Annabel Mehta dedicated her life long ago to the other side of Mumbai, without whom the city will not be able to function as it does today. Annabel was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire for her services to the underprivileged. Annabel Mehta is also Sachin Tendulkar’s mother-in-law.
Early Life of Annabel Mehta
Annabel Lancaster came from a family in Worcestershire. Daughter of a businessman, Annabel has three elder sisters. When she was completing her postgraduate studies at the London School of Economics, Annabel met Anand Mehta from Mumbai, who was getting a degree in Economics and it wasn’t long before they decided to get married.
Although her family wasn’t sure of sending their daughter to India to settle, she had made up her mind to move to India and become Annabel Mehta. In 1966, she travelled to India and in December 1966, Anand and Annabel got married.
Annabel was able to adjust well in Mumbai as she found a lot of similarities between her family and that of Anand. At the time, there were a number of British influences over India which helped her feel at home in Mumbai.
Adjusting to Mumbai
Making an identity of her own, being a foreigner, was very challenging for Annabel. As a foreigner, she was not able to work or have an income of her own. She knew that she wanted to do something and not just sit around. Finally, she was able to get hands-on with her car, which was a luxury in Mumbai back then, and was able to change her life from that point on.
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Starting A New Career
Slowly she discovered that her owning a car could help her and others a lot. She realized that she can volunteer for an NGO that distributed excess wedding food to the hungry or poor living in institutions or even the ones who lived in pavements.
Volunteering in this food-delivering charity led her to work with the newly formed Spastics Society of India and eventually to her meeting with the president of Apnalaya, Shanta Gupta. Annabel started working in Apnalaya in 1973, and slowly the organization began to grow. The organization changed its approach towards social work and involved itself with the community as a whole. Slowly, branches of Apnalaya began to grow in different regions of Mumbai.
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Balance Between Rich and Poor
Annabel always had difficulty in adjusting to the way the poor were treated in India. She often had fights with her husband about the fact that they give more money to purchase a bottle of whiskey as compared to the household that used to come to her home. She took time to adjust to these changes but even now she is not happy with such marginalization.
In any case, Annabel was able to adjust to India very well, coming from a part of the world that was dominated by whites and it was not even allowed to make friends with the colored ones. She loves the diversity in India and is happy with the different perspectives she gets because India is such a mix of cultures.
In 2017, UK high commission got more involved with her work, especially when Prince William and his wife Kate traveled with Apnalaya kids in 2016. It was then that they contacted her to ask if she would like to be honored, she was touched and heartfelt.
Her son-in-law Sachin Tendulkar tries to help her and support her however he can and she really appreciates this. Annabel is really content with her social work and the way Apnalaya is supporting the poor and marginalized of the city but sometimes she also has to struggle with the feeling of powerlessness, especially when they see something but are not able to help the people in a much better way. But she is really committed to her work and wishes to continue till her last breath.