These were the words of Dr. Lakshmi Sehgal when asked why she was contesting a loosing battle against Dr APJ Abdul Kalam for the presidential post in 2002 & that was my first brush with the lady who is better known as Captain Lakshmi to generations of Indians. Very rarely did I hear about her heroics during my childhood, but then I realized that she has been part of the great historical transition
Sahgal was born as Lakshmi Swaminathan on October 24, 1914 in
In 1940, she left for
It was quite accidental that Captain Lakshmi Sehgal had happened to join the Indian National Army (INA) of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. In 1942, during the historic surrender of
Events moved rapidly with the arrival of Subhash Chandra Bose in
The Rani of Jhansi Regiment saw active duty at the front. Lakshmi, who was given the rank of a Colonel, was popular as Captain Lakshmi, and was active both at the military and on the medical front. She played a gallantry role by saving many lives because of her valor and dedication. She was finally captured and brought to
Never Ending Public Service
After her release, Capt Lakshmi campaigned tirelessly for the release and rehabilitation of imprisoned and de-mobbed INA personnel and for the freedom of
Although never neglecting her medical work, she became very active in social activities. First the trade union and then the movement for women. She became the Vice-President of the largest woman's organization in the country; the All India Democratic Women' Association, which was formed in 1981, and has been actively involved in its activities, campaigns and struggles ever since.
Brush With Politics
In 2002 four leftist parties (Communist Party of
Captain Lakshmi Sehgal has established a small maternity home in
Sadly, in the autumn of her life, there is a sense of disappointment. She says it isn't just that the INA never got its due. "We have not yet achieved what had been our goal at that time. Our leader had always spoken of freedom and its three parts: political, financial and social. While we achieved the first, the rest is still unchanged. The position of women is still unfortunate. Social evils continue unabated. The caste system still thrives. Child marriages still take place and dowry deaths are still happening”. Inching her way through religious bigotry, male chauvinism, caste and economic exploitation, she continues to keep alive the INA's ideals of unity and equality for all Indians. Her yearning for freedom lives on. The fire still burns.