My Ajji and I: Reminiscing A Brave Grandmother

Dr Nilima Kadambi


Having spent a few years living with her Ajji (grandmother) during her childhood, Dr Nilima Kadambi heard many stories of her grandmother’s adventurous early life in her village.

My Ajji and I is the story of the author’s grandmother (Dr. Sarladevi Khot) who is her role model and inspiration. It is the author’s tribute to her grand-mother on her 120th birth anniversary (1897 – 2017).

Dr. Sarladevi Khot

A girl from a modest background, Dr Khot was born in British occupied India in the late 19th century who was orphaned at age 2, married at age 9, became a child widow at 10, a doctor at 29 and dared to get remarried when she was 30.

Dr. Sarladevi Khot worked in Tanzania’s British colony and gave birth to the author’s father (in the African jungles) when she was 33.

She then came back to India to establish a maternity home to propagate safe institutional birthing in the small town of Ranebennur, Karnataka.

“The book is a generational narrative that goes back and forth across a 120 year period. It is primarily a grand-daughter’s perspective of the inspirational life that her dear Ajji had lived and the influence this had on her own life.

“There are interesting similarities and co-incidences of both our lives, like studying in the same medical institution in Pune, marrying our classmates and travelling to experience adventurous lives in Africa and Russia.

“There is also a stark contrast in the circumstances of our births and the challenges that each young woman had to face.

Primarily it is the story of an unsung hero – Dr. Sarladevi Khot – my Ajji ,” says Nilima Kadambi.

“I was inspired to write this book as a tribute to this brave and amazing woman who I was very blessed to have had, as my grandmother. She was my role model and inspiration and influenced many important decisions that I have made in my life.

“I experienced a very strong inner calling to write her story with the ardent hope that many more could be inspired by it, she adds.

Speaking about her grandmother, Nilima say, “She was this tiny woman ( barely 4 ½ ft tall) who stood tall and brave to face all the challenges that life put in her path. She was a brave soul and a strong woman who lived by very high standards. A hardworking doctor, caring mother, compassionate and helpful lady, my Ajji was an adorable and inspiring grandma.

“My fondest memory, is of her sitting in the balcony of her home in Pune on a low round cane stool, drying her long hair in the morning sun. The silver grey streaked hair touched the ground and glistened in the sunlight.

Nilima Kadambi and her grandmother

“It was soft and smelt clean and lovely. The best part was her allowing me to play with her long hair and comb it for her too,” she added.

Talking about her first writing experience, Nilima says, “I really enjoyed the journey of researching and writing this book. It felt almost like I was re-living my Ajji’s life, one year at a time; feeling her pain, fear and distress; sharing her joys, triumphs and achievements; savouring all my own childhood and young adult life memories.

“The difficulty I faced was in choosing, which of the huge collection of pictures to put in the book and which ones to leave out. Also I had to work hard to keep the narrative as objective as possible, adds Nilima.

“The truth in this beautiful Quote by Mother Teresa, Not everybody can do great things in life, but everybody can do many little things with great Love; is well reflected in My Ajji and I.

“I still dream of visiting Tanzania (Tanganyka as it was called in 1930s) and stop by all the places that Ajji and Tatya (her grandparents) lived in, over 11 years of their early married life,” says Kadambi.

Nilima proposed to publish a Marathi narrative of My Ajji and I in the near future, so that it reaches a larger audience and inspires many young girls living in rural Maharashtra.

Loveleen Kaur

Loveleen Kaur

She loves travelling, dogs, sarcasm, humour and anything that spells F O O D, in that order. A writer on a journey to make positive stories a morning ritual and give society what it needs the most - optimism !!

Reach her at or tweet @KaurKaur18
Loveleen Kaur