I come from a very simple Jain Kutchi family. My father came to Mumbai from Kutch. He started his business with a raddi shop. I lived in a chawl with my family till I was 18 years old, a very common phenomenon in Mumbai. There are many challenges that come with it. For example, we had only 2 common toilets that were shared by 75 people. Eventually, my father’s business grew and our lifestyle changed. What did not change, however, is the conservative attitude of our family. My upbringing has been very comfortable, but because of the societal norms of my community I was unable to do a lot of things. Ever since I was a child, I knew I wanted to do things for those less fortunate than me. After I completed my B.Com, I wanted to study law. But I wasn’t permitted to do so as my marital prospects were prioritised over my education and career.
Even after I got married, I wasn’t allowed to study or work. But I resigned myself to the reality. My conviction was strong- there was a voice inside me that kept pushing me towards the path of politics. So I decided to wait for the right time to take the plunge. This wait was two decades long. In the meanwhile, I worked in the fashion industry. There are 4 things I am passionate about. One of them is financial independence for women. It has always concerned me how a lot of women despite educated or relatively privileged are still not able to fulfil their ambitions. To do this, I started the Harsha Foundation (named after my mother) which helps women deal with such issues. I am also hoping to work on primary education for children and public healthcare, which have both been affected by privatisation. I am especially interested in the field of preventive healthcare for women. This issue is personal to me- both my mother and mother in law battled cancer and are now in remission. I have witnessed the struggles that come with a heath issue and the limitations of our system. Lastly, I am very passionate about working on climate change. It is not a priority for most people but it is an important issue.
The most influential figures in my life are my parents. My mother taught me unconditional love, which is the reason I feel and empathise so deeply with others. My father has taught me resilience. Through the peaks and valleys in his life, he has remained unperturbed which inspires me deeply. I am blessed to have Nikunj as my husband. He is the best man I could have married, he is so secure. He fully supported my move to join politics. Even my father is so supportive of my work now. Every single day, he calls me to discuss what I did and my progress. In politics, the person I consider my mentor is Imran Pratapgarhi. He gives space and opportunities to women, which is very rare in Indian politics.
I have been working with the Congress party for three years now. I have always related to their ideology, partly because I am from Mumbai, where everyone lives in harmony. I personally witnessed the aftermath of the 1993 riots in Bombay. I was very young then, and was extremely shocked when I saw a man being stabbed with a sword with my own eyes. That shook my worldview. And despite what my family wanted for me, I decided I had to do something to stop this from ever happening again, and do something impactful.
When I expressed my intention to join politics, a lot of people around me told me that I would fail because I’m a ‘good person’. I never understood that sentiment. Kindness and compassion are not weaknesses. I also don’t agree with politicians being portrayed as villains and caricatures. It is a big misconception and very misleading for the youth of this country. I started with the Mumbai Congress social media department as an executive member. Then covid struck. However, with the power of social media especially Twitter, I connected with a lot of people. I became part of the AICC Minority Dept. And recently, I have been made the in-charge of Minority Dept, Karnataka. Imran called me and made me the Yatra in charge for Tamil Nadu. I was so excited to be a part of this historic event and that I was entrusted with this responsibility. This made me realise that I’m on the right track. Love trumps fear. I don’t think I can ever be content because I am a constant learner. But I have a few milestones to achieve in the next few years. Apart from the work I will do in Karnataka, I will work on preventive healthcare for women through my NGO.
What we don’t understand is we cannot afford to be apolitical. Right from the moment we are born, our lives are shaped by the policies made by elected representatives. From demonetisation to pandemic lockdowns, we live with these policies. So instead of deflecting, we must understand the power of a vote in a democracy. Further, I want more women to be active in all fields of life like politics, judiciary, police force, etc. We make up half of the world! And politics is the tool we can utilise to achieve this. We underestimate the power of politics in affecting change.