In January 2016, President Pranab Mukherjee hosted a lunch for 100 women achievers of the country at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ scheme. A mother-daughter pair was a part of this elite group. What makes this feat even more remarkable is that their achievements are in completely different fields. Hailing from Madhya Pradesh, Dr. Swati Tiwari, 55, is a prolific writer and has published 16 books while also being in the government service and holding a full-time job with the public relations department. Her daughter, Dr. Pallavi Tiwari, 32, is an Assistant Professor in an American University and has been involved in pathbreaking cancer research.
It goes without saying that a strong mother is the biggest inspiration a daughter can get. Pallavi agrees, “Looking back it seems amazing that my mother brought us up while having a full-time job and has also published a bunch of books. My mother feels strongly about and therefore writes on social issues. There must have been a sub-conscious influence because I always wanted to work in a field where I could make a difference to the society and I am happy I am doing that today.”
Pallavi is not the typical science geek, having played basketball at the national level for much of her high school years. When she was in her third year of Biomedical Engineering at SGSITS, Indore, Pallavi participated in a competition at IIT Bombay, where the prototype for a navigation system for the blind created by her team won the second prize. That was a turning point when she knew this is what she wanted to do with her life, by making a tangible difference in the field of health. She moved to the US to pursue her MS and PhD and now works as an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University, Ohio. Along with teaching and mentoring students, she is doing research with her team at Case Western in collaboration with University Hospitals and Cleveland Clinic, both hospitals affiliated to her university, and has got three patents for her work.
Swati is justifiably proud of her daughter’s achievements, “Pallavi had won several gold medals in basketball and could have done so well as a sportswoman, but she wanted to contribute to the treatment of cancer.”
Currently, Pallavi’s team is building a software to give patients the most effective treatment based on their genetic profile. Pallavi’s work is based on clinical findings that discovered 90 percent of the Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM)—a common form of cancer—recurs close to the tumour margin, suggesting that malignant cells are present at the periphery of the tumour but are not visible. Despite several advances in drug discovery and clinical trials for cancer treatment, all GBM patients still follow the ‘one-fits-all’ treatment regimen. Using software developed by Pallavi and her team, clear information can be picked up from normal appearing regions at tumour periphery to allow doctors to understand the manifestation of cancer cells in the patient’s body and thereby decide on effective, personalised treatment. This kind of treatment can allow cancer patients to live longer and also continue with an active lifestyle.
Swati published her first book 20 years back in 1996. She writes in Hindi and is comfortable with multiple genres and themes that are poles apart. In 2008, she wrote on the plight of widows in the old-age homes of Indore, and was commended by National Human Rights Commission for the same. She is also the author of critically acclaimed book named Sawaal Aaj Bhi Zinda Hai on the plight of women victims of Bhopal gas tragedy, for which she received the National Ladli Media and Advertising Award for Gender Sensitivity.
“I have published 16 books so far and am working on two novels currently. One is a novel on havelis (traditional mansions) in Rajasthan and is called Reth ki tilen (sand dunes) and the second book focusses on public consciousness,” she says.
Her stories have been translated into English, Gujarati, Marathi and Punjabi. Since Swati’s father was a teacher, she grew up reading all the classics like Tagore’s Kabuliwala, Mahadevi Verma’s Gheesa and Munshi Premchand’s Amar Kahaniya.
Swati believes lack of time should never be an excuse when you really want to do something. She notes
Earlier I would write in the evenings when the children were doing their homework or stay up late writing at night. Now that they have grown up and left home, I write while awaiting their calls. For a writer, when a subject becomes a compulsion in the mind, there is no choice but to write.
The family equation
Swati feels strongly that girls and boys have to be treated on par at home so that they grow up as confident young people. This is what she strived while bringing up her three children. Her eldest daughter lives in Ahmedabad while her son works in New York, just a few hours away from Pallavi.
Pallavi says, “I am lucky to have such amazingly supportive parents and would attribute my achievements to the freedom they gave me to pursue my dreams.”
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- Madhya Pradesh
- Case Western Reserve University
- 100 women achievers
- Beti Bachao Beti Padhao
- Cancer treatment
- Hindi author
- Pallavi Tiwari
- Swati Tiwari
- the National Ladli Media and Advertising Award