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Strong women, behind the scenes

What do the strong women we know, go through to become who they are? What goes on behind the scenes – and what makes a woman strong?

Many of them have fought to bring the world where it is today. And we must continue to be inspired by them so we can continue their paths and legacy’s. Here is a list of books of strong women with strong voices, to inspire you, this Women’s Day

 

Lajja
Lajja by Taslima Nasrin

A savage indictment of religious extremism and man’s inhumanity to man, Lajja was banned in Bangladesh but became a bestseller in the rest of the world. This brand-new translation marks the twentieth anniversary of this controversial novel. The Dattas Sudhamoy and Kironmoyee and their children, Suronjon and Maya have lived in Bangladesh all their lives. Despite being members of a small Hindu community that is terrorized at every opportunity by Muslim fundamentalists, they refuse to leave their country, unlike most of their friends and relatives.

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Split
Split by Taslima Nasrin 

 

Taslima Nasrin is known for her powerful writing on women’s rights and uncompromising criticism of religious fundamentalism. This defiance on her part had led to the ban on the Bengali original of this book by the Left Front in West Bengal as well as the Government of Bangladesh in 2003. While the West Bengal government lifted the injunction after the ban was struck down by the Calcutta High Court in 2005, Nasrin was eventually driven out of Kolkata and forced to expunge passages from the book, besides facing a four-million-dollar defamation lawsuit. Bold and evocative, Split: A Life opens a window to the experiences and works of one of the bravest writers of our times.

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Dark Holds No Terrors
The Dark Holds No Terrors by Shashi Deshpande 

‘Why are you still alive-why didn’t you die?’
Years on, Sarita still remembers her mother’s bitter words uttered when as a little girl she was unable to save her younger brother from drowning. Now, her mother is dead and Sarita returns to the family home, ostensibly to take care of her father, but in reality to escape the nightmarish brutality her husband inflicts on her every night. In the quiet of her old father’s company Sarita reflects on the events of her life: her stultifying small town childhood, her domineering mother, her marriage to the charismatic young poet Mahohar.

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Lifting The Veil
Lifting the Veil by Ismat Chughtai

At a time when writing by and about women was rare and tentative, Chughtai explored female sexuality with unparalleled frankness and examined the political and social mores of her time. She wrote about the world that she knew, bringing the idiom of the middle class to Urdu prose, and totally transformed the complexion of Urdu fiction. Lifting the Veil brings together Ismat Chughtai’s fiction and non-fiction writing. The twenty-one pieces in this selection are Chughtai at her best, marked by her brilliant turn of phrase, scintillating dialogue and wry humor, her characteristic irreverence, wit and eye for detail.

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A Gift of Goddess Lakshmi by Manobi Bandopadhyay

The extraordinary and courageous journey of a transgender to define her identity and set new standards of achievement.

With unflinching honesty and deep understanding, Manobi tells the moving story of her transformation from a man to a woman; about how she continued to pursue her academics despite the severe upheavals and went on to become the first transgender principal of a girls’ college. And in doing so, she did not just define her own identity, but also inspired her entire community.

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Empress
Empress by Ruby Lal

Acclaimed historian Ruby Lal uncovers the rich life and world of Nur Jahan, rescuing this dazzling figure from patriarchal and orientalist cliches of romance and intrigue, while giving a new insight into the lives of the women and the girls during the Mughal Empire, even where scholars claim there are no sources. Nur’s confident assertion of authority and talent is revelatory. In Empress, she finally receives her due in a deeply researched and evocative biography that awakens us to a fascinating history.

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The Inheritance of Loss
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

In a crumbling, isolated house at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas lives an embittered judge who wants only to retire in peace, when his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, arrives on his doorstep. The judge’s cook watches over her distractedly, for his thoughts are often on his son, Biju, who is hopscotching from one gritty New York restaurant to another. Kiran Desai’s brilliant novel, published to huge acclaim, is a story of joy and despair. Her characters face numerous choices that majestically illuminate the consequences of colonialism as it collides with the modern world.

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Calling Sehmat
Calling Sehmat by Harinder Sikka

When a young college-going Kashmiri girl, Sehmat, gets to know her dying father’s last wish, she can do little but surrender to his passion and patriotism and follow the path he has so painstakingly laid out. It is the beginning of her transformation from an ordinary girl into a deadly spy.
She’s then married off to the son of a well-connected Pakistani general, and her mission is to regularly pass information to the Indian intelligence. Something she does with extreme courage and bravado, till she stumbles on information that could destroy the naval might of her beloved country.

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Born Again on the Mountain
Born Again on the mountain

National-level volleyball player Arunima Sinha had a promising future ahead of her. Then one day she was shoved from a moving train by thieves as she attempted to fight them off. The horrific accident cost the twenty-four-year-old her left leg, but it never deterred her. A year later, she had retrained as a mountaineer and become the first female amputee to reach Mount Everest. This is her unforgettable story of hope, courage and resilience.

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Millionaire Housewives
Millionaire Housewives by Rinku Paul | Puja Singhal 

Millionaire Housewives tells the stories of twelve enterprising homemakers who, in spite of having no prior experience in business, managed to build successful empires through the single-minded pursuit of their goal, defying all stereotypes. Amidst their varied motivations and struggles, Millionaire Housewives offers valuable lessons for homemakers who want to venture into entrepreneurship.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Gets Going: An Excerpt from ‘Millionaire Housewives’

Twelve stories of ordinary women who achieved extraordinary things out of sheer will and determination come together in Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal’s ‘Millionaire Housewives’, to inspire readers to achieve anything one wants to.
One such story is that of the well-known make-up artist Ambika Pillai. There is a monumental struggle that went behind the glitter and glamour of her life that we see today. Displaying unbridled courage when the going got tough, the story of Pillai is one to stay with us forever.
Here is an excerpt of her story from the book, ‘Millionaire Housewives’:
At the tender age of seventeen, my life took a decisive turn when a prospective groom came to see me. I didn’t even know his name. The one thing about him that impressed me though was his impeccable English. He had an MBA degree, was a gold medallist no less, and I gave up my world without any reservations to follow him to his. The excitement didn’t last long though. Despite his seemingly bright prospects, the reality check arrived as soon as I moved in with him to a tiny single-room apartment in Calcutta, a far cry from my sprawling home in Kerala. I was expected to wear a saree, be up at 5 a.m., cook, clean—things that I had never done before. I didn’t protest, refusing to let any of this affect me since I wanted to make my marriage work. I began to take many other things in my stride; being made to feel that I was not good enough on account of my lack of education was only one of them. I would have lived with all of this, but ours really wasn’t a marriage at all.
Not once in five years did we have a physical relationship. It was hard to explain this to my parents, who were convinced that my inability to bear a child meant there was something medically wrong with me. Trips to doctors, medical tests and even surgeries were my lot as I found it very hard to tell my parents the real issue with my marriage. I had to literally beg my husband to have a child and, thankfully, my daughter, Kavitha, was born after five years of marriage. If I had thought that a child would improve matters, I was living in a fool’s paradise as things started going from bad to worse.
Finally, with a two-year-old child in tow, I mustered up the courage to walk out of my seven-year-old marriage. I went back to my parents’ place. In retrospect, those seven years were one of the scariest times of my life. Kids should not get married as young as I did; at that age, you don’t even know your own mind, forget the other person’s. From wanting to be a happy housewife to coming back to my parental home in the throes of depression, I had come a long way. I had spent the last seven years of my life in a loveless relationship and had absolutely nothing to fall back on. If there was one thing I was grateful for, it was Kavitha. In fact, till this day, if anyone asks me if I regret my marriage, my answer is a vehement no, only on account of my daughter.
I just had no idea what I would do next. In my seven years of marriage, I hadn’t acquired any skills that could stand me in good stead. While my parents were supportive, my dad’s suggestion of letting him ‘look after’ my child and me financially didn’t go down well with me. With my other sisters married by then, I remember asking my father if I could help him with his cashew business—wanting to become the son he had never had. His answer, however, was a resounding ‘no’ as he felt it wasn’t a woman’s job. He couldn’t picture his daughter socializing with his many customers—a part and parcel of his cashew export business.
Never in my life had I felt like such a total loser. I wanted to stand on my own feet, but in the absence of any skills, I saw all doors closing in on me. In my desperation, I even came up with naive options like selling T-shirts on the beaches of Goa, where my lack of education would not be a deterrent. It was on one such day, when I was feeling totally dejected, that I saw an advertisement by Shahnaz Hussain in the local newspaper, inviting students for a hairstyling course in New Delhi. I made up my mind to join it. More than anything else, my decision was based on the fact that being a beautician didn’t require me to be a graduate. My father, of course, was devastated by the idea of me stepping out of the home turf. My mom tried to buy peace by explaining to my dad that at least I was choosing a ‘woman-oriented’ career and that I would be back home after finishing my course.
I landed in Delhi, a totally unknown city, with my daughter in my arms, utterly terrified of what the future held. I had never lived all by myself before or taken any independent decisions. Yet, here I was, fending for myself, looking for accommodations to rent. The problem was further compounded by the fact that I didn’t speak any Hindi. Irrespective of the many problems staring me in my face, I knew that there was no turning back now. I had to do this—more for my daughter than anyone else. While Delhi now feels like home, in those days I was a rank outsider. I remember people calling me ‘kali kaluti (dark complexioned)’. Of course, the saving grace was that since I didn’t know the language, I couldn’t quite understand what it meant. I somehow held on, and managed to finish two beauty courses.
Upon finishing my courses, although my parents were keen that I return home, I took up a job at a small two-seater parlour, which paid me Rs 2000 per month. I paid Rs 1000 as house rent and tried to stretch the balance to take care of my child. Money was something I never had to worry about in the past and these were trying times to say the least. While my father had paid for my courses, I was now determined to seek minimal financial help from him. I remember trying to save money from the measly Rs 1000 I had left after paying rent in order to buy a moped bike that would make commuting easier. Today, if one of my staff members tells me that they want to leave because they have a better offer, I never hold them back for I have witnessed the struggle for money first-hand.
The one bright spot of my life throughout this period remained my daughter, who was three years old by then and had just about started school. I remember telling Kavi stories of my own childhood—how I visited Disneyland when I was thirteen years old and how I would ensure that she did the same, although I had no clue how I would fulfil this promise.
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