Who's Your Mary?

February 20, 2015 at 12:50 PM

"To Nani, with lots of love"
Nooria Puri '15 tells us about her "Mary"

College founder Mary Lyon has inspired many women—not just at Mount Holyoke College but around the country—to become better and stronger versions of themselves, and to take those risks that they did not think would be possible.

Nooria Puri's grandmotherPersonally, Mary Lyon has been an inspiration to me, as she has been to many. However, I have definitely been inspired by others around me too, who have given me the passion and drive of being a Mount Holyoke woman. The person who has inspired me the most has been my grandmother—Jessi Kaur Sodhi. My grandmother has inspired me not just because of her ability to be a strong woman in a field dominated by men, but because of her resilience never to give up.

My grandmother and her family were caught in the India-Pakistan partition of 1947, in which her family had to leave everything and migrate to India. Starting from scratch was never going to be an easy task for her family, but they succeeded. She did not let any of these circumstances act as excuses for her not to excel in what she was passionate about. She completed her economics degree with honors at Delhi University in India. Economics during those days was not a popular subject for women, yet she was a proud student who pursued her passion through education. She was never deterred by any societal pressures and norms. She went on to be the only woman who was studying economics and also became the only economics professor at St. Bede’s College, one of the most prestigious colleges in India.

During her time as a professor, my grandmother was very involved in various activities and was not afraid to be confident in a male-dominated department. My grandmother enjoyed life, and she was not afraid to show it. She was an athlete and would play both badminton and hockey “with the rest of the boys” and would succeed in beating her opponents too—a feat many of her male colleagues still find quite admirable.

My grandmother was a pioneer for many younger women. Be it in economics or on the field, her legacy still remains strong. But more than that, she was also able to successfully raise three children, maintain the duties of a top police officer’s wife, as well as be a great socialite among all her friends. She was passionate about what she wanted to achieve and she was not worried about others’ opinions. I have always admired her resilience and her ability to achieve so many tasks and expectations—never has she failed to deliver. She always remained confident and frank about what she wanted, and that is what made others want to follow her and listen to her every word. Her strong articulation and wit has made me believe in my own speaking skills and encouraged me to be a part of the MUN team on campus—an activity that has given me the confidence to succeed just as she did.

Mount Holyoke College has given me the confidence and passion to take on the world and a platform from which I am able to follow the inspiring example of my grandmother, who is my own Mary Lyon. My grandmother has inspired me to understand that it is important to follow one’s heart, no matter what the societal expectations are. For me, she truly defines the statement of “going where no woman has gone before,” setting the example for all my endeavors since childhood. She has inspired me not just to strive in fields that I might be comfortable in, but to always remain strong and confident in whatever challenge I wish to undertake. In being able to understand her, I was able to understand myself and push myself to achieve the impossible.

Nooria Puri and her grandmotherMy grandmother has definitely inspired me in ways that would have made Mary Lyon proud. To be inspired is not necessarily to copy someone else’s past life achievements, but to draw strength from their characteristics and willpower. I believe that my achievements while at Mount Holyoke have been possible thanks to the dedication and strength I have been proud and fortunate enough to have received from one of the strongest individuals I know—my grandmother.

Who's your Mary?

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MHC Development

Written by MHC Development