ANIS KIDWAI, Bina Das, Hansa Wadkar, Prabha Khaitan and Temsula Ao were all born in colonial India and actively participated in the making of an independent nation. Anis Kidwai was one of India’s first female Rajya Sabha members. Bina Das helped organise the Quit India movement in Calcutta. Hansa Wadkar was a popular actress in early Marathi cinema. Prabha Khaitan managed two companies, wrote several novels, and translated the French writer Simone de Beauvoir’s seminal feminist text, The Second Sex, into Hindi. Temsula Ao is Nagaland’s most famous living writer.
All these women were pioneers in their professions, but unlike more glamorous women memoirists of their era—Amrita Pritam, Shaukat Azmi, Leela Naidu, Vina Mazumdar, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Gayatri Devi, Durga Khote—they aren’t famous enough to have achieved immortality. They inhabit the tenuous territory between success and celebrity. They led fulfilling and trailblazing lives, but not readily accessible ones, and often their stories about themselves are the only ones we have. Luckily, they all wrote memoirs that have appeared in the original English or in translation over the last four years.
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