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These are a collection of memories, times spent with Rohini - a couple of jokes , a few teary moments, an exciting adventure, a shoulder cried upon… Rohini held her friends and family above all. She listened, she shared, but most of all – she was just there. If you would like to to Share your memories of Rohini with us –

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Rohini Ghadiok, my niece, once accused me of writing an obit about her. That was a private, family joke, of course, althoughI sometimes wonder now, on a wintering Delhi night, if the joke is on us. The mail was about Rohini’s special-ness: Her slow smile that spread such enveloping warmth. It was about the way she spoke, so softly, as if she abhorred the idea of drawing attention to herself. It was about her incredible compassion for people less privileged, as if she must reach out to the other side on behalf of a self-absorbed world. Rohini was the first child I ever really held in my arms, in 1980. And in her 31 years, she was to turn all the rules upside down, without fuss, but with a great deal of determination, as I will tell you by and by. Of course, we loved that child. She was our pole star, the life of our lives, nurtured by two sets of grandparents and doting aunts and uncles. She loved us back, of course, but she never let her family circumscribe her. Till the day she left us, on May 30, 2011, her circle of life had grown larger everyday, but each one of us kept our special place on Rohini’s family tree. Each one of us had a special relationship with Rohini because she took the time to listen to what we had to say.

This ability to hear the other person and nurture his/her strengths, perhaps, lay at the root of what made Rohini so different, so special. Soon after she graduated from college, she began to work for a NGO in a small district town in Haryana state, where the gender inequality figures are said to be amongst the worst in India. To work for women’s rights in the air-conditioned rooms of the five-star hotel seminar circuit was anathema for Rohini, since it was only a certain class of women that benefitted from these public displays. You had to work on the ground:Working together was the only way to beget strength and impart strength. This ability to connect with people, whether during the super-cyclone that hit Orissa in 2009 when she had just completed her first year in college -- or later as a trainer of panchayat (local governing body) women leaders across India, was her calling card. It humanized her life’s work, which was to create a more just and egalitarian society. Men were essential in this mission, because they were the key to altering the balance of power. In her book, if you were passionate about changing the inequitable order, which trespassed most against women, you were a feminist.

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Tarini, said something that encapsulates

Rohini’s life:

A few weeks ago, my elder daughter,

Rohini didi (older sister) gave and gave until she had nothing left for herself, Tarini said, referring to the material possessions that most people hold as the yardstick to success. She added: But we can’t all be like that, Amma (mother).

I suppose so, I thought to myself, but wondered why not. It wasn’t as if Rohini had been born with a silver spoon in her mouth – far from it. Her parents were middle-class doctors when Rohini was a young girl in the 1980s, riding a scooter in Delhi’s deep winter, with little Rohini bundled up in several layers of woolens.

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school with strong values, the Mother’s International School, and her growing up years, in fact, couldn’t be more ordinary. Waking up before school was an ordeal because she had to deal with her obstinately thick hair that had a tendency to curl up into small knots. She hated geography. Her exam scores were average – never on top or bottom of the class. Then Rohini got admission in Delhi University, to study Sociology Honors In Hindu College. In her first year the supercyclone hit Orissa, so when the rest of her friends were planning holiday parties and developing a keen sense of languor that university students specialize in, Rohini was walking along villages that had been privy to the storm, distributing blankets and medicines. The experience was to change her life. For the next 10 years, at least a part of every summer or winter would henceforth be devoted to travelling to a remote part of the country. Life would be her greatest tutor, showing her how the other half of India lived – not with much. But she saw how they coped, with a certain dignity that defied their poverty, and I think it never ceased to amaze her. The scales of her middle-class upbringing were beginning to fall.

There were so many Indias, Rohini was now beginning to meet and be challenged by. Side by side, she grappled with the rigor and excitement of her Sociology classes. Kinship, caste and religion acquired totally different meanings from what she had grown up with, and she tested her newfound vocabulary on her parents. But this was not an empty rebellion, fuelled by alcohol and argument, just for its own sake. Rohini’s debates with her mother – herself a gold medalist in Medical school – stemmed from the fact that she wasn’t going to abide by some arbitrary conventions the Punjabi middle-class had evolved for herself, just because she belonged to it. She pointed out, succinctly, that communities evolved norms for themselves in order to cope with adversity, but that these norms had never been permanent. The women, naturally, were a different bunch of people she had to contend with. She saw how power devolved inside families – here was a Sociology class coming alive – and how the head of the household, usually the husband/father controlled both resources and family prestige. She saw how women negotiated with power, sometimes confronting it head-on – and not necessarily succeeding – or wheedling what they wanted from the power-brokers, whether husbands or sons. How she enjoyed her Post-graduate classes at the Delhi School of Economics! How they liberated her from the middle class narrative! From gender to nationalism to patriotism, why did a human being have to be circumscribed either by the color of your skin or the color of your flag? The matter of religion was a source of some friction, especially because both sets of grandparents had been forced to emigrate from West Punjab, now Pakistan. She reminded them that the partition of the country in 1947 had traumatized both sets of people, Hindus and Muslims, Pakistanis and Indians, and that each of them had experienced loss.

Of course, she was challenging them. But here’s the thing: Rohini wasn’t interested in challenging the

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Of course, she was challenging them. But here’s the thing: Rohini wasn’t interested in challenging the boundaries of nation-states, just the limits of your mind. From PRIA in the villages of Haryana, to the Hunger Project in the interiors of Ladakh to APWLD in Chiang Mai, Rohini, my niece and a citizen of the world, taught us that we could rise above ourselves if we put our minds to it. That there was a larger purpose to our lives, and it was our mandate to discover it. That’s why she was special. That’s why we miss her so.

Roopali Nair Mother’s International School

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Rohini was my best friend. It sounds silly, juvenile even. But I cannot think of a more apt description of our relationship. On the other hand, a similarly succinct description of Rohini would do her great injustice That girl had so much going on under the surface. Intellectually she was a fine mind, and yet goofy when I least expected it. She inspired me when I felt defeated and never ceased to amaze me with her crystal honesty. For all her wonderful paradoxes, there were surprisingly few contradictions. She shot so straight from the hip that she could knock you down with a feather. People who knew her would understand when I say,

Rohini was inimitable. There is no one like her. She was simply superlative! Sociology was her chosen subject in college. Never one to sit on the fence, Rohini chose to work with women at the grass roots level. In making this discovery, I saw the most remarkable transition in my friend. From a shy child who disliked public speaking, she became a compelling orator and a fierce leader in her training sessions. While she was always someone who questioned dogma she transformed into someone with the

sensitivity to recognize that in order to inspire a change in people she would need to work from the inside out. She realized that to really know where people were coming from, she would have to immerse herself in their contexts, empathize with their condition and study the historicity of their beliefs. This journey was neither simple nor immediate. But Rohini felt such a deep connection to her work, that she would constantly redefine herself. I remember travelling with Rohini to Odisha to volunteer at a community based organization called ‘Gram Vikas’. I was not a sociology student, but that never stopped Rohini from involving me in her volunteer work! We travelled to different districts of the state, lived in remote villages and travelled by local transport. Language was never a barrier since Rohini’s candour and sincerity were her greatest tools of communication. I don’t think we fully comprehended it then, but Rohini had a gift and she actually used it to make a difference.

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I really miss my best friend. Although our life or work would often physically separate us, she always seemed to stay safely tucked away in my thoughts; ever ready to become part of my here-and-now when I needed her the most.

She was forever unapologetically, and I dare say, magnanimously, including me in her plans: her “grand schemes for life”. When I finally chose my career in law it was not without a good natured shove from her. I wanted her to accompany me when I sat for the entrance examination for the Faculty of Law at the Delhi University. And so I took the exam with her… and cleared it! What I cherish most about my Ro is that she instinctively knew what got me ticking, what pushed my buttons. I think I told her enough times about how she had been the catalyst and how I owed it to her. I am not sure if I thanked her enough, though; if I told her enough times that I loved her deeply. The more I think about her, I realize that she was like that in all her relationships. You would never receive a half-hearted effort from Rohini. She was all in and she meant it. She made each person feel special and included. She took the time to engage with everyone and share their experiences and opinions, ever so often agreeing to disagree with them. And that indeed, is what made her an extraordinary person!

Maya Ratnam Delhi School of Economics

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Rohini and I lived close by, and we carpooled together for the two years that we were in our MA. She would always reach on time to pick me up, and roll her eyes when she saw I was still asleep, but wait patiently neverthless. Those drives to and from university were great times when we used to catch up, gossip, and when I began to know Rohini well, both as someone with a fiery commitment to social justice and an inconvenient sense of humour. We spent the summer after the first year of our MA volunteering with the Right to Food Campaign and, I think, when we both first realized that we wanted to continue with fieldwork and working in the social sciences. Rohini did whatever she took on with a great deal of sincerity. But, more importantly, we traveled to Haryana for a weekend of fieldwork, and managed to



get some partying done in a scary, dark and strange town!

Rohini was a presence with immense vitality and beauty; perhaps what I will always remember of her are her blazing, expressive eyes and stunning smile. She was at once irresistably engaging and deeply private. I know she has touched people wherever she has chosen to go.

Be well, Rohini. We miss you more than words can say.

Swati Dogra Delhi School of Economics, PRIA, The Hunger Project

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went to the Crafts Museum, a place that we totally loved in Delhi! She bought a stole and a sari and then we admired a lot of silver jewellery. I told her how much I fancied her taste in silver and would love to borrow stuff from her. To my surprise, she liked some of my earrings too and we decided to exchange what we were wearing there and then. There was an artisan from Orissa with a beautiful

Just before Rohini left for Thailand, she and I managed to find some time to meet. That was the last time I saw her. She was so excited, so hopeful both in terms of her career and personal life. We chatted for hours about our love and hate for development work, fear and attraction towards field work, apprehension and desire for international jobs.

In 2004 (or something), Rohini and I

collection of silver jewellery which totally got us engrossed. We decided to pick


a pair of earrings for one another; ‘it will


be our friendship THING’ I said. We both

types surviving in the NGO sector’!!

liked the same pair and thankfully he

How much I could share with her, how

had two of those! So we bought it for

I could drop a mail anytime and knew

one another. At that moment I had never

she would understand what I was trying

thought how much I would cherish a small

to say. Rohini, I miss you and will always

piece of jewellery.

admire the grace and dignity with which



shared of





you approached people, work and life…. But of many things, ‘this PAIR is OUR friendship THING, Rohini’……and I will treasure it for life.

Rita Sarin The Hunger Project

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Rohini came to THP as a breath of fresh air full of dreams to make this world a just and a fair place. Rohini was one of the rarest people I met who had the courage of conviction and lived it in her actions. She gave us all a sound foundation for excelling in our inputs for trainings and was a soul and body together when she was in a training programme. She will continue to live in every training we do with women leaders in the villages of India and Rohini’s courage will be a part of our work for all the

years to come.

This world deserves many more Rohinis to become a place we all want to be, cherish and feel proud of. In my efforts to pay my tribute to Rohini, my only handicap is the lack of most appropriate words which dictionaries do not have but hearts do know them.

With all my prayers for her soul to be as peaceful, bright and happy as she was in her breath on this planet.

Ganga The Hunger Project

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eSa vkSj n gaxj izkstsDV dh {kerko/ kZu Vksyh esa ,d lkFk dke dj jgs gSa vkSj ;gha gekjk lQj ‘kq: gqvkA izf’k{k.k esa ,d l= gksrk Fkk efgykvksa dh oafprrk ,Oka nks;e ntsZ dh fLFkfr---;g l= dk lcls eupkgk fo”k; jgk gS---l= ds nkSjku tkfr] tsaMj] /keZ] ;kSfudrk] oxZ] mez] fHkUu {kerk] uLy] Ldwyh f’k{kk vkfn lkekftd ekinaMksa ds vuqlkj laLFkkvksa ewY;ksa vkSj O;ogkjksa dk fo’ys”k.k dj laHkkfx;ksa dks ,d&,d ?kVd ij Lo;a dh] muds vkl&ikl dh vkSj cM+s lekt dh fLFkfr ls :&c&: dj eglwl djkuk fd tks gks jgk gS og iwjh rjg <kapkxr gS vkSj ge lc bldk dgha u dgha fgLlk gSA

tks ldkjkRed cnyko gq, gSa vkSj gks jgs gSa og blds dqizHkko dks ns[krs gq, ukdkQ+h gS ----bl l= esa tgka efgyk laHkkfx;ka viuh fLFkfr dks le>dj Hkkoqd gks tkrh Fkh ogha iq:”k laHkkxh Lo;a dks yfTtr eglwl dj lQkbZ nsuas yxrs Fkss----;gha fiu&ikbZaV Fkk ftls idM+dj ge cnyko ds jkLrs ryk’kus ds fy, laHkkfx;ksa dks enn djrs Fks fd {kerko/kZu& dk;Z ,d egRoiw.kZ j.kuhfr ds :i esa efgykvksa@ oafprksa dh fLFkfr esa Bksl cnyko ykus dk dkjxj mik; gSA! ;g uke fnekx esa vkrs gh bl O;fDrRo dh cgqr lkjh [kwfc;ka tsgu esa vkus yxrh gS vkSj yxkrkj vkrh gh jgrh gS--- ftUgsa ‘kCnksa esa j[kwwa rks ,d egku xzaFk gh cu tk;sA

;g j.kuhfr lkekftd ekunaMks dks efgykvksa vkSj oafprksa dh utj ls lekt dks ns[kusa vkSj mlesa ldkjkRed cnyko dk dke djrh gSA ;gh gS gekjh nksLrh dk eq[; jkt ftlus gesa de le; esa gh ,d nwljs dk iwjd cuk fn;kA gka ! vki eq>ls dgdj xbZ Fkh fd dqN le; ds fy, ckgj tk jgh gqa okil vkdj ge fQj ls ,d lkFk dke eq>s rqEgkjk bartkj gSA fo’okl gS fd ge t:j ,d lkFk dke dj jgsa gSa vkSj djrs jgsaxsA

Satya Sagar Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development

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Despite knowing Rohini only fleetingly I remember clearly how excruciatingly painful the news of her abrupt passing away was. If one so young, so bright, so full of great ideals and life were to disappear in theflash of a second did anything we do in our lives really have a meaning? Rohini was part of a very special group of young people, found only in very tiny numbers, who had adopted the pain and their own. At atime when most others her age were busy plotting personal fortunes Rohini , with quiet resolve, was planning beautiful things for and with those who had no future at all. Rohini wanted to change the way women were treated in male-dominated societies like India, she raged against every oppressive feudal norm and fought for a world with no masters and no slaves. The



suffering of their fellow human beings as

If Rohini had possessed a magic wand, I have no doubt, our world would have instantly become the happiest place for everyone, everywhere. In the absence of the wand, Rohini was in the process of creating, with love and courage, the magic all on her own. Rohiniâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s legacy, for each one of us who

only weapon she had to try and do all this

had the privilege of knowing her, is the

was her sense of life, imbibed no doubt

realization that the magic to make the

from the love showered on her by family,

world a better place is not just desirable

friends and perhaps Mother Nature itself.

but also eminently possible.

Mrinalini Rai Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development

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I met Rohini in May 2012 first through work, when she came to Chiang Mai to work with APWLD (Asia Pacific Women in Law and Development), where I was temporarily coordinating the program that she took over. We met and immediately bonded. Thus began a journey of close friendship and a year filled with cherished memories, besides work from going to gym together and having fun during the power combat classes, to salsa classes, to beer sessions and engaging in discussions on politics, gender, women, to watching cricket, to going to eat Indian food as we both would get nostalgic and miss home to just about everything. Explaining in few words is not enough. She had a good sense of humor and we enjoyed talking with each other and looked out for each other. She was a wonderful human being with a big heart. A women who believed in human

dignity and would stand by her ethics and did not hesitate to

speak her mind to being a gentle person who could cry on watching the movie “Little Nemo”.

A year, that is how long we knew each other and yet it seemed that we had known each other for years. Here in Chiang Mai, I have friends, I make new friends, but the time I have spent with Rohini are some of my fondest collection of memories.

She is missed terribly, but when I do, I take a step back and dig into my collection of memories with her and I remember our talks, gossips, laughs and I smile. That is who she was,

Ruchi Yadav Jagori, The Hunger Project

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To Rohini – a friend and comrade. I knew Rohini for almost 10 years and


am so glad that our paths crossed in this

on love, heartbreak, life, work, rights,

life. Over the years we developed an

feminism, yoga, dieting, hierarchy, the

unspoken, but deep bond of friendship

holocaust, the colour pink, her roots

forged over work related travel on shaking

and off course her pet subject sociology

planes, smelly taxis, chugging trains and

late into the night under the stars in Leh,

big and small hotels across India. Some

on walks during training breaks in the

of the memorable trainings that I had the

mountains and along lakes and beaches

privilege to attend with her as the Master

remain with me. I will value Rohini’s work

trainer were in Gopalpur (Odisha) and

ethic and cherish her friendship always.

the trainings – like a magician she cast her spell – unpacked complex issues, listened patiently, spoke impeccable Hindi, sang “chetna” songs loudly to counter the “besoorapan” as she would say and even danced in the late night cultural programs during the trainings. As a result she built a special relationship with all the trainers she worked with. She remained passionate about training and came to realize that being a trainer was one of her primary identities.




She was fearless and honest in her approach to work and her loyalty towards friends was unmatched. Rohini had an innate sense of justice and one of her remarkable qualities was to be comfortable with people from all backgrounds – caste, class, religion and nationality and be at ease in the oddest of places!

Nainital (Uttrakhand). She came alive in


Cheers to your spirit and life Rohini!

Anantika Singh Hindu College

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I had the privilege of studying with Rohini in college and she was one of my closest friends. While Rohini was many things, she was most of all a fierce idealist. She never refrained from being vocal about what she believed in, even if (on the face of it) it seemed

like a pointless endeavour, in fact – I sometimes felt that that’s precisely why she did it.

Rohini had no inhibitions when it came to doing the “right thing”, I remember her in a heated argument with a waiter on the ills of making women wear the ‘burkha’. He tried to defend the tradition, but Rohini would have none of it. In the end he wasn’t amused and I’m quite certain he spat in our food. On the lighter side, the time I spent with her were some of the

best days of my life – if given the chance, people often want to go back to their school days, but I’d go back to college in a heartbeat and that’s largely because that’s where I met Rohini. Every once in a while you make a friend that’s always a friend – with whom reconnection is never an issue because when you meet time and distance become immaterial. Rohini is that friend to me …. And I know I will reconnect with her.

Ritu Mishra Jagori

39 Testimonials 40 ds lkFk tkxksjh esa fcrk;s <kbZ lky¼fnlacj 2004 ls twu 2007½ ds ckjs esa D;k fy[kwa vkSj D;k NksMwa ;s le> esa ugha vk jgkA dHkh lksprh gwa fd mlds lkFk bruk de le; feyk gS fcrkus dks------fd dqN [kkl ;kn gh ugha vk jgkA ij vxys gh iy yxrk gS fd ugha--------;s vjlk bruk NksVk Hkh ugha] fdruh gh NksVh] cM+h] [kV~Vh] ehBh] futh lka>h ;knsa gSa------ fdruk lgh dgrs gSa yksx ds ckjs esa&

gj fdlh dks yxrk gS fd ogh dk [kkl nksLr gS ;k mldh gh [kkl nksLr Fkh-----ij og lHkh ds fy, ,d tSlh Fkh vkSj lHkh mlds fy, ,d tSlsA

eq>s og nqfu;k dk lcls vPNk vuqoknd ekurh Fkh¼tks eq>s u rc lgh yxrk Fkk u vc lgh yxrk gS½A tc Hkh fganh esa dqN fy[kus dks dgk tkrk rks og vaxzsth esa gh fy[krh Fkh vkSj mldk vuqokn djk;k tkrk FkkA tkxksjh esa rhu pkj yksx vuqokn djrs FksA vkSj lHkh vPNk gh djrs Fks ij dk fy[kk gqvk ;fn fdlh vkSj ds ikl vuqokn ds fy, pyk tkrk Fkk rks og vilsV gks tkrh FkhA irk

ugha os esjs fy[ks gq, dk D;k vFkZ fudkysaxsA eSa le>rh gwa fd ;s mldk essjs fy, I;kj gh Fkk tks esjs fd, vuqokn dks og nqfu;k dk csgrjhu vuqokn ekurh FkhA ,d vkSj okd;k ;kn vk jgk gS------mls mnwZ ls csgn yxko FkkA tkxksjh esa gekjh ,d eqfLye nksLr Fkh&”kckukA vDlj mlls dgrh& eq>s mnwZ fl[kk nksA vPNk pyks dqN “kCn gh fl[kk nksA “kckuk vDlj mls dksbZ mnwZ dk “kCn crk nsrh vkSj mls iwjs fnu vyx vyx okD;ksa esa iz;ksx djrh jgrhA vkSj vDlj gh ,slk gksrk fd og og vFkZ dk vuFkZ dj nsrhA tc ge mls ml okD; dk eryc crkrs rks og ge lc galrs&galrs yksV&iksV gks tkrsA ge mldk fdruk gh et+kd mM+krs vkSj og Hkh gekjkA ij etky gS tks dHkh fdlh us fdlh ckr dk cqjk ekuk gksA


Testimonials If you would like to to Share your memories of Rohini with us – The mail was about Rohini’s special-ness...