Over the years, I’ve read a lot of anthologies, and quite a good number of biographies and memoirs too. Never before however, did I get a chance to read an anthology OF biographies, before ‘She Walks, She Leads- Women who inspire India’, by Gunjan Jain.
Excited by all that I had heard about the book online I started to read it, and by the end of the first paragraph of the Introduction, I was convinced that the book is full of feminist, anti-men views and stuff like that. I was wrong. It does nothing of that sort. In fact, the book is a celebration of womanhood. It is a celebration of the feminine, not the feminism.
‘She Walks, She Leads’ is a compilation of inspiring life journeys of 24 Indian women. The entire list of 24 has been cleverly divided into six categories namely:
1) Altruism and other interests; which includes Nita Ambani, Parmeshwar Godrej, Sudha Murthy, Yasmeen Premji, and Rajshree Birla
2) Corporate, Banking, and Law; where you’d find Indra Nooyi, Zia Mody, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Swati Piramal, Chanda Kochhar, Naina Lal Kidwai, and Anu Aga
3) Fashion, Arts, and Empowerment; including Anamika Khanna, Ritu Kumar, and (Late) Jyotsna Darda
4) Media; which features Shobhna Bhartiya, and Indu Jain
5) Sports; which has Saina Nehwal, Mary Kom, and Sania Mirza; and
6) Entertainment; which includes Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, and Mira Nair.
Now, all of us would know something or the other about almost all of these personalities. What then, one would gain by compiling all those stories together and put them in a book? The answer is simple. That’s not what this book is; it’s not a randomly-put-together-stories-off-of-the-internet. This is a deeply researched and well documented book, which has first person accounts of not only the 24 leaders, but also of their near and dear ones. This, in my opinion, lends the book a fair amount of credibility and makes it all the more interesting, taking it notches above than a monologue.
The author, Gunjan Jain, has painstakingly described her personal meetings and interviews with all these people, without being judgmental at any point. In fact, the way she has described that in detail- right from the décor of the room, to the protagonist’s attire and jewelry- helps the reader in imagining them in real life. Celebrating feminism, as I said. J
Once going through the list of names in the ‘Content’ section, I decided to junk the chronological order and go with my personal choices. My list went; Mary Kom, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Saina Nehwal, Priyanka Chopra, Sudha Murthy, Sania Mirza… After I was through with these six, I went back to the content section, and what I found out disturbed me to a certain extent.
Unknowingly, I had chosen to read about all those first who I knew had had a tough start. They were the ones who were not born with the proverbial silver spoons, and had to literally fight their way to the top. Six out of 24. Does that mean, the rest 18 did not have to go through struggles and hardships? I thought so; and once again, I was proven wrong to a good extent. ‘She Walks, She Leads’ talks about the fights and struggles of all of them, both internal and external. While some of them had to face opposition on the home front, others fought their way through the patriarchal mindset of the people at work and around. What’s common with all of them is that they all had to face the ‘glass ceiling’, at one point or the other in their lives.
My only complaint with Gunjan Jain, is her use of the term ‘Female leaders’. A leader is a leader is a leader, irrespective of the sex. You don’t say ‘Male leaders’, do you?
Overall, ‘She Walks, She Leads’, is a well-written, well-researched, well-crafted book of life stories of 24 Indian leaders; and I recommend it to anyone in need of a quick shot of inspiration.
I give this book, a 4.5 out of 5 stars.