Prakash K Ahluwalia, a Banker in Her 20s, Dancer And Athlete in Her 70s!


Back in the 1970s, women were restricted to households, only a few elite women made their way into the men-dominated social hierarchy. The young ladies who faced their inner demons shedding old shibboleths paved the way for the others of their league with the passage of time.

Prakash K Ahluwalia

One such Tricity resident is Prakash Kaur Ahluwalia, now in her seventies, who was the face of one of India’s leading banks post-independence, the UCO Bank, caIled United Commercial Bank then, owned by the Birlas until it was nationalized in 1969.

Prakash K Ahluwalia in her 20's

With head office in Kolkata, Prakash was selected as the first lady manager in the UCO Bank in India, which had over 1200 branches nationwide and ten branches abroad. When the first branch of the bank opened at Jaipur in Rajasthan, which was the hometown of the UCO Bank founder GD Birla, they wanted a woman to lead the bank. The owners wanted a promising and dynamic Indian woman banker to lead the bank to open new vistas for women and set a benchmark. Let us hear her story in her own words:

I was posted in the Syndicate Bank as an officer in New Delhi, one day the bank manager called me and, without telling me about an interview planned by the UCO Bank director and higher officials, sent me to the Parliament Street branch on the pretext of some office work. After I saw three General Managers from Kolkata in a big hall waiting for me, I knew it was an interview, an offer which I had refused earlier because I knew my parents wouldn’t send me beyond Delhi and they were looking for a lady manager in Jaipur. Without any fear, I answered their questions in the interview which went for over an hour. They had already interviewed many other lady bankers, but were not satisfied. Here was I ready to say ‘No’ to the offer because my parents wouldn’t let me go. They selected me, but I declined the offer fearing my parents refusal and that is what actually happened. Now, my current boss spoke to my father and convinced him to atleast talk to the Syndicate Bank chairman who told my father ‘had my daughter got selected for this opportunity, I would have definitely let her go’.  My father somehow agreed, they sent two air tickets, for my father and myself, to Dehradun where my father lived. where we hit another dead end. My mother stuck to her decision not to let her daughter go as far as Jaipur to work, and get me married instead. In those days, nobody wanted to make daughters work in offices, it was kind of a taboo. Somehow, my father was able to convince her, it is solely because of his efforts that I was able to breach social inhibitions and cross the threshold of women empowerment.  

 An avid dancer and athlete at 70s

Prakash K Ahluwalia

After I retired about 15 years ago and after my husband’s death, I started looking at my other interests which I could not pursue while I was working. I started dancing in public functions though I was not a trained dancer, I participated in many competitions which gave me the inspiration to do what I like and which I could not do earlier because of my job.

Winner of Rose Queen

She has given a dance performance at the Tagore Theatre to a full house where famous playback singer Kavita Krishnamoorthy personally appreciated her display of talent. She regularly participates in the Rose Festival contests for senior citizens and has won the Rose Queen contest a couple of times. She participated in the Haryana Government sponsored athletic events at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Sector 3, Panchkula and won many prizes.


Six-seven years when I gave my first public performance on the stage at a Haryana government function at the Pinjore Gardens, the then Director, Haryana Tourism, Sunita Mishra, addressed me a as a dancer and it gave me a different feeling, I did not understand whether it was a promotion or a demotion, from a banker to a dancer.



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