Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Favorite Indian Women on Independence Day



With the Indian Independence day approaching, wanted to pen down my thoughts on the changes that women (being the feminist that I am) in India have gone through.

There was a time when women's successes were measured by their being an efficient wife, a loving mother and caretaker to the other members of the household. Besides this role, came the added responsbility of how she was viewed in the eyes of the society- meaning did she have the right kind of attitude towards earning and self-reliance, did she hand over her earnings to the male head of the family without personal savings, did she carry out the honor of the family by following religious beliefs and adhere to cultural traditions etc. An unmarried woman after a certain age, a broken marriage or a woman unable to have a child were all measures of how successful a woman's performance in life was, unlike a male whose life in most of these scenarios remains untainted.

With globalization in the changing times, Indian women have broken the glass ceiling (in corporate environments) and are changing their behaviors and value systems. Today, women are willing to make sacrifices for the sake of their careers and are doing a fairly successful job of balancing both family and career lives. I guess this is also part of a free and independent progessive India that was the vision of several freedom fighters and thinkers.

Here are some women, who, in my eyes, are truly successful in their roles and responsibilities and serve as inspirational role models for the rest of us.

Kalpana Chawla, a NASA astronaut who made a mark in history by rocketing into space. Coming from a traditional family in Karnal, India she pursued her ambition amidst all obstacles and came to US to study aerospace engineering (MS and PhD) and advanced her career by starting out at NASA. She married an American Jean Pierre Harrison and continued to pursue the skies. Unfortunately, her life ended on Space shuttle Columbia in 2003 prior to the landing. A daring Indian woman whose aspirations were sky rocketing is worth remembering at this time.

Sudha Narayanamurthy, known to many as the wife of Infosys founder Narayanamurthy is a blend of the educationalist com social reformer. An avid writer and a full-time social worker contributing to the upliftment of several villages in rural India through the Infosys Foundation. Besides, being the founder trustee for the organization, she has been instrumental in bringing about true change in the lives of children for their education and in providing medical assistance to the poor. An IISC Bangalore graduate who has really made a difference in the current India.

Visaka Hari is a popular harikatha exponent reciting sangeetha upanyasam (musical discourse) of various Indian epics. She is the daughter-in-law of Sri Krishna Premi Anna of Paranur and married his first son Sri Hari Anna. Visaka who is an all Indian rank holder in her Charted Accountancy exams has dedicated her life to pursue her passion of spreading beautiful, melodious harikatha discourses to audiences in India and abroad. Her traditional attire in nine-yards sari, simplicity and the way with which she narrates stories that captivates her audience, be it a small child to an old man, marks her identity as a cultural ambassador for South Indian heritage. She is truly divinity personified at its best.

All these women are exceptional in their own way and have created a niche in today's independent India. I would be happy to hear some of your favorite Indian women, who you feel have made a difference in your lives.

17 comments:

Uma said...

Nice post Mitr! Great way to think about those inspirational women of India!

Cham said...

Great mind of thinking! MS Nooyi of Pepsico comes to my mind. Another Chennai female who brought honor and even proved she can reach the chief executive position!

Jayashree said...

Nice post. Iam not sure how far the perception of what a "good" woman is has changed, though. Outwardly things seem to have never been better for the Indian woman, but inside, most of us are still bound by the rigid social conditioning that was very much a part of our upbringing.

Bharathy said...

Thanks a lot for accepting my awards, Mitr..
...and let me read your post now :)

Krishnan said...

Timely post Mitr. Yes Indian women are making great strides. All of your three choices are great. To your list I will add:

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw - She is the Chairman & Managing Director of Biocon Ltd. In 2004, she became India’s richest woman.

NDTV's Barkha Dutt. Suave as well as feisty, she anchors her shows with great command and control.

Aparna said...

Hi! Good post...but am sorry to say that Kalpana is an American of Indian origin. Somehow, it piques me when people who have chosen to become citizens of another country are still counted as Indians! Am sorry! I understand that these women serve as inspiration to you and many others.
There are many more women (Indians ;) ) who have made large strides in whatever field, but we all have a really long way to go! :)

na_an said...

Nice post :-)

I don't think you are a feminist..are you? :-)

Priya said...

Happy Independence Day to you Mitr.

Suma Rajesh said...

nice reading ur post....

Mavin said...

Great choices!!!

I could not resist the temptation of adding a few names - not too well covered by the media

Ela Bhatt - Founder of SEWA at Ahmedabad.

Dr. Mandakini Amte - recently awarded the Ramon Magsaysay award for 2008 along with her husband.

Let me also mention the tens of thousands of other nameless and faceless women have battled prejudice and personal hardship to change our society. They too deserve our salute.

AJEYA RAO said...

I had not heard of Vishaka Hari, Thanks. I would like to listen to some of her Harikatha...Doe shse perform in Bangalore. Do let me know if you hear of it.

Laavanya said...

These women are truly an inspiration - good post Mitr.

Reviewer said...

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mitr_bayarea said...

All,

Thanks for your input and comments.

Sachita(india) said...

I can so see you heading women's magazine(not usual vain ones but more issue based ones) one day.

How come you missed out Revathy, your favorite?

Na_an:
Feminist - a bad term, huh?

UL said...

i have to say my inspiration has been women in my own family - my gradmom and mom to name two. Not famous the world over, but they've made the person I am today, filling me with confidence and faith...:)- I didn't know about Vishaka Hari - she sounds very inspiring...

Nidhi said...

Nice post, but that cake is offensive. That flag is supposed to be cut down in slices and eaten up