A meeting with Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, last month threw up some startling revelations and profound thoughts.
He said, “Retirement is a terrible word, a human being never retires,” he said. He also emphasised on the need to keep working towards a greater common good by starting social ventures.
There are quite a few women who have broken barriers, battled stereotypes, and made a difference at ages that either signalled the end of their careers, or which are normally earmarked for retirement.
They have proved, and efficiently, that age is just a number, and the only limits are those we place on ourselves.
Here is a list of four women who have either started up or made an impact in their 60s and 70s.
Chitralekha Das – Sujatra
Chitralekha Das was 60 years old, and a grandmother of two, when she started Sujatra in 2013. Designing sarees was a hobby for Chitralekha, who honed her skills through travel, and a love for painting.
It took more than 30 years to grow her dream of designing sarees for friends to make it commercially viable as a brand. Having an eye for detail, the use of intricate work — whether it’s in chanderi, silk, cotton, chiffon, or georgette — Chitralekha plays with contrasting shades to augment the modern look. She experiments with sheer and translucent materials, tie-and-dye fabrics in bold hues, and silk and khadi with quirky prints.
Today, Sujatra caters to clients ranging from 25 to 65 years of age, from metros as well as Tier II and Tier III cities.
Arti Poddar – Mulberry Lifestyle
Encouraged by the story of her father who started a business at the age of 72, Arti Poddar made her foray into business at the ripe old age of 60. She is the founder of Mulberry Lifestyle, a Ranchi-based company, which manufactures and sells Nehru jackets. She sources linen and cotton from Delhi, while the silk comes from Bhagalpur. Mulberry Lifestyle works with a number of artisans for their products that are sold online. Her biggest achievement was designing a Nehru jacket for the Bihar Chief Minister’s oath-taking ceremony. Arti now plans to launch more retail stores.
Chatty Janaki – Amma ki Almaari
The quintessential grandma knitting crochet masterpieces for her family, Chatty Janaki transformed her life at the age of 73, by starting an ecommerce site for her products.
With Amma ki Almaari, she is also helping other ‘ammas’ like her realise their dreams. Starting with products that she would handcraft and other utility articles, Amma ki Almaari has grown to include 50 more women like Chatty Janaki from all over India, and now houses a range of products like spiritual stones, gadget garments, cushion covers, tableware, festive gifts, wood art, handmade jewellery, handmade office accessories, customised creations, etc.
Amma ki Almaari is actively looking to add more women makers on to its platform, to truly breathe life into every almaari teeming with talent and potential.
Laxmi Poojarthi – bringing water to a parched village
This story proves how one woman’s determination can go a long way in bringing social change. 60-year-old Laxmi Poojarthi put in all her savings to dig a well and provide water to 10 families. With a team of four women, she dug a 52-feet deep well in their parched village in Kundapur taluk in Udupi district of Karnataka.
Her village, Amparu, suffers from acute water shortage, and water is supplied to the area by tankers during the summer. During the rest of the year, the nearest source of potable water is at least two to three km away. Hand pumps, too, do not provide good quality drinking water here. It took almost three-and-a-half months for the women to dig the well.
Devaki Nilayangode – Author
Devaki Nilayangode started writing at the ripe old age of 75 and now, at 91, has published four books that offer glimpses of the life of a Namboodiri Antharjanam. She has had no formal education, and as an antharjanam (one who spent life indoors), did not step out of her house for most of her life.
Hence, she chose a Namboodiri woman’s life within the four walls of her home to write about. Devaki’s first book, Nashtabodhangalillathe, published in 2003, which, translated from Malayalam, means ‘with no grievance or loss.’ In the book, she shows no traces of sorrow or anger despite leading a life of turmoil and one that was full of hardships.