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Dec 13, 2018-Thursday
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Ladies, who’s your role model?

Young girls these days are spoilt for choice when it comes to role models

brunch Updated: Aug 12, 2017 22:36 IST
Seema Goswami
Seema Goswami
Hindustan Times
role models,sania mirza,saina nehwal
Young girls these days have a lot of role models to choose from.(Illustration: PARTH GARG)

There is not much about the young that arouses my envy. I don’t grudge them their top-notch metabolism, their wrinkle-free complexions, their insouciance that all will turn out okay, or even the fact that life is full of endless possibilities for them. That’s because I was young once myself, and I know what a tortured time this can be for most of us.

This is an age when we are yet to get truly comfortable in our skin, no matter how firm and unpigmented it may be; when we are tortured by the spectre of failure as well as dreams of success; when we feel things so deeply and viscerally that it marks us for life. This is a time when the best of us are often reduced to emotional wrecks, tossed on the waves of our hormones and the moods they induce.

These are only some of the reasons why I wouldn’t want to relive my youth, for all the money and anti-ageing face-cream in the world.

But there is one thing that I do envy about the young girls growing up right about now. And that’s the fact that they have so many positive female role models in the world they live in. Growing up, my generation had to be content with such stock figures as Indira Gandhi and Mother Teresa. But while these were towering and inspirational personalities in their own right, they were not relatable in quite the same way as the female role models of today are.

And they are everywhere: from sports to arts; from politics to business; from the movies to the media. Wherever you look, there are strong, brave women taking on the world – and winning.

Let’s take sport, to begin with. Yes, we had PT Usha and Ashwini Nachappa, both leading track stars of their time. But that was about it. There were no tennis or badminton stars on the international circuit who looked like us. And few of us even knew what our female cricketers looked like, though we may have been familiar with Diana Edulji’s name.

From sports to arts, from politics to business... wherever you look, there are strong, brave women taking on the world – and winning

How things have changed since then! Sania Mirza has been a bonafide international tennis star for nearly a decade now, winning international titles and endorsement deals with equal elan. Badminton champion Saina Nehwal has won over 20 international titles, an Olympic bronze medal and attained number one ranking in the world. Somewhere along the way, she has managed to find the time to become the brand ambassador for a range of companies as well as for the Government of India campaign to promote the girl child.

And now we have a new stable of stars in the Indian women’s cricket team, all of them with inspirational stories behind them. There’s Mithali Raj, best known for reading Rumi on the sidelines before she lights up the green with her fiery shots all across the field. And keeping her company are such stalwarts as batting wizards Harmanpreet Kaur and Punam Raut, all-rounder Deepti Sharma and fiery fast bowler Jhulan Goswami (no relation, alas!).

A quick look at the movie business also gives us hope. Gone are the days of heroines who hid behind Mummy’s pallu or depended on their ‘Godfathers’ to shore up their careers. Today, the film industry is full of independent women who have succeeded by dint of their own efforts. These are women who make their own rules rather than play the roles prescribed for them. Whether it is Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra, who left the security of Bollywood to make a splash in the West, or Kangana Ranaut and Anushka Sharma, who revel in their ‘outsider’ tag and create their own opportunities, the landscape is heaving with female stars who are not just strong and confident but also secure in their self-belief. And these are qualities that every young girl can aspire to, whatever career she chooses.

The banking sector is as rich in female role models as it is in term deposits. The largest bank in the country, the State Bank of India, is headed by Arundhati Bhattacharya, the first woman to be appointed to that role. Chanda Kochhar is the managing director and CEO of ICICI Bank, the second-largest bank in India (and the largest in the private sector). Shikha Sharma is the managing director and CEO of Axis Bank. Naina Lal Kidwai is the country head of HSBC India. Kalpana Morparia is the CEO of J.P. Morgan, India. I could go on, but you get the picture.

The media landscape is also dotted with strong female figures. While NDTV gets the credit for producing the largest number of female stars – Barkha Dutt, Nidhi Razdan, Sonia Singh – others news channels are now fast catching up. Navika Kumar rules the airwaves at Times Now while Mirror Now’s Faye D’Souza is fast carving out a place for herself in the overcrowded media landscape. And then, there’s my friend, Priya Sahgal, whose discussion programmes on NewsX are anisland of sanity in this era of outrage-fuelled TV.

Publishing is also rapidly being overrun by women bosses: Meru Gokhale at Penguin Random House; Karthika V.K. and Sudha Sadanand at Amazon Westland; Diya Kar Hazra at HarperCollins India; and Chiki Sarkar, who heads her own start-up, Juggernaut.

So, if you are a young girl growing up right about now, what do you see around you? You see strong, capable women, following their dreams, working hard, creating their own path, and enjoying the journey. And it gives you hope – even the certainty – that you can do just that in your own time.

How I wish I had had that when I was growing up!

From HT Brunch, August 13, 2017

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First Published: Aug 12, 2017 22:36 IST