Honouring Dr. Vimla Lalbhai and her Journey this Women’s Day
For several centuries now, women have occupied a pivotal position in the Indian culture. Our scriptures project a woman as the mother of mankind, the goddess of wealth and knowledge, the destroyer of evil and the nurturer of good.
Dr. Vimla Lalbhai
Over the years, there have been numerous women who have worked for the betterment of the lesser privileged with their conviction and valor. A lady who has remained low profile and offered selfless service for social welfare, Dr. Vimla Lalbhai, is one such example.
Born on August 21, 1927, she is a surgeon by education. She completed her FRCS from the Royal College of Surgeons of England. After marriage, she devoted a major part of her life to social work and is continuing the legacy of her father-in-law, Kasturbhai Lalbhai and husband, Siddharth Lalbhai.
Vimla Lalbhai is the daughter of Bhogilal Leherchand Jhaveri and Champa Bhogilal Jhaveri; the Jhaveri family was known for their diamond business in Mumbai.
She married Siddharth Lalbhai, the elder son of Kasturbhai Lalbhai in 1959. After marriage, she made Atul village her permanent residence where Kasturbhai had established Atul Ltd., the first private sector company of India to be inaugurated by the first Prime Minister of the country, Jawaharlal Nehru. She has a son, Sunil and two daughters, Swati and Taral.
Vimla Lalbhai completed her schooling from M A High School in 1942. She continued her education at Elphinstone College and got her Bachelors in Zoology and Botany from the Royal Institute of Science (now Institute of Science), Mumbai, in 1946.
In 1952, she obtained her MBBS degree from Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, when she had a unique opportunity to regularly interact with Mahatma Gandhi. She served as a Resident Doctor at Purandare Hospital for two years as part of her internship. She went to London to pursue further studies in 1954 and received her FRCS degree from the Royal College of Surgeons in 1958.
Career and social work
Vimla Lalbhai began her career at Surat Medical College, Gujarat where she used to deliver lectures. Thereafter, she became more involved with social work and has been associated with many institutions of Lalbhai Group and beyond.
She took over as the chairperson of Atul Rural Development Fund after the demise of her husband in 1998 and also established Atul Foundation in 2010.
She is now the chairperson of Atul Foundation, Atul Rural Development Fund, Atul Kelavani Mandal and WWF India – Valsad Division, Gujarat. She is a trustee of Kasturba Sevashram, Maroli, Gujarat, B K Mazumdar Foundation, Valsad and Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust, Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
She has been actively involved with various women empowerment initiatives and is the President of Urmi Stree Sanstha and Utkarsha in Atul, and Bhagini Samaj in Udvada and Valsad. She serves on the Committee of Kasturba Hospital, Valsad and the Governing Council of Nutan Kelavni Mandal, Valsad. She is also an advisory member at District Science Centre, Dharampur, Gujarat.
She has served as a member of the Advisory Committee of Western Zone Life Insurance Corporation, Mumbai, a member of the Advisory Committee of Family Planning, Gujarat, a member of All India Committee for Eradication of Illiteracy among Women, New Delhi, a member of the Senate and Syndicate of South Gujarat University, the chairman of National Association for the Blind, Valsad and a trustee of Samaj Kalyan Trust, Valsad. She was also the sarpanch of Atul Gram Panchayat, Gujarat from 1973 to 1994 which made her the first and the longest-serving woman sarpanch in India.
Vimla Lalbhai has created an everlasting impact in the lives of the lesser privileged. Actions of women like her are an inspiration that cannot be celebrated and confined to a particular occasion but are lived and cherished every day.