London | Kolkata, 22 April.
In a lively virtual session of Tete-a-tea organized by Prabha Khaitan Foundation of Kolkata, UK-based author, journalist and social worker Lady Mohini Kent Noon, had an engaging conversation with Dr. Alka Bagri and Bina Rani – two leading women achievers of Indian origin in the UK and cancer survivors – on the learning valuable lessons and the overarching influence of mothers in their lives.
The Tete-a-tea session was flagged off by Ms. Swati Agarwal of Ehsaas Woman, Prabha Khaitan Foundation. Hundreds of visitors from India, UK and other countries joined the online session which focused on Lady Mohini Kent Noon’s book “Dear Mama” which is a compilation of intimate letters to their mothers written by billionaires, spiritual gurus, members of the British House of Lords, political leaders, members of royal families, actors, entrepreneurs, journalists, photographers and doctors.
Lady Mohini Kent Noon has compiled the book in aid of her charity, LILY Against Human Trafficking – a charitable organisation which works against the trade in human beings and child trafficking. LILY not only rescues women and children but also provides shelter and education to them. Dr. Alka Bagri and Bina Rani had penned letters to their mothers which were published in “Dear Mama” along with other eminent personalities of the world.
“My mother was born and raised in Kolkata in a traditional conservative Marwari family. Despite having a conservative upbringing. She has lived her life with tremendous integrity, whatever life has thrown at her she has dealt with immense grace and courage. She taught me moral and ethical values. To walk the extra miles for those we love and stick to the truth always no matter how hard it is, you let me make my own mistakes also making your own teaching the importance of owing up to them of saying sorry and starting afresh,” said Dr. Alka Bagri who is a distinguished art historian and patron of the arts. Ms. Bagri is the Trustee of the Bagri Foundation and works in some prestigious institutions such as, British Museum in London, The Met and London Film Festival. She has studied Sanskrit, Urdu and calligraphy and she also holds a PhD degree from Oxford University.
“My life was like a Bollywood tearjerker. I was orphaned when I was 11 when both my parents died. In addition to her seven children, my mother took in her younger brother and sister so that we would have access to good education. My mother was truly an extraordinary woman and I don’t think I met anyone like her. An elegant hostess, nothing was too difficult for her. She woke up at 3 am and cooked the family’s meals; pack lunch boxes for us and catch the local bus to go to a village 40 miles from Bangalore to do her humanitarian work providing basic human rights and dignity to the women and children. Initially, for me, it was all about trying to find my own feet to stay safe and to earn a living. But eventually, I think I did follow my heart and started working for the cause. My mother motivated richer women to support the education of poorer girls and set up cooperative societies so that the poor families could access rations from the public distribution system. I inherited her kindness to strangers because against all odds I set up iPartner India in London,” said Bina Rani, Founder, CEO of Charity iPartner India, which works for the deprived child and abused woman. She has raised millions of funds to help women, children and men.
Sharing her views, Lady Mohini Kent Noon said, “I had a golden childhood. I am very happy that it came early on because it is very hard to get over a traumatised childhood as we know from our work with those girls. My mother came from a royal family and she just had a sense of ease and she was really not interested in material things. She never went shopping, she never collected anything, she was trained in classical music and she used to sing on stage, sang in Gurdwara, she sang sankeertanas and folk songs and had a great ability to make up poems on the spot. Certainly, I was very deeply bonded with my mother. I learned generosity, simplicity and honesty from her. I am like her but very different also, I chose to make my own way in the world which she didn’t. So, we were different generations and different women.”
Tete-a-tea is an event curated by Prabha Khaitan Foundation of Kolkata which encourages personalities from varied walks of life to have a free-wheeling chat with a conversationalist and eminent audience.