‘It is necessary that no matter what section of society she belongs to, every woman has to know three things: one, she has to know her body, how it works, so that nobody can use it or tamper with it against her will. Two, every woman has to have a skill that can generate income for her. This is very important so that she is not dependent on anyone for her survival. And three, every woman should be broadly aware how the democratic structures and institutions of our country work—be it the gram panchayat, the state assembly, the national parliament, or our unions, cooperatives, federations and associations, so that she knows she belongs to them and can someday participate in them.’
So says Ms. Ela Bhat, in her Introduction to Sudha Menon’s ‘Leading Ladies. Women Who Inspire India’. And when it comes from the wisdom, the gravitas and the experience of Ms. Bhat, we better take it seriously!
‘Leading Ladies’ is a compilation of the life stories of 15 eminent women-achievers. As the author herself says, many of them have been written about quite often—Amrita Patel, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Vinita Bali, etc. But every author and piece does throw some new light, does surface some new angle. And there are some lesser-written about heroines too. I was particularly taken with the stories of Lila Poonawala, Mallika Srinivasan and PT Usha. While the criteria of selection are not spelt out, I don’t think it is much of a point to quibble about–the women featured come from a variety of backgrounds—business, to non-profit work, to sports.
The author has been lucky enough to spend considerable time with each of the featured women, and hence, there is both detail and affection in the writing of the pieces.
Positive stories and stories of achievers are inspirational and important. Especially important are stories of women who fight the odds, break stereotypes, venture into new territories, and come out winners. The book is an easy read, in a story-telling kind of style.
Good weekend or in-flight reading. Read it yourself and gift it to young women you know. And especially, I wish colleges and educational institutions would buy this for their libraries.
Leading Ladies. Women Who Inspire India. Sudha Menon. Fortytwo Bookz Galaxy. 2010.