On Mother’s Day, meet the women who are selflessly striving for those in need.
‘Motherhood’ is a term that is hard to define because it encompasses so much. It is a state of being, a life-long role and a cluster of functions, all at the same time. But even if it cannot be reduced to a single definition, there are certain qualities that we’ve come to associate with motherhood, mostly because of the actions of our own mothers, and our interactions with them. And so, for many of us, the term has come to be associated with dependability, love, protection, and care.
While our mothers have nurtured our lives with these qualities, there are women who are extending them to not just their own but to all those who are in need of it. Through passion projects birthed by them, they have, and continue to, take countless under their wing, providing them with the kind of love and care a mother would bestow. These women haven’t let obstacles sway their sense of purpose and they continue to derive strength and drive from their projects, and the people they meet through them. And just like mother’s, they continue to put another at the centre of their existence.
Love that’s special
Dr. Vibha Krishnamurthy has been making a difference in the lives of children with special needs through her organisation, Ummeed Child Development Centre, for over 15 years. Ummeed provides care to children with special needs, creates awareness and conducts research on developmental disabilities and also helps families accept and understand their children better.
Vibha, a trained paediatrician, shares how a shift to the United States after marriage, exposed her to the concept of developmental disabilities in children. It was curiosity to learn more about it, coupled with the realisation that India lacked care facilities for children with special needs that prompted her to start Ummeed. But, getting the organisation going wasn’t easy. “The concept was completely alien for many professionals in the city. 20 years ago, people felt like autism and other developmental ailments were ‘Western concepts’ and that we didn’t have anything like that in India,” she shares.
But her love for children kept her driven. Talking about her decision to be a paediatrician and later, work with children with special needs, Vibha says, “I’ve always loved kids. The moment I was nearing the end of medical school, I only applied for one sub-speciality and that was paediatrics. For me, the favourite part of my day is when I’m with kids. Later, I was drawn towards working with kids with special needs because I loved the unfolding of what was possible. One of the most positive fields to be in is developmental paediatrics because it’s unbelievable what is possible once you work together as a team,” she avers.
And Vibha has experienced some unbelievable moments in her career. She recalls how one of her patients recently came to meet her, and the joy the meeting brought. She says, “One of my oldest patients came by last Diwali and gave me a box of sweets and his business card. He’d just started his own company and gotten married. To see a child struggling with learning disabilities, and then grow up and go to college and get a job, it makes one want to hang around in the profession for a longer time.”
A part-time cat rescuer and a full-time cat mom, Mriidu Khosla, Founder of Cat Cafe Studio in Andheri, started rescuing cats when she met Maximus on the streets. Recollecting the incident from a decade ago, Mriidu says, “When I moved to Bombay almost 10-11 years ago, I found a cat on the street in a very bad state. So, I took her home. I didn’t know much about what to do.
When I came across this cat, I just felt like I should do something for her.” Despite having no experience in handling cats, Mriidu took it upon herself to nurse the injured cat back to life. She continues, “So I started caring for the cat, but the cat was really sick, so she lived with me for only six months. However, in those six months, I had the best time ever.” This is where the journey started, and Mriidu hasn’t looked back since. Maximus' demise infused her with a goal, and that was to help as many stray cats as possible. “After Maximus passed away, I felt like I needed to save as many cats as I could. So, I just started rescuing them. After a while, you become confident that you can do a good job because you saw what a difference you made in the life of a small cat. Now, I rescue cats all the time.” Mriidu is currently living with five cats and loves spending every waking minute with them. “When I am home, I am always with them. They sleep with me, when I’m cooking they are hanging out in the kitchen, even if I go for a bath they start banging on the door because they miss me.”
Today, her Cat Cafe Studio takes care of over 55 cats every month. But it started out small. Mriidu says, "There was a terrace in our small office. We had cats over there and people would come and we would just serve chai and coffee that we made ourselves." What started off as a small tea joint for cat lovers, has now flourished into a full-scale cafe and a cat haven that takes care of sick cats and homeless kittens and eventually finds them a new home.