Between fighting off patriarchy and learning the tricks of business at 57, Lata Bajoria discovered her true self

The 57-year-old owner of one of the country’s biggest jute mills in Kolkata had to overcome the odds and fight a deep-rooted patriarchal society very late in her life after the sudden demise of her husband Arun Bajoria in 2008.

She got married into a conservative Kolkata household at the age of 20, and it was a drastic change from her free-willed Mumbai upbringing. “When your husband is so well-known, you automatically have to be in his shadow. You couldn’t say, ‘I want to do this, I want to do that’. You couldn’t ask questions such as, ‘What’s going on?’ or ‘Where are you going?’ either,” she explains.

Starting out, she knew nothing about jute, or the financial and legal aspects of business. Today, she not only runs the jute business her way but is also rediscovering her true self by engaging in socially responsible pursuits. If anything, Lata Bajoria’s story is that of her determination to learn to do things right and being persistent. “I look at learning each day as a new adventure. Earlier, when I attended parties with my husband, I would speak to the wives of other businessmen about home, children and such. But after I took over, I would talk to the men instead, and ask their opinions about running a business,” she explains. Considering the conservative nature of her family, her actions were not short of being bold,” she says.

The mill is also a melange of activities – right from visits by the British High Commission to India to filmmakers and photographers such as Barbara Davidson. The environment-loving jute baroness’ ultimate mission is to help the industry make a grand comeback.

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