Home Profile Sindh-born Damyanti Hingorani Gupta – First female engineer at Ford Motors

Sindh-born Damyanti Hingorani Gupta – First female engineer at Ford Motors

Sindh-born Damyanti Hingorani Gupta – First female engineer at Ford Motors

She was the first female admitted to the engineering college in India. Hingorani family had to migrate to Indian in 1947 when Damyanti was 5

Sindh Courier

Sindh-born Damyanti Hingorani, hailing from Tharushah, a small town, became the first female with a Masters in Engineering ever hired by Ford Motor Company in 1967. After being the first woman admitted to the engineering college that she attended in India and graduating, Damyanti moved to Detroit, Michigan, and started her new life with Ford Motors.

Born in 1942 in Tharushah in the Sindh province of Pakistan, Damyanti moved to Mumbai with her family after the partition of India in 1947. She was raised to be an ambitious girl by her mom who believed educating the girl child is educating a potential future family. Her mother Gopibai Hingorani made her a solemn promise: that she was going to give her daughter something no one could take away, education.

Her parents were well-to-do landowners who lost everything overnight when rioting and looting broke out, forcing them to flee to Karachi. Damyanti was 5.

Here is the life story of Damyanti Hingorani

Darkness hung over Pakistan’s Port of Karachi as five-year-old Damyanti followed her parents up the metal ramp and onto the waiting cargo ship. She wore her most refined frock, a dress made by her ma’s own hand. Tiny fingers grabbed the railing as she ambled, sandwiched single file, between her mother and grandmother. Damyanti kept her eyes on the blue silk of her mother’s sari as it moved like waves in a gentle sea. She stepped onto the ship poised to take her from the only home she had known.

Damyanti - Mother Hingorani
Damyanti’s mother Gopibai

Like ten million others, Damyanti’s family had become displaced, instant refugees in an emerging crisis in India. That morning the family rose early in Tharushah, their small town of Sindh. They took only what they could carry. Knowing the rest of their belongings would be reclaimed by another family who chose to stay despite the harsh political/religious environment.

In 1947, over two hundred years of British occupation finally ended in India. However, the bloody, religious war between the Hindus and Muslims caused the physical division. Their home in Sindh had become part of Pakistan overnight.

Damyanti Hingorani

Damyanti could hear the water slapping against the ship’s sides as it pulled away from the port. Her large brown eyes searched her ancestors’ strong faces for comfort and answers.

“What is gone is gone,” her twenty-five-year-old mother, Gopibai Hingorani, gently told her, “Now we must look forward.”

Damyanti-HingoraniWithout employment, finances, or contacts, the family traveled from their peaceful small town to one of India’s most enormous, bustling, and overcrowded cities, Bombay (Mumbai). The instant chaos of street peddlers, taxi horns, and hurried drivers surrounded the young family as they struggled to find housing and employment. The goal was to create a new foundation upon which their future would be built. That initial, unwanted journey, which tore them from their home, ultimately changed the trajectory of young Damyanti’s life.

Damyanti Gupta with her husband Subhash on wedding day in 1968 - News Press
Damyanti Gupta with her husband Subhash on wedding day in 1968 – News Press

“My mother was a visionary,” Rani (Damyanti) Gupta said. “She only had a fourth-grade education, yet she was wise and very talented. She sewed and cooked for jobs. My father became a pharmacist and eventually owned a small medical shop. Every day my mother would look into my eyes. She would tell me that I could do anything I wanted,” Rani said. “She said I was special and promised to do everything in her power to make my dreams come true. Quite a statement when we had so little. She said she would make certain I would have something that no one could ever take from me; a good education.”

Like her mother, Damyanti visualized her future. “I always had dreams of what I wanted in my life,” she said. “But, dreams alone are not enough. My parents and grandparents taught me to block out everything that would take me away from my goal and work hard to achieve what I wanted in life. I followed their advice and did just that.”

The Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, came to Baroda (Vadodra), where the family had settled, in 1955. Damyanti was thirteen when she rode her bicycle to the polo ground to hear the Prime Minister’s speech. She parked her bike and located a vacant space near the podium. Damyanti pulled a red handkerchief from her pocket, smoothed it out upon the brown dirt, and sat cross-legged, waiting to be inspired.

Damyanti with her first son Sanjay
Damyanti with her first son Sanjay

“He said that we finally have freedom after two hundred years of British rule,” she recalled. “But, we have no industry,” he told the crowd. “We need people to do technical jobs, and we need engineers,” Gupta said. “The Prime Minister told us that he wasn’t just talking to the boys. He was also talking to the little girls in the crowd. At that moment, I knew that I wanted to be an engineer.”

Damyanti followed that dream and was the first female to attend the College of Mechanical Engineering at Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda, India, where she earned a bachelor’s degree. Initially, they didn’t even have a bathroom for females. However, the College soon built one. They saw her tenacity and exceptional spirit and wanted her to thrive in their environment.

“No one should ever tell you how to be you,” she said. “It is up to you to find your passion and create your path.” At the age of nineteen, while at the University, she read a book about Henry Ford, and a new vision appeared on her horizon.

Following graduation, utilizing her parent’s life savings, a determined Damyanti left India and traveled to Germany before coming to America. To make her dream a reality, she eventually moved to Detroit, Michigan, the home of the Ford Motor Company. She applied for an open position and was turned away, as the company did not hire women. Months later, a determined Damyanti tried again. This time she explained to her interviewers that they would never know what a woman engineer could do for them until they actually hired one. Taking her excellent advice, she became the first female with a Master’s Degree in Engineering (from Oklahoma State University) to be hired by this prestigious company. Her supervisor asked her to choose a nickname as Damyanti was thought to be too hard for Americans to say. She chose the name Rani due to its Hindi translation.

“Every day, they called me Queen,” she said with a broad warm smile and eyes like the sun. “I don’t think they ever knew that.”

Damyanti’s views life’s adversities as possibilities. “Life is going to be a rollercoaster,” she said. “There is always a thrill in the up and the down. Challenge comes from hardship, and learning comes from failure. Do not be afraid of any of it,” she said, the melodic accent of her childhood still evident in every word.

Damyanti with Sanjay, Subhash and Suneel Gupta
Damyanti with Sanjay, Subhash and Suneel Gupta

In an interview at the age of seventy-seven years, looking back on a satisfying life, she had said, “my father always said satisfaction was more important than success. I am a very content woman.”

Damyanti Hingorani met her husband while driving through Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her car had broken down, and she searched the white pages at a phone booth for the first Indian surname she could find. She called the number, and Subhash Gupta, not only answered her phone but offered to come to her aid. The stars collided. They fell in love, married, and had two sons, Sanjay and Suneel.

Damyanti Gupta was asked by her boss at Ford to quit working when she was pregnant with her first son, Sanjay. She transferred to a new department and continued working.

Gupta’s wide smile had broadened as she spoke of her family, and her gentle eyes beaconed you closer. “I’m a proud mother. Most people know my son Sanjay. He is a neurosurgeon and chief medical correspondent for CNN. Sanjay won the medal of honor and several Emmy awards,” she gushed. “And Suneel is an entrepreneur, a lawyer, and has an MBA. He was a visiting scholar with Harvard, ran for Congress, and was nominated to the Supreme Court bar,” she beamed while looking for family photos to share.

Damyanti Gupta
Damyanti Gupta with family

“My daughters-in-law are educated women who have college degrees. They are both very accomplished and wonderful mothers. But if my granddaughters ever need anyone stronger, they always have me. You can’t push children, but they will follow your lead.”

Rani Gupta has known who she is since she breathed her mother’s early visualization into her soul. She exemplifies a brave, intelligent, loving, and steadfast woman that causes other women, including this writer, to want to be in her presence.

“Everything happens for one’s good,” Damyanti said, “but it takes education, dreams, and patience to see that. If not for apartheid, I would not be where and who I am today. The good things in my life happened after something bad. While you wait to see the beauty that will come, I suggest that you work as hard as possible to create a very satisfying life.”

Family, and the life after retirement

Damyanti Gupta retired to Fort Myers in 2011 after working as an engineer at Ford Motor Company.

Damyanti Gupta, of Fort Myers, was featured on the Time Firsts website, which showcases women who are the first to do something in their field.

The elder son, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, followed his mother in his own way, becoming something of a Renaissance Man. The neurosurgeon, became the face of CNN’s COVID-19 coverage.

Damyanti with family

The younger son, Suneel Gupta, also put his mother’s tenacity to use in adulthood. The former U.S. Congressional candidate, has started various businesses relating to health care. He teaches a class about innovation at Harvard University. His new book, “Backable: The Surprising Truth About What Makes People Take a Chance On You,” was also published.

“My parents had to flee from the small village to a coastal town,” said Damyanti, who celebrated her 79th birthday Saturday. Her tale has been long told to a national audience before, as Time Magazine featured her in a 2018 issue about female innovators.

Suneel Gupta, who lives in Birmingham, Michigan, said “the word impossible was not allowed in our house.”

Damyanti Hingiorani Gupta visits Tharushah, Sindh 

“Sanjay was just somebody who wanted to make sure he was having the impact on the world he wanted to have,” Suneel Gupta said. “In some ways, it was surprising when a practicing physician from suburban Michigan becomes a national correspondent for CNN. It very much embodies the same journey my parents took.”

Sanjay Gupta and his wife are the parents of three girls. Suneel and his wife are the parents of two girls.

Both sons said they try to instill the same drive and work ethic that they received from their parents.

“Every morning, we do this little routine,” Suneel Gupta said. “We’ve been doing this since COVID. There are two questions I ask them. I ask them, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ They say, ‘To find their gift.’

“What is the purpose of life? They say: ‘To give it away.’ We are here because we want to find these things we’re gifted at. These things we love to do and find a way to share them with the world. My role as a parent, it’s a lot of the energy that my parents gave me. I’m doing my best to pass it along to my kids. Part of that energy is that ‘anything is possible’ spirit.”

(This write up is based on Damyanti Hingorani’s various interviews and articles about her)


Courtesy: She The People (Posted on September 15, 2019) Worldwide Speakers’ Group, News Press, Time, Carynhacker Buechel 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here