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Where knowledge is the only gossip

DNPUN32127 | 10/10/2010 | Author : Anuradha Mane Wadhwani | WC :544 | Lifestyle & Leisure

The Mahalakshmi Ladies’ Club, Pune chapter, which turned five recently, is a club of thinking women, discovers Anuradha Mane Wadhwani

They are a ladies’ club alright. But here, intelligence comes before glamour and meaningful dialogue comes before gossip. Meet the members of the Mahalakshmi Ladies’ Club, Pune, that was founded by author Kamala Laxman, the wife of noted cartoonist, RK Laxman.
Seated in her home in Aundh with the club members, Kamala (84) tells you that a member is known by her first name — not by the name of her husband, no matter how influential he might be. “These women are members for who they are. Each of our members has her own talent and intellect, which we are proud of,” says Kamala, who continues to inspire the members with her spirited approach to the club’s activities.
Rajni Goklani, a retired scientist, says for years her friends had been unsuccessful in getting her to be a part of the club. “But when I attended a club meeting, it was an instant decision to join it. The club is for the thinking woman of today,” she says. 
For someone who says, ‘she was the last person who wished to be associated with any kind of club,’ Kamala gracefully accepted the club’s responsibility when it fell on her. Looking back, she remembers every little detail of it — complete with dates!
“In 1965 my mother, along with her friend, founded the Mahalakshmi Ladies’ Club on Warden Road in Mumbai. For our first meeting, we had just about seven members, but word spread so fast that by next week we had more than 20 members. It soon took shape as a cosmopolitan club,” she says. But with the passing away of her mother, Kamala played a more hands-on role as the club’s life president.
She eventually went on to start chapters in Bangalore, Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad. The Pune, chapter which has been operational for five years, has members ranging from doctors to journalists and academicians to homemakers. No matter which social or ethnic background a woman comes from, the only criterion for being a member is her will to be a part of a similar social circle. 
The members visit places like the remand home, the central jail and the paraplegic rehabilitation centre, among others. The ladies eagerly look forward to interacting with doctors, therapists, authors and artists who are invited to share their knowledge. Recently, the club launched its in-house magazine Budding Lotus, for which RK Laxman has designed the logo.
Uma Sarathchandran, former principal of Symbiosis School, feels that being a part of the club has filled the void in her life after retirement. “The club has become a part of my life. New-found friends have become like an extended family,” she says.
Usha Ganesh, a lecturer at the ILS Law College, shares how the club has helped so many middle-aged women revisit their passions and hobbies. “I am a dancer too. But on the wrong side of 50, who would bother to watch me dance? But the club gave me a platform to do it during the five-year celebrations that we had recently,” she says.
Gazing into the future, Kamala paints a bright picture of the club. “Someone once told me that the club would certainly grow because it has been christened Mahalaxmi Club by my mother. I see the truth in it,” she says.

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