Every time I try to bring inspiring stories of enterprising and self-reliant women to you and every time, I receive appreciation for the same. I like doing this because it gives me a sense of satisfaction. This time, I bring you the story of a vibrant, enterprising and self-made personality, who is a doctor by profession, an artist by heart and a social worker by soul. This is the story of Babita Angle, who went on to become the Chairperson of Margao Municipality in her first election campaign.
Babita comes from a very humble background, born and raised in the beautiful, calm village of Goa called Cuncolim. Unlike today’s nuclear family generation, Babita lived in a joint family and that also helped her learn values that one normally might not get otherwise. Babita is a well-known name today in both society and politics but her beginnings were very humble and she started right from scratch.
“I have done my preliminary education in Marathi Medium and that is why I can speak very good Marathi”, said Babita. By the time she reached 8th grade, her family moved to the southern capital of Goa, Margao. “I believe that I am very fortunate that I was brought up in a joint family environment which new generation children lack. I attribute my entire personality to the joint family concept in which I was raised.”
“Today when I look around, I feel that there is a strong need for a joint family setup in society. It provides a lot of psychological and moral security in anything and everything we do. At least I believe in that very strongly. Today we talk so much about mental health problems and solitude and when you are in a joint family, you can always support each other in the good and bad times. I am not suggesting that there are no issues in joint families, but nothing is perfect and there are always two sides to a coin. There are more advantages than disadvantages when you live in a joint family.”
Babita had always been good at studies. “I was a state ranker in my school and higher secondary and then I went to join the GMC (Goa Medical College) where I did my MD in Pathology,” she said. “Initially I worked for a private lab for some time and later on I decided to start my own practice in the year 2003,” she added.
Babita has come a long way to become a successful professional, an avid social worker and a dedicated politician for a short time. “Life has certainly not been a bed of roses and I also had to face a lot of struggles in my life to achieve my dreams. What I mean to say here is people only look at the successes one has attained but they forget to see the amount of struggle behind it. Hard work and dedication towards your dreams will always result in success.”
According to Babita, there is no shortcut to success. “One has to follow their dream and one has to have conviction in what you are doing. There is one more thing that I want to mention here which is the need for ethics that one needs to practice in day-to-day life in whatever you are doing. I practice what I preach, and I have always done my practice ethically and for me that matters a lot. Helping others comes to you automatically when you are doing your job within the boundaries of ethics. In the medical field that I am in, there are hundreds of opportunities to be helpful to others, and I always go out of my way to help others. I am not saying I am the only one who does, and there are many doctors who do it silently without making publicity of the same.”
“I don’t want to say much about the outside world but in Goa, we are very much grounded and have not yet been consumed by consumerism,” said Babita giving an example of her colleague who never charges her or her family every time she goes for a check-up. “The same principle I follow when I see a patient who is not able to afford the fees. I never charge them. According to me whatever society has given us, we need to give back at some point or the other.”
When I asked Babita about her experience within a male-dominated world where women face numerous challenges, she said her bringing up was such that she never came across a situation where she would feel uncomfortable or dominated by her male counterpart. “My parents never groomed me in a typical girl-child format. There were no gender-biased scenarios in my family and that is the reason when I was growing up there was never an awkward situation with male members of my family or my school or wherever I went because I grew up with men around me. My uncle would even take me with him when he went to play football. There were times when other girls wouldn’t feel comfortable in my company as they felt that this was not the kind of behaviour that one expects from a girl. For me, it was the kind of atmosphere I was brought up and groomed in, hence I never felt out of the system at any time.”
Babita also has a passion for the theatre and this developed more after her migration to Margao from her small town. “I took membership of Gomant Vidya Niketan when my family was shifted to Margao and I used to take part in each and every competition that Gomant Vidya Niketan staged for the Kala Academy. I have always excelled in it besides winning the best prizes. I love the theatre and if hadn’t become a doctor, I would have taken up acting.”
Babita got married into a very progressive family based in Margao. “I married Dilip Prabhudesai and we have one son. My father-in-law was an ex-wing commander of the Indian Air Force and he took premature retirement when I came into their family it never felt that I have come into a different domain. Besides being very liberal it is also an extremely intelligent family. I really want to rate them as geniuses and being a part of this family brings lots of knowledge, healthy discussions, and lots of reading and it helped me a lot to build my own personality. In fact, I completed my MD after getting married and I had always got a lot of support from the family.”
Her entry into politics was a new thing for Babita since none of her maternal family was into politics. “In fact, my husband was very well connected with the politics and political parties in Goa. He has been politically well-connected with the Congress party. Politics is his passion and he had been deeply involved in strategy building of the Digambar Kamat government later on he became instrumental in forming the Goa Forward Party and joined as vice president. Politics was a kind of an unexpected gift for me and it just happened. It was one informal meeting where we were sitting and discussing the upcoming municipal election and the ward which I represented, Amrut Nagar near Chowgule college, which has a mix of affluent population and SC-ST categories of lower social economical population, and it had been a bastion of BJP and they wanted someone who could portray the educated face for this ward and who could approach the educated and affluent section and then my name came up. I was not expecting this since I had no political aspirations, I was content with my profession and good life,” she said.
Politics was never on Babita’s bucket list and secondly, she was not aware of what the Municipality was supposed to do. “The only interaction I had with the Municipality was applying for my trade license and this was something completely new to me, but they persuaded me and my husband said there is nothing wrong in giving it a try,” she said, adding that after the discussion she went on holiday and on the last day of nomination she received a call to fly back to Goa. “Over the next 20 days, I completely got involved in door-to-door campaigning and it was a completely new experience. Finally, I won the election and the rest is history.”
Whichever road Babita had taken in her journey, she loved her profession above all. “I will not do anything at the cost of my profession. I am also a part of the Goa Forward Party and if I am required to play a better role, I am certainly open to the idea. In our society, if you want to address a social cause then in our democracy, politics is the only answer. According to me if you do not have a political background or support then you cannot bring that change in society and that is where politics plays a very important role.”
“Before I finish, I want to share a few words of wisdom with the people of Goa. First is to entrepreneurs- I want to say that there are absolutely no shortcuts to hard work and success. The second thing is we need to change with time: we need to learn to adapt to new systems and ideas and we have to keep changing our strategies and thought processes. But before I end this conversation one thing I would like to tell women is let’s not get into this pseudo-feminism and modernity: this is just your state of mind and it has nothing to do with what you wear and how you speak. For example, speaking in English does not make you modern. What makes you modern is your thought process. It is about accepting change, it is about being non-judgemental about other women and it is about being fearless and passionate about what you do that is my perception of modernity and as far as politics is concerned, I think there is a need for more women entering the political arena and when you enter this arena, make sure that you have an agenda for society and not a personal agenda.”