The Indian Express | Priyanka Sahoo | Mumbai | March 8, 2017 |
Eldest among four siblings, Anita remembers having a knack for mathematics and hence deciding to pursue engineering much to the dislike of her conservative grandmother.
IT WAS an unusual sight for everyone on the campus when a 22-year-old woman walked into the illustrious campus of the Government Engineering College, Jabalpur, on a warm July day in 1961. The first female student of the college and the only woman in the batch drew gazes not only from her colleagues but also her teachers. “I was overwhelmed that I made it to the college but at the same time I was confused,” remembers Anita Dandekar, a telecommunication engineer. “It was a time when boys were not comfortable talking to girls and vice versa. I didn’t even know where my class was and didn’t know who to ask,” she says. Anita, who went on to become the first woman lecturer at her alma mater, has many such firsts to her credit. She was the first woman teacher at Sardar Patel College of Engineering, Andheri, and Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute, Matunga. In 1973, Anita — then married to an architect — became the first female student to pursue an MTech from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. It has been a long and lonely journey for the 78-year-old teacher and philanthropist. “Anywhere I went, I was the only woman,” remembers Anita, who was born in 1939 in a middle-class family. Eldest among four siblings, Anita remembers having a knack for mathematics and hence deciding to pursue engineering much to the dislike of her conservative grandmother. Anita’s father Manohar Sheorey, worker in an ordnance factory, fully supported her. “At that time, engineering courses were traditionally opted for by men. Women rarely pursued higher studies and if they did they would choose medical over engineering,” says Anita.