'The Gutsy Girls Who Led India': Ilina Singh's new book spotlights women warriors

Ilina Singh speaks about her latest book, a collection of stories about women leaders from different eras
Ilina Singh
Ilina Singh

BENGALURU: India’s history is rich with stories of gallantry. In her second book, 'The Gutsy Girls Who Led India,' Ilina Singh shines the spotlight on 10 women warriors. She has developed a nine-step leadership framework to encourage children to embrace the skill. Excerpts.

What inspired you to write The Gutsy Girls Who Led India ?

The idea came through my personal experiences. Applying to colleges was eye-opening; while Indian education focussed on academics, American colleges asked for essays outlining my leadership experience.

That is when I discovered that leadership is a valued quality globally. As I studied leadership at Berkeley last year, I saw how well-researched this subject is. I also noticed that while there were many leadership books for adults, there are hardly any for children. I wanted to bridge that gap.

Do you feel a personal connect with any particular section in the book?

Queen Didda, the most unlikely and complex leader is someone I’d love to know better. She overcame a physical disability – not being able to walk well and had to be carried as she led on the battlefield. Then there is the beauty and wit of Hazrat Mahal and the fierce bravery of Lakshmibai. A dinner with all 10 of them would be amazing.

The book includes activities. How did you develop these?

The activities are nudges to make the reader explore their personal leadership journey.

What was your research process like?

It took the most time because I chose leaders across different centuries and geographies. I have included ‘present-day’ references to the cities and states the leaders originally lived in and have a mini-map with each chapter. For example, Gaidinliu, the Naga leader, was born in present-day Manipur. Both Nagaland and Manipur became formal Indian states after Independence. There are surprisingly well preserved accounts of the lives of these leaders.

What do you hope young girls take away from book?

I hope every young reader puts down the book wiser about their personal leadership potential and is inspired to make a dent in the world.

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The New Indian Express