Meet the Devis: Here's a closer look at the recipients of the Kolkata edition of Devi Awards
Before we welcome the goddess this Durga Puja, we carved out some time for the living goddesses who have persevered against all odds to triumph in their own fields
Meet the Devis we are celebrating with Indulge, The Morning Standard’s Devi Awards. They are women who have overcome many obstacles to reach the top. As we team up with ASSOCHAM India for the first-ever Kolkata edition of the awards, slated to take place tomorrow in our very own City of Joy, here’s a closer look at the living goddesses whom we plan to felicitate at the event.
Madhu Neotia wears a hat with many, well-adorned feathers. Her endeavours, be it in healthcare or culture or art have been driven by her commitment to make the world a better place. If you’ve ever been to The India Story events, you’d know that the brilliant showcase aspires to shed light on the masterful artistry and design aesthetics that originate in Eastern India, and continue to be an anchor for major practitioners who have since branched out to other cities, and even globally.
The one-of-a-kind event brings together the country’s leading designers, art practitioners, retailers alongside master craftsmen, thinkers, performers and gourmet food producers — and connects them to a wider audience, with the help of engaging workshops, talks and performances. We hope this philanthropist and leader aces every. venture that she’s a part of.
Her debut movie, Mukherjee Dar Bou, was among the highest-grossing films in the Bengali film industry this year so far. Meet Pritha Chakraborty, the 31-year-old filmmaker, from the small town of Ranaghat. The identity crises that middle- class homemakers face, and the sacrifices they make for the sake of their family, are issues that have always moved Pritha as a woman. In her commercial debut film too, the SRFTI alumna tried to tell the tale of such women through a heartwarming narrative about a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law. Pritha’s first tryst with the camera took place when she made Silent Voices, a documentary film in 2015, which also earned laurels at various international film fests including the Hot Doc festival in Canada, the Sheffield Doc Fest UK and the New York Film Fest.
Her short film Mayera Mithye Kotha Bole (‘Mothers Lie’) that released on YouTube on Mother’s Day in 2017, deals with the ever-sacrificing and caring nature of mothers. The movie went viral leading to another short on Father’s Day, called Babara Thake Ei BhabeNishshobde (Fathers Remain Silent). She has always been intrigued by human emotions and their layers, and wants to make meaningful cinema and tell stories close to her heart, especially to do with women’s issues.
LalDinsangi, Lalsangzeli & Lalrinpuii
In 2005, three sisters acted upon a vision that would take fashion in Mizoram to a new level. Laldinsangi, Lalsangzeli and Lalrinpuii aspired to transform women’s fashion, and over the course of the next decade, they did. Believing embroidery technology can be the key to unlocking a new niche in Mizo fashion, they invested in an elementary computerised embroidery machine in 2005 and startedthe brand, Computerised Embroidery. This venture found phenomenal success among the women in Mizoram and quickly allowed the brand to expand from embroidery to mainstream women’s fashion apparel. With a gradual shift in marketing objective, they renamed the company Vakiria Computerised Embroidery, which ultimately became Vakiria.
Today, Vakiria is perhaps the most recognised label in the Mizo fashion industry, and is now arguably most renowned for its undertaking in women’s fashion with the launch of its fashion education institute, Vakiria Institute of Fashion Technology. Established in 2009, it has become an institution to reckon with in the alumni roster, boasting the who’s who of popular names in Mizo fashion.
Earlier this year, Parmita Sarma’s Akshar School, located in Assam, made education more accessible to locals by accepting bags full of plastic waste instead of school fees. Parmita’s ‘green school’ initiative was justifiably lauded across the world, as it teaches students to take responsibility for their surroundings, and to strive to improve them.
Akshar’s revolutionary model improves the performance of government schools, by teaching underprivileged students all the skills they need to build productive lives for themselves. The educational model enables customised learning through e-books, exercises, videos, lectures, documentaries and learning games. The Akshar Foundation is also on a mission to reform 100 government schools in five years.
Ekta Jaju has worked relentlessly over the years to build a sustainable eco-system that can help rural India thrive. She became passionate about building an organic and resilient community when she came to realise that finding a fair and reliable market is a steady challenge faced by small organic farmers. Ekta set up ONganic Foods to provide integrated and holistic solutions to face challenges in the agriculture sector.
ONganic handholds farmers right from the procurement of seeds to accessing premium markets. Apart from the benefits of reduced cost and premium prices, organic farming improves soil quality, promotes bio-diversity, and is extremely nutritious and climate-resilient. Jaju’s vision aspires for better livelihoods for farmers, and more streamlined wellness for consumers as well.
In the realm of sustainable fashion, Sujata Chatterjee’s Twirl Store is creating quite a revolution. The
one-and-a-half-year-old all-women organisation is not just upcycling old clothes or minimising wastage, but also creating a livelihood for over 60 women in and around the outskirts of the city.
Creating a sustainable cycle with networks across the country, around 5,000 clothes have been collected so far, which after segregation, were donated and converted into fashion accessories and home décor items. Chatterjee, who is bridging the gap between overpopulated wardrobes in urban India and a lack of clothing in the suburbs, is striving to reach out to more conscious citizens.
Alokananda Roy is not just a pioneering name in performing arts. This former Miss Calcutta is also trained in Indian classical, neo-classical and folk dance forms. Besides training boys and girls in performance arts of Indian Neo-Classical styles and Indian folk styles, alongside innovative and simplified forms of Asian-Contemporary dance styles at her institution, Chandanaloke, she has also championed design, choreography and the presentation of mega dance-drama productions.
She is associated with social reforms through dance therapy in West Bengal correctional homes, which is an initiative to reform, realign and rehabilitate convicts in state correctional facilities. Her great body of work with prison inmates inspired renowned filmmakers, Shiboprosad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy, to make the superhit film Muktodhara in 2012. She is also involved in providing care and education to the children of inmates at the Alipore Women’s Correctional Home and has hosted dance workshops with the prisoners at Walden House, Los Angeles.
Nagaland-born Temsutula Imsong, the co-founder of the Sakaar Sewa Samiti, made Varanasi her base for a mission to clean India in 2013. Starting off with Prabhu Ghat, the filthiest of the 84 ghats in Varanasi, the 36-year-old activist got a big boost with PM Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan in 2014.
Imsong and her team not only turned the ghat into a pristine one but also made it a platform for constructive debate and discussion. Creating awareness about health and sanitation and mobilising community members, Imsong is now working on home-composting initiatives.
You may know Ritu Agarwal as the trailblazer who revolutionised the world of fitness. In reality, Agarwal’s accomplishments are manifold. The entrepreneur and George Washington University graduate inspires people to be the best versions of themselves — not just physically, but intellectually as well. She is one of the very few people in the county who is trained to groom dignitaries and royalties on the protocols and business etiquettes of over 24 countries.
Rush Lifestyle, her company, offers customised services for its clients in both corporate and personal branding sectors and offers guidance on aspects including personal styling, visual impact, verbal and non-verbal skills, communication skills, grooming, etiquette, social protocol knowledge, public speaking, body language and presentation skills.