What is one thing that is common between Mary Kom, Smriti Irani and Sushma Bhadu?


What could be common between an Olympian, a cabinet minister and a village sarpanch?

Young people, at the outset, this writer would like to put out a disclaimer that she does not, in any way, endorse dropping out of school or consider education unnecessary!

Now, moving on to our topic, Mary Kom, Smriti Irani and Sushma Bhadu are women who are successful, even iconic in their own fields, despite dropping out during their academic journey. They kick-started their respective careers without getting hold of the holy grail for the ambitious -- the college degree.

Sushma Bhadu, Smriti Irani and Mary Kom

Mary Kom – boxer, mother, Olympian

Though Mary Kom dropped out of school to focus on her career in boxing, famously going on to win an Olympics medal, she recently revisited her education and secured that elusive college degree as well, further adding to her awesome quotient.

Christened Chungneijang Mery Kom Hmangte, the 33-year-old boxer is better known to the world as Mary Kom. Born into a poor family from the Kom tribe in Manipur, Mary is a five-time World Amateur Boxing champion, and the only woman boxer to have won a medal in all the six world championships. She has been affectionately nicknamed ‘Magnificent Mary’, since she is the first Indian woman boxer to have won a bronze medal in Olympics as well as a gold medal in the Asian Games. Today, as a member of the Rajya Sabha, Mary has come a long way from the little girl working in the fields.

Growing up in rural Manipur, Mary would help out her parents with farming work in their jhum fields, after school hours. She was keenly interested in and always found time for sports, especially javelin and sprinting. During this time, boxer Dingko Singh, a fellow Manipuri, came back from the 1998 Bangkok Asian games with a gold medal. This inspired Mary to try out boxing. The rest, as they say, is history!

Married to Karung Onkholer Kom and mother of three children, Mary Kom is an amazing role model.

Smriti Irani – on-screen bahu to fiery minister

When Smriti Irani was moved from HRD ministry to textiles during a cabinet reshuffle, it was widely seen as a demotion. But the Cabinet Minister herself was undeterred and threw herself into the new portfolio with enthusiasm. She launched the #IWearHandloom campaign, which went viral on social media, garnering 22 million impressions on Twitter alone, with everyone from Virender Sehwag to Manish Malhotra participating in a bid to promote Indian handloom.

With a Rs 6,000-crore package for the textiles sector, Smriti Irani has expressed the hope that the sector’s tremendous potential to generate employment will be fully realised. She has also been working to showcase the traditional Indian handloom fabrics in both national and international markets, thereby reviving the market for weavers.

Forty-year-old Smriti Zubin Irani has proven to be a woman who stands out whatever she does. She did not shy away from high-profile electoral battles with Kapil Sibal and Rahul Gandhi on his home turf, Amethi.

The eldest of three sisters, Smriti grew up in New Delhi. This former Miss India finalist had a high-profile television career spanning a decade and became a darling of the masses due to her role as Tulsi Virani, the ideal bahu of Saas bhi kabhi bahu thi.

Her educational qualifications were the source of much controversy after she became a minister in the Modi government’s cabinet but Smriti filed an affidavit in court stating her highest qualification was B.com, Part 1 and her studies were discontinued thereafter. Despite lacking a formal college degree, Smriti Irani has achieved great heights in both her television and political careers.

Sushma Bhadu – sarpanch and revolutionary

Sushma Bhadu might have dropped out of school by seventh grade due to her circumstances, but she has also managed to challenge conventions and get Dame Destiny to do her bidding. Thirty-seven-year-old Sushma Bhadu belongs to the Bishnoi community from Dhani Miyan Khan village in Haryana and is its sarpanch. The very word 'sarpanch' conjures the image of a turbaned elderly man, lounging under a tree and mediating petty quarrels between villagers. Sushma has destroyed this stereotype once and for all.

Following centuries-old tradition, women in Sushma’s community wore a ghunghat or veil. Sushma found this ‘purdah’ practice regressive and unnecessary and felt it robbed women of their identity. Sushma was elected sarpanch in 2010 and finally took the call of shedding her veil at a public meeting in 2012. Her husband was worried about repercussions from within the conservative community but the other women of the village followed suit too. Men from neighbouring villages heckle the women and make derogatory comments about them but their men are proud of the confidence and achievements of the women of the village.

Sushma started a tailoring centre for women and secured funding from an Indian national bank to sponsor them. She has also ensured that every child in her village goes to school and lobbied hard to get government water supply to the village.

Under Sushma Bhadu’s leadership, Dhani Miyan Khan village won the Nirmal Gram Puruskar given by the Union government for model villages. A mother of three, Sushma has introduced rewards of up to Rs 50,000 for whistleblowers to expose families seeking sex determination tests and has started scholarships for poor girls wishing to pursue higher studies. Even though Haryana is a state with a poor sex ratio, Dhani Miyan Khan boasts of 426 females to 416 males.

The village also has clean paved streets with streetlights, and every home has a power and water connection. If we had a Sushma Bhadu in every Indian village, nothing would stop our nation from riding to the top of the world.


Updates from around the world