would suit girls, she would do well to seek admission in Guindy Engineering College, Chennai. “I stuck to my decision and opted for a BE in civil engineering and passed out in 1954,” she discloses, recollecting how terrible she had felt for having narrowly missed a first class.

Her last visit to the college in 2006 to attend the diamond jubilee celebrations of the institution was an eye-opener for her. “I was delighted to see the campus teeming with scores of girls with high confidence level.”

She then joined as a junior engineer in the office of special chief engineer, Irrigation Department, Kurnool. In 1956, the office was shifted to Hyderabad and in 1958, she moved to Delhi along with her spouse and took up a job as a design engineer in the Central Water Commission. In September-end of 1991, she retired as the Director of the CWC.

The couple was blessed with four sons and life was hunky-dory until 2005 when she lost her husband V.S. Murthy. He was also an engineer in the Central Public Works Department. On October 29 of 2005, he accompanied his youngest son, a doctor, to buy a stethoscope to Sarojini Nagar Market where terrorists had planted a bomb. He was among the several other innocent victims of the bomb blast.

Her advancing age and the emotional landmines that shook her life may have slowed her pace, but she never stopped smiling.

Demonstrating an astonishing grace and acceptance, she refused to drift into isolation, bitterness or a sense of meaninglessness and instead put up her dukes, determined to move on.

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