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III Dr. Neera Desai Memorial Lecture, SNDT Juhu 25-9-2012 3 p.m.

III Dr. Neera Desai Memorial Lecture, SNDT Juhu 25-9-2012 3 p.m.

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Published by Vibhuti Patel
NEERABEN, I SALUTE YOUR SPIRIT
VIBHUTI PATEL
Professor Dr. Neera Desai, a pioneer of Women's Studies in India and the creator of a model women’s studies centre that combined the ethos of women’s studies and women’s movement at the SNDT University, Mumbai, moved my life. I realize this more and more after she passed away on 25th June 2009 at the age of 84.
In Vadodara, I used to attend study circle of Dr. A.R. Desai on Marxism, every Diwali and Summer vacation, since 1970. In the process I got introduced to his wife, Neera in 1972. We invited her to our youth organisation ‘Study and Struggle Alliance’ and she spoke to us about Status of Women in India Committee. When Towards Equality Report came out in 1974, she gave a talk on status of women in India and motivated me to reflect on women’s predicament in India. Till then my reading of Women's Liberation was only about Western feminists such as Eveleen Reed, Mary Alice Waters, Kate Millet, Betty Frieden and Simon de' Bouvoir. She were so happy that I had translated several essays of Reed in her book "Problems of women's Liberation" into Gujarati. She showed me sher translations of world poetry into Gujarati.

Dr. Neera Desai joined SNDT Women’s University in the late fifties and served on several decision making bodies as Professor and Head of Post Graduate Department of Sociology, Founder Director of Post Graduate Studies and Research, Research Centre for Women's studies and Centre for Rural Development till she retired in 1984. She also offered her valuable services several times as officiating Vice Chancellor during 1970-84. For her, the most important task was teaching and research.

Her research on the Bhakti movement of the 12th century and the social reform movement of the 19th century inspired me to examine the liberating aspects of their writings, debates, poetry, symbolisms and varied art forms. She played crucial role in the Towards Equality Report, 1974; the Shram Shakti Report, 1988 and the National Perspective Plan for Women, 1988-2000 and involved me in her endeavours. During the 1990s, when she took up a major challenge of profiling 100 feminists from Western India by using qualitative method of research, she gave me the opportunity of interacting with her a great deal and also to conduct a few interviews. It took 17 years to complete. As a result, a solid volume emerged in the form of Feminism as Experience: Thoughts and Narratives and published by SPARROW in 2007. Her research and writings in English and Gujarati reflect a deep concern for issues of gender and power, and a relentless effort to understand the social constructions of feminist ideology. She collaborated with a young scholar like me to produce training manuals for rural poor women, and the women’s studies series, in Gujarati. She was not just my friend, philosopher and guide but for nearly two generations of women’s studies scholars in India.
She considered herself to be a fellow traveller of all progressive, secular, democratic and people’s movements. She always walked the talk and lent support for the release of political prisoners and opposed the draconian laws that repressed the masses. She supported the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the Kashtakari Sangathana and the women’s rights groups in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Vadodara, Valsad, Ahmedabad. She loved the songs of feminist activists and we used to sing together. I was highly impressed that in any academic meeting or conferences if anyone tried to trivialise any of the concerns of the women’s movement, the otherwise polite Neera Desai would stand up and give a sharp rebuttal. She never allowed anyone to mock poor and powerless people. She attended volatile National Conferences on “The Perspective for Women’s Movement in India” in Mumbai (1980 & 1985), in Patna (1988) and in Calicut (1990) in which I had played a pivotal role. In the spartan workshops and conferences of our women’s rights groups, we never found her grumbling in spite of her ol
NEERABEN, I SALUTE YOUR SPIRIT
VIBHUTI PATEL
Professor Dr. Neera Desai, a pioneer of Women's Studies in India and the creator of a model women’s studies centre that combined the ethos of women’s studies and women’s movement at the SNDT University, Mumbai, moved my life. I realize this more and more after she passed away on 25th June 2009 at the age of 84.
In Vadodara, I used to attend study circle of Dr. A.R. Desai on Marxism, every Diwali and Summer vacation, since 1970. In the process I got introduced to his wife, Neera in 1972. We invited her to our youth organisation ‘Study and Struggle Alliance’ and she spoke to us about Status of Women in India Committee. When Towards Equality Report came out in 1974, she gave a talk on status of women in India and motivated me to reflect on women’s predicament in India. Till then my reading of Women's Liberation was only about Western feminists such as Eveleen Reed, Mary Alice Waters, Kate Millet, Betty Frieden and Simon de' Bouvoir. She were so happy that I had translated several essays of Reed in her book "Problems of women's Liberation" into Gujarati. She showed me sher translations of world poetry into Gujarati.

Dr. Neera Desai joined SNDT Women’s University in the late fifties and served on several decision making bodies as Professor and Head of Post Graduate Department of Sociology, Founder Director of Post Graduate Studies and Research, Research Centre for Women's studies and Centre for Rural Development till she retired in 1984. She also offered her valuable services several times as officiating Vice Chancellor during 1970-84. For her, the most important task was teaching and research.

Her research on the Bhakti movement of the 12th century and the social reform movement of the 19th century inspired me to examine the liberating aspects of their writings, debates, poetry, symbolisms and varied art forms. She played crucial role in the Towards Equality Report, 1974; the Shram Shakti Report, 1988 and the National Perspective Plan for Women, 1988-2000 and involved me in her endeavours. During the 1990s, when she took up a major challenge of profiling 100 feminists from Western India by using qualitative method of research, she gave me the opportunity of interacting with her a great deal and also to conduct a few interviews. It took 17 years to complete. As a result, a solid volume emerged in the form of Feminism as Experience: Thoughts and Narratives and published by SPARROW in 2007. Her research and writings in English and Gujarati reflect a deep concern for issues of gender and power, and a relentless effort to understand the social constructions of feminist ideology. She collaborated with a young scholar like me to produce training manuals for rural poor women, and the women’s studies series, in Gujarati. She was not just my friend, philosopher and guide but for nearly two generations of women’s studies scholars in India.
She considered herself to be a fellow traveller of all progressive, secular, democratic and people’s movements. She always walked the talk and lent support for the release of political prisoners and opposed the draconian laws that repressed the masses. She supported the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the Kashtakari Sangathana and the women’s rights groups in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Vadodara, Valsad, Ahmedabad. She loved the songs of feminist activists and we used to sing together. I was highly impressed that in any academic meeting or conferences if anyone tried to trivialise any of the concerns of the women’s movement, the otherwise polite Neera Desai would stand up and give a sharp rebuttal. She never allowed anyone to mock poor and powerless people. She attended volatile National Conferences on “The Perspective for Women’s Movement in India” in Mumbai (1980 & 1985), in Patna (1988) and in Calicut (1990) in which I had played a pivotal role. In the spartan workshops and conferences of our women’s rights groups, we never found her grumbling in spite of her ol

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Published by: Vibhuti Patel on Sep 11, 2012
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