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June 14, 2016

Prem Ahluwalia On India’s Most Powerful Women

Text by Huzan Tata

The author talks about her book that raises a toast to many real-life heroines

India’s Most Powerful Women
Young Asia Publications
Chronicling the lives of 48 successful women, Ahluwalia’s tome is an inspirational read, peppered with personal anecdotes throughout. This book raises a toast to many real-life heroines.

How did you zero in on the women featured in your book?
“I wanted to portray distinguished ladies who have broken stereotypes to claim an equal stake in society — in politics, social work, business, medicine, arts and sports. Their journeys have not been easy, yet they fought against all odds to become successful and make India shine on a global platform. During my interaction with these remarkable women over the four years of writing the book, I discovered that they had so much to tell….Though each of them had different journeys, there is one common thread in all: focus, hard work and determination.”

Who is the one woman who inspires you the most?
“The freedom fighter Dr Sushila Nayyar is someone I not only admire but who has also changed my life. She played an active role in moulding me. Decades ago, I was a girl who enjoyed partying and living it up, totally oblivious to the problems of women, especially the poor. She motivated me and involved me in the women’s movement. I was soon exposed to problems like dowry deaths, bride burning, gender discrimination, harassment, violence, and illiteracy. Helping them became my priority and my entire time was spent in working for their empowerment. Today, I am the director of the Institute of South Asian Women in the SAARC region, and my life revolves around aiding people in distress and working for gender equality. I owe this change to Dr Nayyar.”

Who, in your opinion, is a powerful woman?
“She is one who has the reins of her life in her own hands, takes her own decisions, and celebrates the joy of being a woman. One who can stand up for her rights — whether she is a maid, a villager, a homemaker, a working woman, a rich businesswoman, an artiste or a sportswoman — is truly empowered.”

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