Y. Aruna is just another average Indian, looking to move up the social and economic ladder. With two college-going children to take care of, her earnings help supplement the family income. She had a good job at the Ameenpur factory of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages (HCCB).

Her childhood desire to become an engineer had got her as far as being in a factory setup of one of the world’s foremost manufacturing companies – Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages - where high-end machines and beverage bottling lines would give her company.

That a woman would work in a factory setup was itself a breakthrough in 1996. But as Aruna herself narrates, she missed female companionship. Lunch was often alone and much after all the men had finished theirs. Coming from the background that she did, it was a bit odd for her to share the lunch table with men.

It was the lack of company of women that got her to convincing more women to join HCCB. Rasheeda Begum joined soon after. The two also soon found Padma. Life rolled on merrily but the desire to run machines and lines continued to tug at Aruna’s heart’s strings.

It was only 20 years later that she summed up enough courage to talk to her supervisor and the factory manager at the Ameenpur plant. She had held herself back, because she had studied up to grade X and did not have a college degree to run machines.

Thankfully, both the managers understood. Perhaps they would have realised that sometimes “passion trumps perfection.” They sanctioned her training and job change. From merely inspecting glass bottles of finished products to actually making them was her dream. It was about to come true.

Soon enough, Y. Aruna became the first women operator of a production line in the whole of HCCB. Earning such a feat in a workforce of 8,000 people was no mean task. In any case, conventional wisdom presumed that women could only do ‘softer’ jobs. Aruna had re-written that script.

If Aruna could do it, we can do it too, said Padma and Rasheeda. Today, they are giving each other company, not just at the lunch table but also on the factory floor.

The women of grit that they all are, all three work in the morning 6 am to 2 pm shift. Before coming to work they would have done their bit for their families, completed some household chores before taking the office cab to report to work on time. Machines don’t intimidate them anymore, neither does the world. Their tribe has grown as their story has spread far and wide - there are now 30 women production operators at HCCB plants across India.

A little spark that Aruna had ignited in 1996 is now gathering steam.

This International Women’s Day is a day most appropriate to re-live the stories of Aruna, Padma and Rasheeda. More power to them and may they continue to shine forth as the day.