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When the rest of the country was busy fighting for independence, there was this lady who relaised that the exploding population of the country would be a bigger problem. Banoo Coyaji was just a young medic then who teamed up with Shakuntala Paranjape (social worker) and started working in the area of family planning. "When we started, people were quite shocked, many wondered how young women could even talk about such things!" Says the silver haired Magsaysay Award winner.

Even at the age of 81 her working schedule is very hectic. She is the director of the 550-bedded research and teaching, King Edward Memorial Hospital, Pune. She is also a member of three separate WHO committees and a consultant with the World Bank, the Ford foundation and UNFAPA (United Nations Family Planning Association). She is also an active director of the Sakal paper ltd.

She does not bother about other people as long as she is satisfied at the end of the day. She judges herself and will continue to work as long as she is wanted and her mental faculties remain acute.She has seen the K.E.M. Hospital grow a 40-bed nursing home housed in little cottages to what it is today. She has been involved with the family planning programs in the city and feels that even after 50 years of medical development it is the poor who are not benefited. Today the K.E.M Hospital has a presence in 300 villages and Dr. Coyaji still makes impromptu visits to the various centers. Women’s education is another issue she feels strongly about. ‘If we had spent the money we channeled into family planning on basic education for women, our population control measures would have been far more effective she says.

According to her the situation deteriorated after the emergency, that’s when family planning just died. Only the Southern states improved while the other states like Bihar, UP, MP, and Rajasthan where 40% of the population lie are in worse shape than ever.She feels she has been lucky to be a woman who did not have to face any prejudice at all. All thanks to her supporting husband. But she still feels that at the end of the day was she there for her family. Her favourite project is the one in Pabal. Here they work with girls in the age groups of 7 to 19 years, building their self-esteem and teaching them that they are so good as anyone else is. The first time she received a call, saying that she was to receive the Ramon Magsaysay award, she thought it was a joke. It was later at her Sakal office that she realised that the call was not a prank.

"It has been a long hard struggle. I am a cock-eyed optimistic and I think things will always work out if you try hard enough and I never give up" she says. She has been a little guilty of not spending enough time with her family and regrets it. Inspite of her busy schedule she still has time for western classical music and reads novels. When asked if she gets any time to rest, she says "there will be plenty of time for that in the grave". Well, the spirit never grows old.