A prize-winning actress (for some reason, the word ‘award’ wasn’t as much in vogue then), she was a triple M A, plus she did her Ph.D. after twenty years of marriage and two children. The first MA was in Sociology from the University of Mumbai, the second was a Diploma in Social Service Administration from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (this is recognized by the UPSC as equivalent to an MA) and the third, a Masters in Public Health Education fro the University of California, Berkeley. She couldn’t have done any of this without enormous support from her husband and mother in law. Remarkably, whilst it was her brother who pushed her to the Ph. D. program, it was her husband and her mother in law who helped her execute that dream. It’s so hard to believe that an actress could be actively on stage and still work as Professor and Head of the Department, Population Policies and Development at the International Institute of Population Studies, Mumbai. How could one live seriously at one level, and do farces and comedies at another? After her retirement, she got involved in a zillion (ok, let’s bring that down to fifteen…fifteen!!) different projects, assignments and more, as consultant, guide, leader, that sort of thing. And all the while, still being involved in theatre, even modeling for advertisements in between. Just these things could’ve made a best-seller.
But there’s more. Way back in the ‘fifties, she married a Hindu. Lily Ezekial became Asha Bhende. Even today, that’d make headlines. If it was 2008, a news channel would have interviewed her and asked her about her views, personal life, and would have plauded her attitude, and would have interviewed the aam aadmi on the street to find out what he felt about it, and so forth. Asha and her husband (mitr, she calls him) Atmaram didn’t think it was worth such hoohaa. They were in love, had similar interests, were practical, fun-loving and young, and they simply went ahead and got married. There’s so much, so much that could have been written about in her biography. It feels empty when one reads it and one craves to know more.
She’s eighty now and on her birthday, she released the book she’s written on her life, aptly titled Majhya Jagaat Me (In my own world, am I). Shobha De, who was the chief guest, correctly pointed out that all that the
‘liberated’ women are crying themselves hoarse about she’s done with a giggle and no fuss.
Born a Jew, in 1928, she married a Hindu in the early ‘fifties, without eloping, fighting, getting headlines in the newspaper at a time when inter-religion marriages were really, really rare. When ‘working women’ were still to come into their own, her mother was the principal of a school, her sister a doctor, and she, eventually, became an expert in her own field. Not much struggle, not much strife? I doubt it. Had she delved deeper into her own world, she could have given examples today’s eves would have loved to know about. I, for one, am curious about her conservative, widowed mother-in-law who cared for her home and sat her children when she was at study/work. Once, a group of women came visiting and pointed out that there were no deities in the house. And her mother in law replied, that her grandchildren were her ‘gods’. That was when Asha Bhende realized how much her mother in law had adjusted to her marriage. Jews don’t worship statues, so the thought hadn’t ever entered her mind that her husband’s family may have different views/beliefs.
Her book makes one hunger for more. What comments did others make at her unusual choices? Who were her friends and what were their opinions about her lifestyle? How did she cope with the nitty-gritty of balancing work and serious hobby simultaneously? It’s a rich history that needs more details to be woven into the chapters. Hope she comes out with an English edition so that more people can read it. In the meantime, for Marathi readers, I’d recommend it: a slim volume, a quick but interesting read.

Source: http://creative.sulekha.com/asha-bhende-an-actress-and-academician_370588_blog