On In People

70-Year-Old Social Worker Janak Didi Believes Everything in Life Should Be Sustainable 

"It was 1964 and I had just passed out of high school in Chandigarh. One day, I suddenly fainted. My parents took me to PGI; it's a hospital in the city. There, the doctors told my parents that they are late in bringing me to the hospital. I was suffering from a severe heart issue, and I was supposed to undergo an open heart surgery. They kept me in the hospital for one year, where for nine months, I saw people dying in front of me. Every day I used to ask the doctors about the date of my surgery because I had instincts that I will die during that surgery. But that was my first successful open heart surgery. After the surgery, the doctors came to me and said, 'Janak, wake up. You have made history.' But before he could complete the sentence, I said to God, 'You have given me a new life and I will spend it in gratitude," these are the first few words I heard from a 70-year-old social worker, who is working towards sustainable community development and is commonly known as Janak Didi.

Meet Janak Palta McGilligan 

Janak Didi came to Indore, Madhya Pradesh in 1985 to establish Barli Development Institute For Rural Women. According to Jimmy McGilligan Centre's website, she served as a director of the institute for about 26 years. She worked for the empowerment of 6000 tribal and rural young women who came from 500 socially and economically deprived villages of India. She then married James (Jimmy) McGilligan, an Irishman.  

"My husband made the first solar kitchen in Madhya Pradesh, " she claims. 

James McGilligan was facilitated by the Queen of England with the order of British Empire for his services in India. Unfortunately, he passed away after a fatal road accident. Janak Didi has been living the life that they both had envisioned together.She organises week-long festivals, where she teaches solar cooking, planting, motivates people to make cakes and much more. "I celebrate our values because that was the purpose of life for both of us to empower people, facilitate the process of sustainable development by sharing our knowledge and experiences with people," she stated.

"Smartness is saving the resources, and then using them wisely."

Janak Didi lives a waste-free life. In her village, Sanawadia, Madhya Pradesh, electricity comes from solar cells and winds mills installed there. She grows vegetables and herbs organically and does not use plastic. Briquettes made of newspapers are used as fuel during rains or at nights and LPG cylinders are only used when there is an urgency.

"I have 13 kinds of solar cookers."

While addressing WittyFeedians, Janak Didi revealed that she cooks food in solar cookers for over 300 days a year. LPG cylinders are used only when she has visitors, to cook food for them. In her house, a regular LPG cylinder lasts for more than two years.Amazing, isn't it? 

"Fundamentally, I talk about sustainable development."

We all are well aware of the 2030 agenda of Sustainable Development, and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that would eradicate poverty and ensure sustainable development. But how can we achieve it? According to Janak Didi, it can be done only when we think locally and act globally.

"Are we making negative goals?"

We often hear people claiming that they want to reduce poverty, some say they want to eradicate illiteracy from the county, and some believe they will help supply electricity to the people who live in the dark. What if rather than talking about reducing the dark, one works to enhance the brightness? Well, it is all about thinking positively. 

"Most of the people around us are afraid of their imperfections." 

Usually, people get insecure because of their imperfections. But why? Imperfections can be improved, right? When I asked Janak Didi that being 70, is there something that worries her a lot. To this, she smiled and said, "Darr unhe hota hai, jinke pass kuch khone ke liye ho. Mere pass aisa kuch nahi hai jise khone ka mujhe darr ho."Her statement gave me goosebumps. :) 

"We don't have a choice over how we will die, but we can choose how we should live."

Sharing her personal experiences, Janak Didi said that everything she has achieved in life, it is all because of the choices she has made. A lady who has never been to college, holds degrees like M.Phil in Political Science, MA Political Science, MA English, Sangeet Vishard in Sitar (Instrumental Music) and much more. How? Well, It is all the matter of things she decided to DO. 

On every Women's Day, Janak Didi teaches men how to cook. 

In order to empower men, on March 8 every year, she teaches men solar cooking. Janak Didi believes that only when both the wings, men and women, will work with mutual strength, that the bird called humanity will fly higher and higher.

For Janak Didi, everything that humans do must be sustainable, must be useful. 

With her message of Sustainable Development, she wants the world to understand that no matter what we are doing, being parents, raising children, becoming engineers, falling in love, living a life, everything must be sustainable, .i.e., must strengthen and continue for an extended period. So, on this Women's Day how about we take a pledge to be sustainable in everything we do and make a better future. That's all, folks. I hope Janak Didi's words inspired you. In case, you have an impressive story to share, do write to me at guneet@wittyfeed.com.Disclaimer: The details in this story were shared with the writer during an interview. WittyFeed has a copyright on the information above.