The recent influx of children’s biographies offers a glimpse of the courage and determination of the pioneers whose legacies we still celebrate. Here are two of those books:
Incredible Indians: 75 People Who Shaped Modern India
Born of a Brahman father and a Devadasi mother in 1886, at a time when Devadasis were relegated to the margins of society, Muthulakshmi Reddy did what few women of her time were able to do. She had her own unique heritage and forged her own identity, defying the social norms of the time. A gifted child, she was encouraged by her father, headmaster of a college in Pudukottai (now Tamil Nadu) to study. Reddy made a splash studying at the all-male Maharaja College before pursuing medical school and majoring in surgery. Founder of Adyar Cancer Institute in Chennai, Reddy was committed to women’s rights, advocating for women’s rights to health, education and emancipation and for the abolition of the Devadasi system.
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Like Reddy, Hansa Mehta (1897-1995), too, put her liberal upbringing to good use, joining the freedom fight while studying in England and devoting his life to the cause of independence. She defied convention to marry a man outside her caste and was repeatedly imprisoned for her anti-colonial activities. An equal rights advocate, Mehta was among those who pushed for women’s rights to be enshrined in the Constitution after independence.
The stories of Reddy and Mehta, alongside 73 other men and women from fields as diverse as politics, industry, literature and the environment, form the core of Ashwitha Jayakumar’s book. Incredible Indianspart of Harper Collins’ India series. A tribute to the pioneers of modern India, it is a book that introduces children not only to those luminaries who are still at the forefront of the public imagination, but also those pioneers who are relegated to the dusty pages of history, which are remembered sparingly. , despite their immense contributions. At Jayakumar’s biographies are simply narrated and anecdotal and the inclusion of photographs and illustrations serve to make the stories more intimate.
Ardeshir and Pirojsha Godrej: Pioneers of Progress
Amar Chitra Katha
Long before the current government’s push for ‘Make in India’, the idea of self-reliance or ‘swadeshi’ had revolutionized India’s resistance to British rule by encouraging every Indian to produce and consume local goods. In Mumbai, a young Parsi man, Ardeshir Godrej, with a flair for scientific innovation and a love of poetry, imbibed the words of freedom fighters such as Dadabhai Naoroji and Bal Gangadhar Tilak and thought of ways to contribute to India’s rapidly depleting economy. . After trying his hand at various innovations, in May 1897 Ardeshir would eventually set up a factory in Lalbaug to produce locks, giving birth to Godrej, one of India’s oldest trading houses. Over time, helped by his brother Pirojsha, who combined his passion for innovation with his business acumen, they expanded their production to safes, steel storage for the office and home, machinery writing utensils, refrigerators and personal care products such as soaps.
Over the years, as Ardeshir and Pirojsha pushed the cause of Swadeshi, Godrej has become a household name, known for its reliability and product integrity. Its crowning glory came in 1951 during independent India’s first general election, when the company produced nearly 17 lakh steel ballot boxes for the mammoth exercise.
Saigal outlines the biography of the two brothers who brought about a monumental change in Indian industries in a benign graphic narrative. The writer manages to avoid hagiographic territory, which is no small feat, given that the book was produced in partnership with Godrej & Boyce, the flagship company of Godrej Group, to celebrate the group’s 125th anniversary. One reason for this is that the narrative is set against the larger canvas of the Independence movement and the life and business of the Parsis. Veteran Amar Chitra Katha artist-illustrator Dilip Kadam lives up to his formidable reputation. For old-timers, the reproduction of some of the company’s old advertisements will evoke nostalgia.
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