A letter to Martha, by Ravi Seth, her brother-in-law


Dear Martha

This is a letter of my appreciation for all your qualities that I should have written long back but never did because our relationship was always about banter and gentle ribbing of each other. You, about anything to do with male chauvinism and me about your obsession with that.

I remember how you came into the lives of two disorganized bachelors who lived in Safdarjung Enclave. Suddenly, things became so much more organized, food quality improved but funnily enough, the neighbor was really intrigued about this odd trio who lived a very unconventional / bohemian existence.  Ofcourse, that led to some very funny incidents and we always laughed over that whenever we met.

Amongst your great personal characteristics was your ability to seamlessly integrate with all your acquired relatives from Rajesh Bhayya’s side. You became the glue that kept both sides of the family together and this aspect and your ability to assimilate your self in our religion was also so smooth. Never was this more evident than at all the festivals – be it Holi, Divali or Christmas. It was an open house and ofcourse a full house with a never ending stream relatives and friends and food. You were as much the Christian daughter/sister as the Hindu/Khatri bahu of the Tandon family and the entire extended family.  All these festivals will not be the same without you – we will miss you every time and know that you will be around somewhere watching over us.

You were also such a generous host - no matter what the occasion and no matter how little the time, there was always more food than one could finish and some of the best food I have had. Your gifting was legendry as well – you always had a thoughtful gift for everyone, be it a birthday or a festival. Your generosity, your caring nature and large heart knew no bounds. Your smile was infectious and you spread cheer all around you. The Tandon/Farrell house was always full of guests with a lot of frolic and laughter.

Professionally you were an absolute champion of women’s rights – gender discrimination, gender violence, sexual harassment and all issues to do with women’s empowerment. You had the courage of conviction, whether it was leading on these issues in Sonepat, a village I think you adopted, speaking at various forums and training people across the globe on these issues. That took a lot of courage because of the threats you must have undoubtedly faced and that took you to Afghanistan as well, alas your last one!

While PRIA was started by Rajesh bhayya [brother], your contributions to PRIA’s activities were countless – you set up the education initiative – created content, did tie-ups with universities and ran the distance learning program, you did work on panchayati raj, you organized such a successful 25th anniversary of PRIA, you also handled accounts and administration and did so much more. PRIA is so much poorer in your absence and I am sure I speak for all in or connected with PRIA. In your professional pursuits you touched so many lives and that is evident in the innumerable broken hearts you have left behind.

Between all this, you found time to get  a PhD as well and raised two very fine children – well mannered, mature and so representing some of your best qualities. You were the sheet anchor not only to your immediate family but also so many other family members, friends and also acquaintances. All in all, as someone said, you were (and forgive me if it sounds chauvinistic) a complete woman  – a “woman of substance”.

I will always remember the great time we had together and the laughter we shared. I also know that wherever you are, women’s empowerment is now a burning topic there. Your tireless work will never cease.