Jaipur, March 16: Sulochana Chaudhary, a mother of three successful daughters, was watching TV with keen interest as Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the audience while launching the "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao" campaign in Jhunjhunu on March 8.
But long before the girl child became a campaign slogan for the current Prime Minister, Sulochana went against all odds to educate her children and inculcate a strong sense of values in them -- in a Marwari society which looked down upon a woman giving birth to multiple daughters.
"The entire Churu society to which we belonged had something bad to say to me when I delivered my third daughter. Their frequent taunts, soon after the delivery, left me and my husband tormented and pained. But I took my daughter in my lap, kissed her and told her, 'You are going to be my third son. I will give you the best so that you too can serve the nation following in the footsteps of Indira Gandhi and Mother Teresa'," Sulochana told IANS.
As the girls grew up, she took them frequently to visit the village. "I wanted them to know that this was the real India and they had to help the poor here. So they grew up with a vision and mission of improving the socio-economic standards in rural India," she said, adding that "we also gave them wings to fly abroad and spread their horizons... to do their best".
They were never made to feel that they were weaker or inferior in any way to the boys.
Sulochana's husband N.K. Chaudhary said, "I knew I had three daughters, but I decided they will build my future and realise my dreams. Although society left no stone unturned to make me feel unlucky for having three daughters, my best English friend, Ilay Cooper, who has written many books on the Shekhawati region, inspired me with his positive thoughts."
He made the Chaudharys realise why it was important to treat their girls at par with boys -- and that often women were more efficient and capable than men.
"I decided to give the best education to my daughters. As they grew up, I decided to send them to the US so that they could bring best practices to my business," Chaudhary said.
The girls joined the family business, Jaipur Rugs, after finishing their education, with Archana Chaudhary heading the operations in the United States and Asha Chaudhary becoming the CEO. Kavita Chaudhury became head of the design department. "They took the business to heights which I might not have been able to do alone," says the trio's father.
Kavita is extending the business by engaging rural artisans and allowing them to transfer their thoughts and ideas into rug designs which are making waves across the globe. Recently, one of their weavers, Vimladevi from Aaspura village, was taken to Germany to receive the prestigious German Design Award she had won. "We want to create more such Vimlas in India," says N.K. Chaudhary.
He says they are always trying to boost the confidence of their grassroots weavers. "We want more daughters to become empowered, to stand on their own. We are employing more women and setting up doorstep opportunities for them so that they can recreate the magic of success at different levels," he added.
Kavita says there was a lot of pressure from their Marwari relatives on her parents to treat their girls in accordance with traditional societal norms -- where girls were hidden within the confines of four walls at home and limited to kitchen-related work.
"However, my parents trusted Cooper and, since early childhood, provided us with the best education and nurtured our personal interests, including sending us abroad." All this despite their limited resources.
Asked if her parents motivated the sisters to pursue their dreams, Kavita said it was not really that. "As children, we did not know what it meant to have dreams that could be fulfilled. They simply created a nurturing space for us to grow and experience life. They motivated us to learn the things we loved to do. And they greatly trusted us," she said.
The Chaudhary family business is now working with the most modern versions of enterprise resource planning, the design studio has been computerised and the products are being counted among the best, inviting global awards.
N.K. Chaudhary believes strongly in the concept of women empowerment. Nature, he says, gave sufficient time to man to prove himself and contribute to the society. "But now it is women who are scripting success stories in each field with their untiring efforts," he adds.
For him, 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' has been more than a slogan.