About the Book
The Indian Woman-a picture of poise, an image of intellect, an exposition of enterprise.
She doesn’t just nurture the social, cultural and spiritual traditions of India by strengthening the ancient civilisation’s family values and secular ethos, but also nourishes the young nation’s spirit of entrepreneurship by playing a stellar role across professions, businesses and industries.
This iconoclastic book captures fascinating journeys of some of the most celebrated Indian women. From the iconic Lata Mangeshkar to the fiery Mary Kom, from the legendary Bhanu Athaiya to the brilliant Kiran Mazumdar Shaw-for the first time they all come together to share their inspiring experiences, in their own words.
A collector’s item, this creatively conceptualised and beautifully designed book, provides deep insights into the mind of this great nation and its women and succeeds in passing on the enduring legacy to future generations.
About the Author
Shobit Arya is the founder and publisher of Wisdom Tree, an award-winning independent Indian publishing organisation. He contributes regularly to national dailies and industry journals and is mentioned in Limca Book of Records for innovative publishing. He is the photo editor of the book, The India Idea.
Richa Anirudh is a well-known television presenter. She has been hosting the award- winning talk show Zindagi Live on IBN7 which deals with relevant social issues. She started her career with Zee News in 2002 as a reporter and news anchor. She was a Chevening scholar in 2012.
Her compassion unfathomable, her determination unbeatable and her conviction impregnable-if we were to assimilate the pith and core of the timelessness of Indian civilisation, one factor that would shine through brighter than most others, would be the strength of the Indian woman.
Today, as the women of India stand tall on the shoulders of ancestors who worshipped, idolised and respected womanhood, they certainly have a sublime legacy to be proud of. All things eternal-Mother Goddess, all things enduring-Mother Earth, all things unwavering-Mother India, and all things unconditional-a mother’s love, have always been etched intricately on this nation’s consciousness.
Let’s begin from the beginning. Shakti-the all-powerful divine feminine is believed to be the personification of cosmic energy, the manifest; and Shiva-the supreme God, the all encompassing consciousness, the unmanifest; The confluence of energy and consciousness, the female and the male that created the universe, and that which lives on in every human being, is delicately woven with the threads of divinity in the Shakti-Shiva constructs. This tradition of unity of the feminine with the masculine continues with the legends of Sita-Ram and Radha-Krishna, the fact that the feminine is mentioned before the masculine reflects her undisputed status. That the land of a million gods and goddesses accepted into its fold, cultures and religions from faraway regions to seamlessly transition into the secular, plural and liberal nation India is today, can also to an extent be attributed to the faith and fervency of Indian women.
India has been witness to many a heroine who engendered change and transformation of the society through her history. If India’s intellectual rigour has defined her through the times-with the Vedas and Upanishads laying the foundation, women seers like Gargi and Maitreyi contributed important verses to these ancient scriptures. Mystics and poetesses like Andal, Khana, Lal Ded and Meera Bai further enriched the country’s spiritual heritage with their perennial works. And it wasn’t just India’s cultural ethos which gained immensely from their contribution. The hands that wielded the quill equally ably wielded the sword. Rani Durgavati, Razia Sultan, Jijabai and Rani Lakshmi Bai proved that when the need arises, a woman’s valour can match and surpass any man’s. Their lives inspired and continue to inspire millions of women in India as well as rest of the world, a testimony to which is borne by stories in this book as well. The likes of Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar and Rani Rudrama Devi, with their just and efficient administration, laid the foundations of the modernnation state of India, which has had a woman prime minister, a woman president and several women chief ministers. Several women freedom fighters and leaders stood unshakable in the face of adversity during the struggle for Independence- Sarojini Naidu, Kalpana Dutta, Vijayalakshmi Pandit and Aruna Asaf Ali to name some of the most unforgettable of them. One cannot but pay tribute to these women of substance, whose contributions have moulded the character of the quintessential Indian woman.
Even as we delight in the glory of the past, we cannot overlook the concerns of the present. The universal challenges of gender bias, unequal opportunities and lack of security have often impeded the progress of India’s women on their road to empowerment. The turn of events in India in recent times has seen strengthening of the voices against such malice. Several reformative measures are being amped up, both by the state as well as society, setting in motion a wave of affirmative action in support of women. The recently instituted Bharatiya Mahila Bank (a financial institution exclusively manned by, and catering to the needs of women) in a bid to financially empower the Indian woman, the numerous schemes and programmes such as Janani Suraksha Yojana, SABLA etc. implemented by the Government of India in order to protect and nurture the girl child, the amended legislative measures to enhance safety of women in the country-all work in harmony with the endeavours of India’s women to realise their dreams.
And the new dreamers do not need to look too far for inspiration. Four Indian women were featured in the Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business in 2013-the maximum from any single developing country on the list. Not to forget the ‘Iron Lady of India’-Indira Gandhi, who was voted as the greatest woman of the past 1,000 years in a global poll conducted by BBC News Online in 1999. As Indian women continue to conquer grids and gorges across the globe, it would be imperative to learn from the lives of those who have overcome extreme challenges and risen to enviable positions. They not only show us the way to ascension, but also add to the repository of wisdom that the modern Indian woman stands to gain from. Entrepreneurs and entertainers, activists and accountants, scientists and sculptors, economists and ecologists-the professions may be unending and so would be the list of illustrious Indian women who have left an indelible impression on the nation and the world. Several stories of such Indian women have been captured in this book. The Indian Woman, thus, offers readers what India is best known for-a symphony of distinct characters and unique stories; a potpourri of intense struggles and astonishing achievements; a thali that scintillates the senses and satiates the soul.
The book opens with the fascinating journeys of some exceptional Indian women who have pioneered growth and development of the nation, ironing out gender differences and venturing successfully into seemingly impossible and unchartered territories. The individual excellence of each of these gems remains unparalleled as she proclaims I am Every Woman. The second section assays the lives of women who have demonstrated extraordinary skills, setting a trail-blazing record in spheres often deemed unsuitable for women. They have led the way for other women to march ahead, echoing to the strums of Every Woman is Her. No bouquet would be complete without the scent of fresh blooms, and no book without the fragrance of remembrances. The third section offers a glimpse into the lives of ten historic Indian women who continue to live in the memories of the nation-She is in Every Woman.
Indian women have not limited themselves to conventional contours and geographical coordinates. Today, we are proud of the Indian women abroad who have not just excelled in their adopted countries, but have been great ambassadors for their country of origin as well. The woman of courage-astronaut Kalpana Chawla as well as Sunita Williams; of compassion-United Nation Human Rights Commission chairperson Navi Pillay; of enterprise-Pepsi Co CEO Indra Nooyi; of excellence-economist Padma Desai; of science-Sunetra Gupta; of arts-Patricia Maria Rozario; of activism-Amina Cachalia; of politics-Kamla Persad-Bissessar; of literature-Jhumpa Lahiri and of elegant normality-the woman toiling for her family away from her homeland-she is the face of India abroad as she holds the luminous torch of the nation high. The healthy exchange of human resources beyond the barriers of nationality has gifted our country too, in equally sound measures. Ida Sophia Scudder, Annie Besant, Nellie Sengupta and Miraben are a few names not to be missed while remembering the birth of independent India. The book wraps up with homage to Mother Teresa, whose immortal spirit of love and compassion continues to define the Indian Woman. The journey of ‘The Indian Woman’ begins here.
I am every woman
Brew Your Dreams: Kiran Mazumdar Shaw
Bringing Stories to Life: Bhanu Athaiya
Nature, the Beautician: Shahnaz Husain
Reinventing Growth: Sunita Narain
Invest upon Learning: Naina Lal Kidwai
Life is Fair: Fathima Beevi
Sky is Not the Limit: Padma Bandopadhyay
The Eternal Notes: Lata Mangeshkar
Tryst with Economics: Gita Gopinath
Packing a Punch: MC Mary Kom
Every woman is her
A Million Smiles: Ela R Bhatt
Peace in Paradise: Susheela Bhan
Driving Courage: Surekha Yadav
Power-packed Performer: Teejan Bai
The Winning Edge: Saina Nehwal
Agniputri: Born of Fire: Tessy Thomas
Guns, Granny & Glory: Chandro Tomar
Lap of Honour: Alisha Abdullah
On Top of the World: Bachendri Pal, Arunima Sinha
Essence of a Woman: Sushmita Sen
She Did Start the Fire: Harshini B Kanhekar
She is in every woman
Come, Be My Light: Mother Teresa
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