5 Padma Shri Women Whose Stories Are Inspiring Us To Do More

On 8 November, President Ram Nath Kovind conferred the prestigious civilian awards in New Delhi to the 2020 and 2021 recipients. The Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Shri are the highest civilian awards, after the Bharat Ratna, recognising the contributions to various fields like social work, science, medicine, literature, sports, and art.

This year saw a big number of extraordinary women get bestowed with this prestigious award. The list of winners include women who are true changemakers with inspiring stories. From known faces like P.V. Sindhu, Mary Kom, Kangana Ranaut, Sarita Joshi to lesser-known revolutionaries like the barefoot environmentalist from Karnataka Tulasi Gowda and transgender folk artist Manjamma Jogati, the awardees are a true inspiration. 

Most of us know the life story of sports personalities like P.V Sindhu & Mary Kom, we have seen the work of actresses like Kangana Ranaut and Sarita Joshi but now, it is time to know about the Changemakers who have faced adversities and come out victorious in their own fields because at FableStreet we believe in celebrating their journey and their success. 

Rajni Bector, Founder—Cremica Group of Companies 

Rajni Bector got married into a Ludhiana based business family after migrating from Karachi during the partition. But, unlike most women around her, she decided to do more with her life. 

Rajni Bector

After completing her graduation post marriage, she started a small ice-cream unit inside her house in 1978 with an investment of Rs. 300. She has always been vocal about the support & encouragement she got from her husband and family without which her success would not have been possible. 

In an interview with The Indian Express, Bector shared how the brand name, Cremica, came about, “One day, my husband, Dharamvir Bector, came to me and told me to think of a name as he thought the business must have a brand name. I use cream in making ice creams and hence I suggested ‘Cremica’ (made of cream). The branding was done in the early 80s.”

Her meteoric rise crossed all boundaries when all leading international and national brands – McDonald’s, Café Coffee Day, Barista, Air India, Indian Railways, Taj Group, Hindustan Unilever, ITC, Spencer’s, Big Bazaar, Mondelez, Domino’s, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, became her direct customers buying from her — buns, burgers, bread, biscuits, ketchup, dips, spreads et al, widening manifold the horizons of her sales network. As the food business grew gradually, her 3 sons joined her, after completing their studies, with additions in bakery, sauces, toppings, dressings, etc., over the years. Today Cremica & English Oven is a popular brand with units in Ludhiana, UP, Delhi and many other parts of the country. 

She was awarded a Padma Shri for her contribution to the trade and industry. 

Manjamma Jogathi, Transgender Folk Dancer

Manjamma was born as Manjunatha Shetty in Karnataka, as one of 21 children. Her body began to change when she hit puberty. When she was thrown out of her home, her parents told her she was neither a woman nor a man, not even a specially-abled person who could be looked after. For them, she was an alien and a humiliation.

Manjamma Jogathi

For one year, Manjamma begged on the streets of Davanagere to make a living. She was also sexually assaulted. She eventually left for Hosapete, where she eked out a living cooking and taking tuition.

Manjamma met her saving grace, her guru Kallava Jogathi in Hosapete, from whom she learnt the Jogathi Nritya, a form of folk dance. She mastered the art form so well that the then Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa made her the President of the Karnataka Janapada Academy. Manjamma is the first transperson to hold the post.

Her story is a true testament to how hard work and the will to prove themselves can help you conquer any adversity. She went from being homeless to winning a Padma Shri for her contribution to arts and that is a story worth remembering. 

Tulasi Gowda, Environmentalist

Making the headlines for walking onto the stage barefoot, Tulasi Gowda, a 72-year-old tribal woman from Karnataka, was conferred the Padma Shri award for her contribution to the protection of the environment.

Tulasi Gowda

Also known as the ‘Encyclopedia of Forests’, the Karnataka-based environmentalist belongs to the tribe of Halakki in Uttara Kannada. Gowda possesses in-depth knowledge of plants and herbs which she gained while working with her mother since the age of 12. Her work as an environmentalist includes planting more than 30,000 saplings along with protecting the environment by working as a volunteer.

Gowda belongs to the Honnali village in Karnataka and she never went to school since she lost her father at the young age of 2. The environmentalist joined her mother in working at a local nursery and was married off before she could reach her teens. Throughout her life, she has worked tirelessly to protect the environment and pass on her knowledge to those around her, so that her work can continue for generations to come.

Oinam Benben Devi, Former Captain- Indian Women’s Football Team

Nicknamed the ‘Durga of Indian Football’, Oinam Bembem Devi is India’s first woman footballer to win the highly prestigious award, the Padma Shri. 

Born in 1980 in Imphal, Manipur, Devi began her career in football in 1988, training at the United Pioneers Club, Imphal. In the 1991 sub-junior football tournament, Devi was selected to represent the Manipur U-13 team. After a commendable performance in the tournament, she was signed by the Yawa Singjamei Leishangthem Lekai club, and later, by the Social Union Nascent (SUN) Club.

Oinam Benben Devi

Devi was given the armband of the Indian contingent in the 2003 AFC qualifying competition in Thailand. She captained the Indian women’s football team that won the 11th South Asian Games in Bangladesh in 2010, and also the 2012 SAFF Women’s Championship in Sri Lanka!

Devi, who in her childhood used to change her name to play football with boys so they wouldn’t dismiss her for being a girl, has certainly come a long way, being the torchbearer for women’s football in India. She now not only coaches the upcoming generation of female footballers but also champions creating better opportunities for sportswomen in all fields.

Sarita Joshi, Actor

Sarita Joshi is an 80-year-old actor who has predominantly worked in Hindi shows. The veteran actor started her journey as a child artist in Gujarati and Marathi theatres. She debuted on television in 1980 in the show Titliyaan. In the following years, the actor appeared in several series namely Hasratein, Ek Mahal Ho Sapno Ka, Chand Chupa Badal Mein, and many more. 

Sarita Joshi

She rose to prominence after appearing in the 2005 series Baa Bahoo Aur Baby in the role of Godavari Labhshankar Thakkar and as Baa in ‘Hamari Bahu Silk; where she played the role of a wealthy and hardworking businesswoman. Some of her popular shows also include Meri Aashiqui Tumse Hi, Bh Se Bhade, Bakula Bua Ka Bhoot, and more. She also worked in over a dozen of popular films namely Darna Zaroori Hai, Singham Returns, Gangoobai, Main Zinda Hoon, Simmba and Roohi.

She was awarded the Padma Shri for art after working in over 15,000 shows in Gujarati, Marathi, Hindi and Marwari over a span of six decades. 

Since the first Padma Shri was given out, we have known the weight this award holds. It’s not just about recognising individuals who have made an impact but also acknowledging their hard work and sacrifices. Every year, more and more changemakers come to light through this ceremony and it helps us realise that the amount of inspiration that surrounds us is growing constantly!

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