The crowd at the Pondicherry Engineering College auditorium came alive when the lady in white came up to the dais to speak. Kiran Bedi, India's first woman IPS officer and winner of the Raman Magsaysay award, captivated the audience with her speech on the "woman".
Addressing a large crowd of Rotarians, Ms. Bedi spoke to them as she would to parents, responsible for shaping India's future generations. She said it was important to catch children young and mould them into happy, outstanding, confident and generous human beings.
"In India, in most houses, the moment a daughter is born, parents imagine whom she would marry, how she would look in her wedding dress and so on ... which is why all our brides are very beautiful on their wedding days. Instead, parents must have a dream for their daughters, a dream that would take them to great heights. Children tend to take your dreams and make them theirs. Very rarely do children's dreams become their parent's dreams," said Ms. Bedi. She said her parents had high aspirations for her. "I used to play tennis and my hair used to get all wet with the sweat and it was difficult shampooing and maintaining it. My parents suggested I cut it off. The barber right across my tennis ground didn't have a stylist for women and so he gave me a boy cut, which is the reason for my short hair.
"I used to travel all over the country playing tennis. I would travel alone on long distance trains. But my parents didn't come along or send a servant. Instead, they dressed me in lose fitting clothes and no jewellery... so much so that I looked like a boy. You must give your children a sense of security and not just jewellery.
"Every school and parent must urge their girl children to play games so that they will realize their strength," she said.
She suggested that the Rotarians join forces with the Puducherry police to help in community development projects.
Time for family
It's only on Sundays that Ms. Bedi gets to spend time with her family. "I work throughout the week and Sunday is the only day when I have time for my family. That's also the time when I do my writing."
Chhaya Sharma, Senior Superintendent of Police, said the police required assistance in training young girls and schoolchildren in the art of self-defence. She said such a program was being conducted on a small scale already. With more funds, it could be expanded to cover more children …… said Ms. Kiran Bedi.