Book Review : She Walks, She Leads

Published November 5, 2016 by vishalvkale

{Life stories of 24 women from 6 categories of life, from Business to Sports, from Entertainment to Media}

By Gunjan Jain

Image result for she walks she leadsThis is a book of women who inspire India : and while it is perfectly permissible as well as logical & feasible that Ex-Indians can inspire Indians; my personal opinion is that we should not highlight the success stories of people who left India behind, and took other citizenship – not when  there are innumerable stories of local successes – many superbly chronicled in this book itself. And given the quality and research of this tome which is no less that monumental, I thought lets brush the irrelevant and the negative out of the way before getting to other more relevant and positive matters. And in that, my belief is that Indra Nooyi and Mira Nair {The latter lives in the USA, though her nationality status is not clear to me} do not belong among this august list of people
This is not because of their performance – which is quite stupendous; but they have their own people who can praise them in the USA; God Bless them is all I state. I, being an Indian, find no relevance in their stories, which are more US-Based or Africa/US based. This view isn’t parochial; there may come a time in the future when these  will become relevant; but now, when our GDP is low, when female emancipation is questionable, when  we are growing, when we have serious social, economic, cultural and other problems – we need local talent to stay in India, not run away for whatever reason. And that is why we consistently need to focus on local success stories, not US ones! There can be no justification for quitting your nation; while on the one hand we have people willing to die for our country, on the other, we have people who go away… I know who I support, and who I don’t!
And that is where this book has made a stupendous start;  a fantastic chronicle of success stories of Indian ladies from  various aspects of life, a cornucopia of struggle against all  odds, of living a dream, and yet balancing it with family, with social work, with studies, and all the rest of it. You should read this book for that alone – for the lasting lessons it leaves in balancing life in the modern day, of not wasting time, and utilizing not just time, but resources as well as opportunities, of taking calculated risks and of creating your own luck through sheer dint of hard work, sacrifice and deep insight borne out of reading, study, teamwork and experience!
All this, and more – you can see in the sacrifices of Sudha Murthy, whose story is a must read for all Indians in my opinion; or that of Chanda Kochhar. These are the two stories I loved reading the most; stories of true Indians, highly qualified, yet who stayed; two Indians from humble beginnings who went on to become world leaders in their respective fields, two Indian ladies who fought hard and fair, who gave a perfect family balance, and yet earned their reputations the hard way, two tough and doughty fighters… their stories give you hope for a modern India, for the way they crafted themselves, and for the way they fought and the way they made their choices – and for the tremendous value they added to our lovely country, and the way they contributed in many fields.
There were others – the story of Anu Aga will bring a cheer of admiration to your lips, of the way they {she and her family} built and then rebuilt Thermax, or the story of Naina Lal Kidwai – or best of all, the story of two Indians who have arguably done among the most for the health scene, and should be household names & inspirations : Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, and Swati Piramal. Of these, the most stunning story is that of Swati Piramal, business professional, Doctor – and social worker who actually campaigned door-to-door for a cause… did street plays etc for vaccinations programmes. Now that, sir, is truly inspirational, and makes for a riveting read, especially her transformation from a doctor to what she has grown into now…
The other stories are also well crafted – but these are ladies from the upper strata of society, which is why I highlighted the few above first. The others, though from moneyed families – are nonetheless impressive; my point is that I wanted to highlight in my review – that ladies from a not-so-rich background can also make it if they have the opportunity and the education; which is why I sorely missed examples from the field of eminent educationists. Being from a family where 100% of ladies are professionals, and being related to lady educationists, I am aware that such  examples exist; I sorely and deeply missed these examples… for if there is anything this book teaches us – it is the simple fact that education is the only answer, period.
Other reviews will no doubt look at the equally impressive story of Yaseen Premji, of the redoubtable Zia Mody – whose story is stunning {you have admire her guts, manna padegaa}, of PeeCee {look up the book to know that is, I shant tell you}; and especially Jyotsana Darda and her social work in particular; of Nita Ambani, of Rajashri Birla {with a touching love story to boot} and of the one and only Sania Mirza; but  a short  book review just cannot do justice to this monumental and phenomenal work of back-breaking hard work, and unstinting commitment, and I will perforce have to pick and choose.  
Having seen working women all my life; a working women does not carry either admiration, or comment, or observation from me. Just as I don’t see it as anything special if my best friend does a job, I see nothing to comment if ladies work and succeed; have seen it since the day I was born. But, and this is vital – for our society, or some segments – this is not the case. These stories tell you one thing, and one thing only : the only way out for us as a people, as a nation, for our ladies, for our GDP, for our economy – is education. There is no other solution.
With respect to ladies, once they leave the home  and the hearth {leave as in get into employment}, their horizons improve and widen, leading to learnings and automatic growth. In a couple of cases, there was a hint at international exposure leading to confidence- in my opinion, we can strike off the word “international”; what matters is exposure to the world, to situations and experiences outside the protected homestead and hearth. That is what kindles growth : be it Gentlemen, or be it ladies; whether that exposure is local or international is completely beside the point. And that is what India truly needs – for it society to accept this. All in all, an excellent book, rated 4.5 stars out of 5. The only other point I make about this book – I would have loved to read more stories of ladies from poor, and lower middle classes who made it… 

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