Gunjan Jain brings us a book that is awe-worthy and inspirational. She Walks, She Leads is a collection of some amazing woman who made it big not by luck but by hard work. But this journey wasn’t a cake walk. Here are some questions I asked her and she was kind enough to answer them for me. Thank you so much for your time ma’am.
- The most basic question first. How did this journey of writing about notable women start?
I never planned to be a writer, but you can’t always plan for every idea that may take root in your mind. The idea for She Walks, She Leads came to me the night before I came back to India after many years of studying abroad and seeing how women function and succeed in that environment. India had changed a lot since I had been gone and Indian women had taken quantum leaps in so many fields. There were so many stories just waiting to be told, the journeys of successful women to be celebrated and acknowledged and I wanted to be their storyteller.
- What was the most difficult part in the entire journey of She walks, she leads from regular notes to a full-fledged novel?
The scope of the project was humongous! My first list had 150 women on it— Media, banking and finance, philanthropy, corporate India, law, spirituality, art and sport— I wanted no domain to go unrepresented. I had the unenviable task of ruthlessly cutting down my original list. There was no number I was fixed on but I felt that 20 would be an appropriate number in terms of determining the thickness of the book. This was the single most difficult task for me. I mean, how does one leave out lives so rich and accomplished that each life easily merits a book on its own? After much deliberation I was able to bring down the list to 24 but it was impossible for me to cut out anymore and thus I decided to stick with 24.
- If you had to pick one person from the collection, who surprised you in a lot of ways? Say, one person who ended up being a completely different person from the one inside your head?
For me, I think that person would be Nita Ambani. The amount of things that she does to an exacting standard of perfection would make anyone’s head spin. And yet, she approaches everything she does with calm, grace, empathy and dignity. She is a superlative professional, strong, sensitive mother, wife and friend and a woman that generations of Indians can look up to for inspiration and strength.
- How long did you take to finish this collection?
From idea to execution, my journey took nearly 2 years.
- What is the best thing someone has ever said to you (as a writer)?
One of my readers sent me an email telling me that at the end of reading my book, she was stunned by the perseverance it would have taken to interview these 24 powerhouse women and the 150 iconic leaders who make up their inner circles. She said that she was inspired by me to pursue her PhD in game theory, something that she had been putting off for years.
- What kept you going?
I think it was my conviction that the stories in She Walks, She Leads would light up the lives of thousands of Indian women. They would be a constant exhortation to keep going till the job is done, till the goal they’ve set for themselves is achieved. What could be more fulfilling than shining a light on those stories?
- What are your hobbies, other than writing?
I enjoy reading (which author doesn’t!), watching the equities market (does that make me sound like too much of a nerd?) and watching fashion trends.
- Is there a book you are working on currently?
My next book, Of Leaders and Statesmen, is an anthology of eleven of India’s corporate male stalwarts who have shaped the nation’s destiny through their leadership and invaluable contributions including Adi Godrej, Ajay Piramal, Adi Godrej, Deepak Parekh, Anand Mahindra, Kumar Mangalam Birla and Mukesh Ambani.
- One book you want everyone to read?
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.
- Word of advice to the young writers out there?
Write regularly. Be prepared to edit and improve. Remember that your editor is not enemy.
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Still writing, I hope!
Books by the Author:
That’s all for the day, folks.