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She Walks, She Leads is a book that, when I heard the title, made me think it was a love story about some woman who changed a man’s life. And it is, but not a man, of many people. It is the story of 24 women that the author considers to be the women who inspire India.

Divided into six categories, Altruism and Other Interests, Corporate, Banking and law, Entertainment, Fashion, The Arts and Empowerment, Media, and Sports, it lists forerunners from each field that the author considers deserving enough to be one of the ladies featured here. Featuring, Nita Ambani, RajaShree Birla, Sudha Murthy, Yasmeen Premji, Parmeshwar Godrej, Indra Nooyi, Chanda Kochhar, Arnavaz Aga, Naina Lal Kidwai, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Zia Mody, Swati Piramal, Priyanka Chopra, Mira Nair, Shabana Azmi, Kareena Kapoor, Anamika Khanna, Ritu Kumar, Jyotsna Darda, Shobhana Bhartia, Indu Jain, Mary Kom, Sania Mirza and Saina Nehwal. It also includes small interviews with other people who are close to the women showcased here.

Each person’s portion is divided into categories focussing on a different aspect of their lives, early life/childhood, school or college, work, motherhood etc, it doesn’t leave out the important stuff. This also makes it an easy read, I started with entertainment and sports and came to the banking section at the end. And I was more interested in some of their careers and less interested in the sections about motherhood, this careful divide of things made it super easy to read and pick and choose what I wanted to read first and what I wanted to read later.

What I liked : I love how the author focusses on the traditionally feminine things without making them seem shallow. She focusses on the clothes the women wore for interviews, the makeup they wore or didn’t wear; the jewellery they wore or didn’t wear. Be it ostentatious or absolutely simple, the author accepts it all without pointing out the “otherness” of their behaviour and that was very refreshing. This is one of those books where being feminine isn’t considered the opposite of being a feminist and that was absolutely delightful to read.

The writing itself is very simple, the author writes a brief of each person’s life, focussing only on the achievements and none of the pitfalls or the negatives and making each person’s section a celebration of their lives and achievements. Be it being a good mother or fighting for women’s rights, Gunjan Jain writes about it all without the slightest tone of judgement and that is brilliant. Whether she praises Kareena Kapoor’s alabaster skin, associating it with her English grandmother or whether she talks about Priyanka Chopra’s dusky beauty, it is all done without open racism and it was lovely.

What I didn’t like : Notice how I said, women that the author considers, earlier? I said that because of all the women featured here, only two are south Indian. One, Sudha Murty and the other Indra Nooyi (Indra Krishnamurthy). If you’re a foreigner you are probably wondering “What’s the big deal?” but if you’re Indian you know how racist this country is and this honestly feels a little insulting. Also a lot of the women listed aree either privileged or are born into the lap of luxury so it’s a little hard to be inspired by women who had every resource to be successful handed to them on a platter. Only the sports section was truly inspiring because their successes involved so much of their talents and hard work. (I don’t mean to disregard the others’ successes but there is something about a woman who achieves something all by herself without family name/fortune/connections to help her along the way).

Overall, I rated this 3 stars. It is a giant of a book but an absolute breeze to get through. Even though it excludes excludes a lot of south Indian achievers, it is a good start for focusing on the women who are in the spotlight and making achievements in fields that aren’t just philanthropy. I can’t say I was personally inspired by all of these stories but Mary Kom’s and Priyanka Chopra’s stories stood out for having come up completly on their own. if you aren’t sure whose biography to pick up grab this book, I’m sure you will feel a connect with atleast some of the ladies featured here. I recommend this specifically for Indian women who are looking for a feminist read but used to much non fiction. After this I’m definitely picking up Mary Kom’s book.

You can buy this on Amazon India or Flipkart.

I was sent a copy to review but opinions expressed are my own. 

  • Published By: Penguin Random House India
  • Copyright: Gunjan Jain
  • ISBN: 978-0670088850
  • Genre: Non-Fiction
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