Young World

Mother of social work

Nehru at Durgabai Deshmukh's wedding. Photo: Special Arrangement

Nehru at Durgabai Deshmukh's wedding. Photo: Special Arrangement

If Padma Vibhushan Durgabai Deshmukh were alive today, she would have celebrated her 102nd birthday on July 15. But this social reformer passed away in May 1981, just a couple of months before her 72nd birthday.

Today scores of school children studying in the numerous institutions she founded thank her, especially the special children benefitting from her school for hearing impaired and visually challenged.

Born into a middle class family in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, Durgabai got involved in India's struggle for Freedom at a young age.

Inspired by her parents she started helping women and children too.

Young beginning

“At the age of 11, she set up the “Hindi Balika Patasala” in Kakinada, to help the locals learn hindi,” says Mr V.S.R. Moorthy, president of the Durgabai Deshmukh Colony Welfare Association.

This locality, which also houses her home, Rachana, now converted into a law college for women, is named after Durgabai. Durgabai married C.D. Deshmukh, an ICS officer and Finance Minister and the couple stayed here.

“Durgabai did not have access to formal education herself, till at a later age, when she decided to get educated. She finally became a law graduate,” adds Mr Moorthy.

In 1920, Durgabai met Gandhiji and over the years, she was inspired by him to join the struggle for Indian Independence. She improved her knowledge of Hindi, which she knew would help her in this venture. This gave her the ability to travel all over the State with Gandhiji and help translate all his speeches from Hindi to Telugu, for the benefit of the common man.

In 1930, when she heard about Gandhiji's plans to visit Dandi for the Salt March, she wrote to him asking for permission to spearhead a similar mission in Madras. Along with great leaders like Tanguturi Prakasham and Kashinath Nageswar Rao, she marched down Triplicane Beach calling out to more and more people to join them to fight against the British laws.

“Durgabai was a self made person, from an ordinary middle class family.

She formally educated herself, to the highest level, which rendered her standing tall among people like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru”, says Y. Padmavathy, vice- president of Andhra Mahila Sabha, Hyderabad.

This eminent personality was called ‘a born leader' by some, the ‘Iron Lady' by many others and the ‘Mother of Social Work' by Indira Gandhi.

One of the most important organisations set up by Durgabai Deshmukh is the Andhra Mahila Sabha. “The Andhra Mahila Sabha has 28 branches today, which include hospitals, schools, colleges, physiotherapy centres and more which work on the philosophy of service with dignity and honesty,” says Ms. Padmavathy

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2022 8:44:32 pm |