May 30th, 2020 - My first ever interaction with Mukta Tai was for a phone interview for a project. I wanted to understand what it takes for women to succeed in politics. A four-time corporator, former Mayor, and a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Maharashtra for Kasba-Vishrambaugwada at the time, Mukta Tai's stellar credentials were quite intimidating. Her answers were enlightening - naturally. But, the ease she put me, her demeanor, and her encouragement - have taught me far more about her success and impact ever since she took the place of a role model.
As my official mentor as part of the Women in Government Fellowship, it was a proud privilege to understand her idea of leadership. "At the end of the day, it's all about the service. If your intentions are true and effort is genuine, people will see that, " she used to say.
Mukta Tai was a fighter - for everything she believed in. From carving a niche for herself in politics, to actively working toward women's empowerment - her work was driven by her conviction. Stories of her grit and courage as she battled cancer over these few years are well-known. However, there is much to learn from her - her leadership, dedication, and work! A very public figure - oblivious primarily to everything else and driven by her work. Her work, service, and resolve have impacted this city in more ways than one. Some documented, some not, and so many not even known. Personally, it's been a profound honor to know of her, work with her, and have her shape so much of what I believe in today. Words will fall short to convey the impact, but we will find strength in the fact that such people existed in our lifetimes and quietly showed us how it should be done.
Here are some memorable quotes by Ms.Mukta Tilak:
"As a Mayor, I had undertaken an initiative called ‘Daughters To Be.' The idea was to give girls from government schools in the city a chance to shadow a Corporator for a day to understand their role. This exposure, coupled with education, can help them understand this system works and equip them to excel in this field. I believe it' s necessary to cultivate an understanding and interest right from the beginning if we wish to encourage more and more women to be a part of public life."
" During the initial days of my term as a Corporator, I realized that female literacy in slum areas of my constituency was a problem. I visited several of these areas, spoke to the women, and convinced them about the importance of being literate. We started a literacy class in the community. Initially, only the young girls attended it, but we slowly had the mothers and grandmothers participate with full enthusiasm. When one of these grandmotherssigned a bank document for the first time in her life, the smile on her face was priceless! These seemingly little things end up being highly motivating."
(The author, Sakshi Sohoni is a fellow from the 1st cohort of the Women In Government Fellowship where she was mentored by Ms. Mukta Tilak )