Sandhya Patekar And Her Struggles – Part 1

by | Apr 25, 2018

“Don’t just sit and complain. Get up, do something and bring the change” – Sandhya Patekar

Our societal stigmas have entangled women to take their decisions independently and lead their life the way they want. Patriarchy, discrimination, violence, sexual harassment, poverty,. The list never ends, but the life does. Reading about the issues faced by Indian girls and women every day, I don’t know how I would have survived as a female. It’s depressing! But, to keep the optimism going, I think every woman has the ‘never give up’ attitude. Here are some examples I know well.

My co-fellow, Deepshika, who is working with Kshamtalya Foundation in Udaipur, raised a big amount for her students. Similarly, Aparna and Amruta, at Nagpur Regional Mental Hospital (TATA Trusts) are supporting systems and processes by treating patients through art therapies. I cannot imagine what they go through every day. Anupama, the co-founder of India fellow works hard to support us and tries every other method to make us reflect through blog-writing. My supervisor Ms. Sushma, works day and night to make sure that village staff gets paid before her, even during two months of pain due to a leg surgery. My mother who has put so much effort just to raise me.

World becomes a better place because of women like these. They continue to achieve their goals, against all odds. We don’t need Google to find inspiring examples. They are around us.


Sandhya Patekar, a 32 year-old was born and brought up in an urban area of Ulhasnagar. She was married at 18 as her parent used to believe in the idea of an early marriage of daughters. She failed 10th grade and dropped a year. This could be another reason for her early marriage. She again sat for 10th grade exams but before the results were out, she was married to a person from a small forest village of Dehene. Later, she got to know that she had passed with distinction. She was the only one to pass 10th grade in her new village. But what now? They said she should spend her life being a good wife, daughter-in-law, and mother. She should not dream big.

A lady who was born and bought up in a city was married to a villager living in a Kaccha house. There was no electricity in the village. She had to live with such a drastic change of lifestyle and backward mindset. It worried her. She had never seen a house made up of hay and woods. Her father believed in education and that is the reason why he made her study until class 10 where none of the girls in the area were sent to a school. She believed in her ability to make a difference in the village. It took her 2 years to convince her husband. She used to talk about it every day at dinner-time when all family members used to sit together.

Dehene receives decent rainfall during monsoon and stays dry for the rest of time. People predominantly grow rice during the season. After that, they do not have enough water to grow anything in their fields. There was nothing to do for them during off-season. She started pushing her family to think about alternate sources of income. The extra income could help them elevate their living standards.

An NGO, REACH approached the village and was looking for a 10th pass female. Sandhya was the only eligible candidate. She was thrilled to know about this opportunity and couldn’t let it go. All the attempts to convince her family went in vain. They did not want her to go out, talk to a strangers or uncover her head and face.

The NGO started working in the region anyway. They opened vacancies for teachers to open Balwadis (a pre-school) in the villages. Sandhya somehow contacted them and invited them to her house. Meanwhile, she also talked to her husband and in-laws, who agreed to let her work on one condition, that she cannot go out, and can only work from home. She opened a Balwadi at her place and started teaching kids. Nothing could make her happier.

8 years later, everything was going well but she wasn’t content. She wanted to learn more and started re-considering to continue her education. Being 10th pass, she could apply to study further.

As Paulo Coelho wrote in The Alchemist,
When you really desire something from the heart and soul, all the universe conspires you to achieve it
which later became Shah Rukh Khan’s dialogue in Bollywood movie Om Shanti Om,
kisi cheez ko agar dil se chaho, to poori kaynat use tum se milane me lag jati hai”,
Sandhya was meant to be somewhere else. Destiny had bigger plans for her.

What happened then? Did she study further, and was able to come out of the social obligations, to make a difference?

I’ll write about it in my next blog, the second part.
As they say, “Picture abhi baki hai mere dost” (it’s not yet over, my friend)

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