Renowned mathematician and educationalist Dr Mangala Narlikar passed away at 80 in her residence in Pune after a prolonged illness. She is survived by her husband, astrophysicist Dr Jayant Narlikar, her three daughters, and five grandchildren.

Her body will be placed at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) for people to pay their respects. And the cremation will later be held at the Vaikunth crematorium, as per The Times of India.

Born in 1943 in Pune, Dr Mangala’s family gave utmost importance to education irrespective of one’s gender.

“I knew Math was a male-dominated subject back then, but I couldn’t accept the generalisation that girls are bad at Maths or the calculations jokes because here I was, topping all my examinations, including my final year at the university,” she said.

She was married to Dr Jayant Narlikar in 1966 while she was working at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, after which she decided to put her career on hold and followed her husband to Cambridge, England.

After sincerely dedicating six years to taking care of her family while travelling across the world, Dr Mangala was about to enter a new phase of her life when they returned to Mumbai.

While she always wanted to follow her love for mathematics, it was her colleague’s brutally honest words that churned a silent storm inside her. “This is the problem with you girls…You will study hard, score high marks, and then give it all up after marriage,” said the colleague.

“Till then, I had never prioritised my career because of my choices but now I took the hard decision of juggling two worlds. Jayant and my in-laws were always supportive so there at least I didn’t have to battle,” said Dr Mangala.

Her PhD days would begin as early as 4 am and she would juggle classes, getting the children ready for school, cooking, looking after the needs of her in-laws and also teaching part-time at Mumbai University.

Additionally, she wrote and made concrete changes to the way textbooks were published at Balbharti, the Maharashtra State Bureau of Textbook Production & Curriculum Research Centre.

In 2013, Dr Mangala was appointed as the Chairman of Balbharti who made several significant developments in the state curriculum. Her books were strictly priced at Rs 10 so that every child could afford them.

Post-retirement, she kept herself active by being a guest lecturer at Pune University and even conducted online classes for university students when the pandemic hit.

“Any human, irrespective of gender, can grow if we consciously create an environment that promotes intellect over inhibitions, progressive thinking over regressive norms,” said the Math genius.