The Neelesh Misra Show Ep 1: Three Girls Who Paved Their Own Path

Meet three young women who refused to abide by the society’s constraints and created new rules for themselves.

4 min read

Our heroes live among us, fighting their own battles, finding new tracks for themselves, and paving new ways for others. But often, we fail to recognise them. "The Neelesh Misra Show" aims to bring these heroes before you. Every episode of the show will discuss people and issues which reflect the changing times and bring hope for a better tomorrow. These unsung heroes could be anyone or anywhere, just a part of the crowd like every other face.

The show aims to bring forth the issues which impact lives dearly, yet have been untold so far. India's largest rural media platform "Gaon Connection" and The Quint will bring to you these stories every week on "The Neelesh Misra Show."

Starring in the first episode of "The Neelesh Misra Show" are three young women – Sheelu Singh Rajput, Priya Kumari and Dimpi Tiwari. Hailing from villages and hamlets across different parts of India, these three young women refused to abide by society's constraints and set new rules for themselves. You too come forward, discover the tale of these three young women.


Sheelu Singh Rajput

When Sheelu Singh, a resident of Raibareili in Uttar Pradesh, dreamt of becoming an "Aalha" singer, she did not know that she was paving the way for many other young girls like her.

In the village she hails from, girls have to think twice before even dancing on Bollywood songs at their own family functions. But Sheelu was certain she wanted to become an "Aalha" singher.

"Aalha" is a form of folk songs from Bundelkhand, that were only sung by men. That was, of course, before Sheelu stepped into the picture. Not only did she enter this thoroughly male-dominated sphere, she also garnered a lot of acclaim and fame. In the last few years, Sheelu Singh Rajput has risen to become a big name in the "Aalha" music scene.

Every time Sheelu would crunch her teeth and draw her sword, the audience would erupt into mind-numbing applause. Sheelu had to endure a lot of jibes and ugly remarks for daring to cross the threshold of her home and climb on to the stage.

She had to oppose not only the village and her distant relatives, but also her immediate family, but has emerged as a role model to thousands of young girls.


Priya Kumari

This is the story of a young woman who used her courage to pave a path for herself, when all doors had seemingly shut upon her.

Residing in Sonbhadra in Uttar Pradesh, Priya Kumari wanted to become an athlete and climb the Everest. She has successfully completed the beginners course in mountaineering and is now thoroughly involved in "mission Everest".

In Priya’s village, for a girl to go to school is no less than conquering the Everest itself. But Priya dared to see dream beyond the village boundaries and she set off to realise it, banking solely on her will power and determination.

Priya's mother had abandoned her in a garbage dump to die right after her birth. A female social worker found her and brought her up like her own daughter. Priya was only 16 years old when her foster mother passed away too. Her only living relatives – her cousins – started eying her property and became her rivals. They wanted to marry her off and get rid of her. Priya, instead, wanted to touch the snow-capped Everest peak. The ensuing harassment she faced stretched beyond violence and threats, and one day Priya ran away from home.

With only Rs 100 in her pockets, empty-stomach, heart beating with the fear of being caught and eyes shining with big dreams, Priya somehow reached Delhi.

With the help and guidance of an NGO, Priya pursued a mountaineering course in Dehradun. And since then, Priya has already climbed a few peaks of the mighty Himalayas. But, even today, climbing the Everest remains her biggest goal in life.


Dimpy Tiwari

Dimpy Tiwari has won five medals in National Level Kickboxing, including a gold and a silver medal in Taekwondo. She hails from a small village in UP’s Rai Bareilly district.

One can find many boys and girls who have proven their mettle in sports, but Dimpy Tiwari's story is somewhat different. This is because of the circumstances that she overcame in order to get to the playground. Before battling and winning against her competitors on the field, Dimpy battled and won against the society. She has won against orthodox relatives in favour of keeping girls imprisoned inside the house. Her story serves as an inspiration for thousands of young women.

Dimpy’s father Surya Pratap Tiwari was a soldier. Excessive alcohol consumption killed him when Dimpy was merely 13 years old. Her older sister's marriage had been fixed, but there was not enough money for dowry. Owing to the circumstances, the older sister's marriage and family's responsibility fell on Dimpy's shoulders.

Watching kickboxing being taught to boys in the neighbourhood school, Dimpy also felt tempted to learn the sport. However, it was not so easy. Relatives wanted to get rid of her by marrying her off. But Dimpy continued kickboxing, as well as shouldered the responsibilities at home.


Dimpy started giving self-defence training to girls in nearby schools. She also kept participating in national sports. Today, Dimpy is a national level kickboxing player, gearing up for international competitions. Along with this, her self-defence training sessions are still on, and she trains not only other young girls but also police officers.

The struggle and subsequent victory of girls like Sheelu Singh Rajput, Priya Kumari and Dimpy Tiwari is not theirs alone. It is of that of thousands and lakhs of girls like them — girls who have to fight many such fights on everyday of their lives merely in order to procure their rights and space in the society.

Watch the stories of such heroes every week on "The Neelesh Misra Show."

(This piece was originally published on Quint Hindi and has been republished with permission.)

(Translated by Mekhala Saran)

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