Inspiring Lives: Sudha Chopra

Sudha Chopra

Sudha Chopra was 10 years old when Partition happened. She remembers it clearly, the night their Muslim neighbours in Lahore saved her family’s life by getting them out before a bloodthirsty mob reached their home. Awakened by her mother’s frantic voice telling her they had to leave immediately, Sudha recalls trying to find her slippers in the dark before being pulled out and bundled into the neighbour’s car along with her brother, older sister and her two kids, brother in law, and her parents. Their neighbour drove through a burning Lahore to drop them off safely at the airport where fuelled up Dakotas were waiting to carry people to what they hoped would be safer destinations. Leaving behind everything they had known for generations, they could only pray that the line being drawn to mark the two borders would place Lahore on their side. 

It was not to be as Sudha realised Partition had happened to her on that fateful night. While there was jubilation over Independence, it was tinted with a sense of loss of loved ones and neighbours, homes and lost slippers. 75 years later, Sudha still feels the pain, “I don’t have roots. Roots hi nahi bane uske baad. All my life I have never been able to stay more than 7-8 years in the same place.” 

India gained its Independence and the task of nation building started at the same time as Sudha’s family began rebuilding their lives in a temporary hutment in Delhi. Sudha returned to her studies, and encouraged by her parents, she took up music and kathak classes, along with theatre. “Life was very full”, she remembers when her brother brought home his friend one evening, a dashing young Army officer like him. Sudha and Biddi, as he was known to his loved ones, were friends for some three years before he proposed, and shortly before her 19th birthday, they got married.

Maj and Mrs MM Chopra

It was early August of 1965. Sudha and Biddi had stayed together for just four years out of the ten years they had been married. With long separations being a part of Army life, there was understandable excitement over setting up a new home when they moved to Babina with their two sons. Barely a couple of weeks into settling in, news of the Pakistan Army’s incursion into the Rann of Kutch came in, and on 1st Sept. the Indo-Pak War was declared. 

With Biddi at the border, Sudha stayed-on in Babina with the children. The days went by in worry and prayer until the announcement of the ceasefire was made on 20th September, which also happened to be Sudha’s birthday. She waited to hear from her husband as he always sent her a birthday message no matter where he was, but there was silence. So, a couple of days later when Sudha found herself on the train to Delhi, accompanying her friend who had lost her husband in the war, she decided to ask someone to find out about Biddi.

The very next morning, they received the phone call informing them Maj MM Chopra had been badly injured and had been brought to the Army Hospital in Delhi. At the hospital she was told there had been heavy shelling and Biddi had refused to abandon his tank that had got stuck in the canal. Despite orders to leave the tank, he decided to try and retrieve it or else destroy it as he didn’t want it to fall into enemy hands. And that’s when the enemy shell had burst. Sudha realised that fate had brought her to Delhi, otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to see her husband as he breathed his last on 24th Sept. at 11.30 a.m. Maj MM Chopra, 7th Light Cavalry was decorated with the Vir Chakra for his gallantry. 

At the age of 29 when the task of rebuilding life for herself and her children fell on Sudha’s shoulders, she did not stop to ask, “Why me?” She decided to look ahead and focus on doing the best for her sons. Though at the tender ages of 8 and 5, her  sons were a great source of strength right from the beginning. She recalls the turning point for her came when her elder son was told about his father’s death. He looked at her and said, “Mama fikar mat karo main jaldi bara ho jaunga“. This jolted her out of her grief and she told her mother, “My sons are not going to lose their childhood. I will make sure they grow up in a happy atmosphere. From now, on there will be no tears, no self pity and no looking back.” 

Even as her father-in-law offered to help bring up the children so she wouldn’t have to work, Sudha was very clear that she had to be independant and stand on her own feet. She knew she would need to take up a full time job and looking after the children alone would be difficult. So, after she had sent her sons to Lawrence School, Sanawar, the boarding school her husband had registered them in, she started working. 

Sudha in “Heat and Dust”

She worked as a Producer and Director with Doordarshan for two decades before joining Hindustan Thompson where she oversaw the making of epic productions like Mahabharata and Mirza Ghalib. Alongside came her work in films and television. Show business had always been her passion and she thrived on the positive energy she got from her work and the people who surrounded her. And though she never gave up her 9 to 5 job as it gave her much needed financial security, she found ways to pursue her passions, and acted in films like Meera, Silsila, Heat and Dust, Sparsh and Gharonda among many others.

On the personal front, Sudha had made up her mind early on that she would never get married again. She didn’t want her children to get affected and neither did she feel the need for a man to complete her or support her. Though life was not always easy and there were times of financial challenges, it didn’t buckle her faith that things would get better. Sudha had decided that her life was not going to be about what had happened to her. She just kept her focus on moving forward and making the best of what life had to offer, drawing strength from her children and keeping faith in God. 

The Lady Herself

Today, as her 85th birthday draws closer, Sudha feels a deep sense of satisfaction from having lived life on her own terms, and for carrying happiness within her no matter what came her way. Their family motto, Sheikvaye daro rasan baise ruswai hai, Humne har haal mein jeene ki kasam khai hai”, is apt for a woman who has risen above every adversity that’s come in her path, by never giving up and never giving in. 

Salute’.

*Translation: 
Cribbing about life’s problems only makes people look down upon you, 
No matter what odds we face, we take an oath to live a happy life

Sudha’s Family

Read more by Rashmi B. Nayar


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Picture Credit : Sudha Chopra

54 thoughts on “Inspiring Lives: Sudha Chopra”

  1. Very moving and deeply inspiring.
    Not only is it the motivating story of an admirable person,its written with so much feeling that it can’t but touch you.

    1. Thanks so much Preeti, I’m glad the story reached out to you. I just hope I’ve been able to do justice to it.

    1. I had seen her movies, but was unaware of her inspiring life. It really raised my admiration bar for her.

      1. Thank you so much for the read Rajya Shree. As you have rightly said, there is immense admiration for Sudha Chopra.

    2. Thank you so much Himani. This would have resonated – a story of strength, resilience, and such grace.

  2. Such a strong personality!!Very inspiring!! Never knew she is an army wife as well. And the way you have touched her life events with such sensitivity Rashmi, just loved it! Thank you so much for sharing .

    1. Thank you so much Anjana. Knowing she comes from the tribe of Army wives makes the connect that much more special. I’m so glad her story reached out to you. Thanks again for the read.

  3. It moved me to tears.. what a beautiful person she is in and out. So inspiring to read about her life. Very well written..

    1. Thank you so much Anushka. I’m so glad that her story touched you in that way. Her courage and grace is incredible.

  4. What an amazing woman with an inspirational journey.Ao many aspects of her life have such lessons for all of us.
    Thank you so much Mrs Chopra for sharing it with us.and to think even though we have been a part of the same regiment, there’s so much one didn’t know and truly yours is a life of true resilience.
    Rashmi, thanks for bringing out all these untold inspirational narratives

    1. Thank you so much Vanita. You are so right about the many lessons to learn from her inspiring life story. So proud that she is of the seventh family. Thank you for the read again.

  5. Mrs.Nayar you always come up with such inspiring n motivating articles……we always see one side of a coin….all the events come alive…. the way you have penned them down….v strong woman I must say…. thank you so much for sharing…. always looking forward to coffee n conversation write ups.

    1. Thank you so much Shweta for such a lovely compliment. You are so right, it takes understanding both sides of the coin to truly know a person. Thanks again for the read.

  6. Amazing and inspiring story of a wonderful woman – thanks for bringing it to us . Rashmi the story is well written and I loved the pace and style of it …

  7. Written so well Rashmi. Her courage, grit n determination shown by the lady is really commendable… Not an easy journey… It all came across so beautifully

    1. Thanks so much Mona. I’m so glad the essence of the lady came through and I was able to do some justice to an amazing lady.

  8. Telling a story of a courageous army wife, keeping emotions intact is just an amazing art. Thank you for sharing her story, she is a hero and a legend in herself. Beautiful Mrs Nayar.

    1. Thanks so much Narjjis. You are so right, she is indeed a Hero and a Legend in herself. Thank you again for the read.

  9. Sudha ji exemplifies the motto – ” Courage in the face of adversity”. As an Indian Army wife, she stands tall. Her son’s response brought tears to my eyes. Such is the power of words…
    Thank you C&C for sharing her inspirational journey through this heart – touching article.

    1. Thank you so much Vinita. It got me teary eyed too when she told me about her son’s reply…the power of words…like you rightly said. Thank you again for the read.

  10. Mrs Chopra is a real life hero. She is a remarkable woman who inspires us. She is a beacon of hope for today’s women. Mrs Nayar, this story is so inspiring. Every emotion is so well covered. I loved the story.

    1. Thank you so much Shrishti. You have rightly said, Sudha Chopra is a beacon of hope and strength to all of us. So glad the story resonated with you.

  11. A real motivation for so many living in adversity. It is truly inspiring life of a braveheart. Thanks for sharing with us nd preparing us for any adversity. Thanks Rashmi for making us aware of such a precious life of a braveheart. So proud to have met her and being a part of of this awe inspiring family of the Super Seventh.

    1. Thanks so much Neeraa. Yes, so very proud to be a part of the seventh family with her. She truly is a braveheart like you said and immensely inspiring for all of us.

  12. Salute to this brave lady. So inspiring and Rashmi you brought out the moving story so well. Kudos.

    1. Thank you so much Shilpa. These were all her words, I just wrote them down. Thanks again for the read.

    1. Totally agree with you Raaj – Sudha Chopra is an extraordinary human being in every aspect – Salute’ to her.

  13. What an incredible persona. You stood tall in every adversity. You had so much courage and clarity. Your story will inspire the current generation towards self-awakening and not to be too obsessed with themselves.

    1. Completely agree with you Amita – her courage in overcoming adversity is truly an example for all of us. Thank you for the read.

    1. Totally agree with you Bandna, salute to her incredible resolve and resilience. Thank you for the read.

  14. It takes a great deal of strength and perseverance to overcome adversity… Mrs Chopra has shown immense strength in her life.. She is exemplary…!
    Kudos to Rashmi for doing absolute justice to Mrs Chopra’s story through her beautiful narration..!!! Couldn’t have been said better..!!!

    1. Thank you so much Neha. That’s a huge compliment that I’ve been able to do justice to Mrs Chopra’s incredible life story. Such an amazing lady! Thank you for the read.

  15. A beautiful write up Rashmi…. Had seen Mrs Chopra in movies… Didn’t know about her army connection….. Her story is truly inspiring.

  16. War Widows, often the unsung heroes. Highest respect and admiration for the women of the armed forces to live and cope under all circumstances. An inspiring example of Sudha ji. Thank you for bringing her life to light.

    1. Thanks so much Priya. Unsung heroes is right. There are stories of courage and determination right there but seldom known or told. Thank you for the read.

  17. Mrs Chopra’s strength rubs off on us when we read about the way she has braved all the adversities that came her way. Truly touching and deeply inspiring.

    1. Thanks so much Sapna. I hope it does – her strength and determination with all the grace. Thank you for the read.

  18. Rashmi, story of a courageous woman, courageously articulated. I remember watching Sudha Chopra on Television almost daily. Charming, eloquent and hugely talented. One had no idea of the insurmountable trials and tribulations she had endured from such an early age, and with a smile and resilient attitude. So much to learn from her. Thank you for enlightening us with her story.

    1. Thank you so much Sonia. You are so right, her calm demeanour is admirable coming as it does with all the challenges and adversities she has overcome so courageously in life. Thanks for the read.

  19. Tiding over the colossal loss and tragedy, the onus of piecing together her life was surely a super human effort.The avalanche of crushing emotional stress, threatened to engulf the resilient lady….Mrs Sudha Chopra. Yet she stood immovable as a rock and withstood the testing and trying times . It sends shivers down the spine to so much so as to even read how, with poise and stoicism she faced adversities and challenges.
    I love the way Mrs Chopra chose to take care of herself and her young ones….I also love the way she chose to rise like the proverbial phoenix. My deepest respects to this amazing lady, who leads by example.
    Rashmi, impressive and captivating narration, as you deftly unfolded the ‘ never say die’ attitude of Mrs Chopra , devastated by trauma at such an early age. Keeping the reader engrossed and hooked on, was no mean task !!

    1. Thank you so much for the wonderful feedback Mrs Sachar. This is a really lovely pen picture of Sudha Chopra. The most amazing part is that she doesn’t think she’s done anything out of the ordinary and believes that anybody in her place would have done the same. There’s so much to learn from her…one write up just isn’t enough!

    1. Truly so. I have learnt a lot about resilience and inner strength from our conversations. Sudha Chopra is an incredible human being.

  20. One icon of the Seventh has done justice to another icon. I think it was but apt that you brought out our hidden jewel – Mrs Chopra and showcased her grit and determination for life.

    I think you both are our women of substance Ma’am

    1. Thank you for the appreciation Amol. I’m really happy to have been given the opportunity to share Sudha Chopra’s inspiring and remarkable story with everyone. So proud to be a part of the same Seventh family. We Lead.

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