June 2nd, I’m delighted to be back at Quill and Canvas, Gurgaon, where I had my first ever book event for The Reluctant Detective back in 2012. This time, I’m talking about Rising: 30 Women Who Changed India. It’s been 10 years, 14 books.
A lovely intimate event at the Kunzum bookstore and cafe at DLF Mega Mall, Gurgaon, thanks to Shruti Kohli, Ajay Jain and Rashmi Menon. We chatted about #EverydayFeminism and why we need it, and how it impacts my writing and character creation.
Thanks due to everyone who took time out from a Saturday evening to show up, Upasana Luthra and her power gang of Gurgaon Moms, Harshali Singh, Harini Srinivasan, Anjali Kirpalani, Amrita Bhinder, Vikas Datta, and of course, my sister in law Chanda Bisht.
Rising – 30 women who changed India – a non-fiction title by Kiran Manral and published by Rupa covers the inspiring journeys of 30 Indian women from various fields who blazed a trail for others to follow. Manral has allocated a chapter for each achiever, and she has meticulously listed all her references from secondary research at the end of each chapter. A few of the achievers have been interviewed as well.
In the Introduction, Manral says, “The aim of this book is not to eulogize these powerful women or to put them on a pedestal. They probably wouldn’t care for something as pedestrian as pedestals anyway; they shine wherever they are, regardless of spotlights. The aim rather is to tell their stories, through what we know of them, from information available in the public domain or from first-hand accounts given by those who were gracious enough to spare some time to tell us about their journey.”
The women in this collection too, come from various fields of work, and action as well as varying socio-cultural, and economic backgrounds. They are pathbreakers, shatterers of glass ceilings and are all warriors in their own rights. Manral’s curation has been on point, inclusive of politicians, writers, singers, painters, actors, sportswomen, mathematicians, producers etc.
Once again, the obvious lesson is the same — it is to inspire me and many more women like me, across all ages and professions. There is no age limit to pursuing your dreams, and the only thing that stands in one’s way is the fear of what the society (read patriarchy) would day. Moreover, for women aspiring to follow a certain profession, I am sure reading about their icons will be an enlightening experience.
A reason why I think this book perhaps be a bit more accessible is that it is more recent in temporal history. As such, the struggles faced by these women are in some ways, more relatable to us, than the stories of women who were of a time when even education was not easily accessible to all. It is an unfortunate reality that due to various reasons a vast number of female children still cannot be educated in India, but the statistical disparity has lessened compared to the previous times. Hopefully, in the next few years, this gap will lessen and will one day, altogether vanish.
From the academic point of view as well, this book was very well researched and as a person who is currently working on their dissertation, I really was impressed by the meticulous list of sources by Manral. What made the reading interesting was that Manral’s biographies of these women were related in what was essentially a story-telling manner. It was not dry and matter of fact, of which I am very grateful, considering I do not particularly enjoy such types of info-dumpy works. In conclusion, I have to say that this book was a really inspiring read and one I enjoyed because I had already heard so much about the women here but hadn’t believed it was enough. This book gave me the chance to delve deeper into finding out their life stories and therefore get to see the story behind the woman I have always known, so to say. I definitely recommend you pick it up!
Every woman has a story. Every woman has a voice. However, seldom is her story read or her voice heard. India’s present socio-political climate is testimony to a woman’s struggle for agency, subjectivity, and freedom. In such a scenario, Kiran Manral’s latest book, Rising: 30 Women Who Changed India (Rupa Publications, 2022) serves as a movement and a clarion call for humanity – irrespective of class, caste, colour, ethnicity – to rise, recognise, and realise the power of equality, equity, and empowerment to help create a future premised on the principles of egalitarianism and sustainability.
A proud recipient of the prestigious Women Achievers Award by Young Environmentalists Association in 2013 and the International Women’s Day Award 2018 from the Indian Council of UN Relations, author Kiran Manral wears multiple hats – she has been a journalist, researcher, festival curator, and an entrepreneur. Some of her fictional works include The Reluctant Detective, Once Upon a Crush, All Aboard!, Saving Maya, Missing: Presumed Dead, The Face at the Window, The Kitty Party Murder and More Things in Heaven and Earth.
In an exclusive conversation with FII, Kiran Manral shares with us her incredible journey that eventually led to the birth of Rising.
Before we get into the journey behind the making of Rising, I would want to ask you: what does it mean to be a woman in India today?
Kiran Manral: By the Constitution of the country, men and women are equal. But are they? Our experience of what it means to be a woman in India today is limited to our personal experience and that of the women around us, in our immediate circles – our families, our friends, and acquaintances. But there is an India that is so vast and so diverse, that the stories of the women who live in it trickle down to us as snippets in news items, in stories that shock and horrify us, stories that also give us hope and joy. To be a woman in India today is to be in a constant battle against the policing that still exists, the boundaries that are still drawn around women and the barriers that continue to be erected. It means walking down a street with the awareness that you could be sexually harassed at any point, it means knowing that there is a pay gap between you and your male colleagues in the workplace, it means struggling with patriarchy every single day, it means living in a country where we still are fighting for better representation in Parliament. Women in India still continue to be in battle every day, a battle that women before us have fought, a battle that we continue to fight.
Read the rest of the interview on Feminism in India here.
Here is a quick list of brand new releases by female authors that would be unputdownable
Rising: 30 Women Who Changed India by Kiran Manral (Rupa Publication)
Kiran Manral is a celebrated author and researcher whose work has time and again influenced readers. She has now documented the tales of other influential names from various industries and compiled them into a book that is a must-read for Women’s Day. The 30 women achievers in this list include Sushma Swaraj, Sheila Dikshit, Fathima Beevi, Mahasweta Devi, Amrita Sher-Gil, Amrita Pritam, Sonal Mansingh, Lata Mangeshkar, Anita Desai, M.S. Subbulakshmi, Harita Kaur Deol, Madhuri Dixit, Bachendri Pal, Rekha, Chhavi Rajawat, Karnam Malleswari, Shailaja Teacher, Hima Das, Naina Lal Kidwai, Shakuntala Devi, P.T. Usha, P.V. Sindhu, Ekta Kapoor, Kiran Bedi, Mary Kom, Menaka Guruswamy, Tessy Thomas, Aparna Sen, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and Gayatri Devi.
Kiran Manral‘s #Rising: 30 Women Who Changed India is a quick read on 30 Indian women who have redefined success and set the bar high for future generations to emulate. It gives us a peek into the lesser-known facets of 30 successful Indian women—their life story, their fights, their milestones, their journey. #ComingSoon
Delighted to be part of this conclave at Manipal Academy of Higher Education. Thank you for inviting me, Sambit Dash
The Cultural Coordination Committee of MAHE brings to you talks by seven brilliant luminaries who would lift your literary spirits through talks about everything from public speaking to public health communications to bringing out the novel in you This February 19th
Book your seats now for the *LITERARY CONCLAVE* by registering for the event using the link below