“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Two babies were born in the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant government hospital at 11:38 p.m. one Monday in 1991.

The father in the other room left as soon as he saw that it was a girl.

My father stayed and believed that I was the most beautiful thing in the world.

My parents came from villages in India that saw girls as burdens, women that were dependents of men.

In Minnesota, my mother shared stories from her past. My great-grandmother raised ten children on her own after her husband died. Another great-grandmother built a large general store, operating from the veranda outside her home. My father’s great-great-grandmother sold road-side street snacks, investing her profits until she owned half of the town’s land.

“Look at what these women had,” my parents said, “and look at where they wanted to go.”

I traveled back to Pathapatnam and Rayagada, learning from local mothers, wives, and daughters. In the United States, I mentored girls in business and economics. I will own my fate, overcoming any boulders destiny places in my way with resilience. My grandchildren will share the story of their grandmother, a shrewd, confident, independent woman who inspired other women to take control.

— Viroopa Volla