Yes, it is almost 2017, and this list still needs to be made because we still don’t have as many women to represent the second sex in politics, sports, or any other field you’d care to name, as we’d like. Even where women are there, they still need to take bold stances in order to be appreciated. This list is a grateful tip of the proverbial hat to these Indian women, who stood out in 2016, shattering stereotypes and setting examples for people everywhere:
1. Olympics & Paralympics medallists
Sakshi Malik, PV Sindhu, Deepa Karmakar in the Rio Olympics, and Deepa Malik in the Rio Summer Paralympics, made people in a cricket-obsessed country sit up and watch with bated breath, as they stormed into the last legs of their respective events, and performed spectacularly. These women, mostly from humble backgrounds, gave a new fillip to the cause of protecting the girl child, which makes them greater heroes.
2. Reshma Qureshi
The face of the Make Love Not Scars campaign, this vlogger is an acid attack survivor and has since actively opposed the sale of acid in India. Earlier this year, Reshma walked the ramp at the New York Fashion Week, looking stunning in an Archana Kochhar creation. Her indomitable spirit and dedication to this cause makes her one of our favourite women this year.
3. Trupti Desai
Share all the WhatsApp jokes you want, but Trupti Desai’s aggressive activism for allowing women to enter venerated shrines like Shani Shingnapur and Kolhapur Mahalakshmi temple, is just the kind of jolt that hardened patriarchy deserves. After all, who wouldn’t be enraged if women aren’t allowed to have a glimpse of their deity, a goddess no less?
4. Sushma Swaraj
The Minister of External Affairs has been the reigning queen of Twitter diplomacy this year, with her prompt redressal of genuine issues via the social media platform. Most notable of these was the rescue of 10,000 migrant workers in the Gulf who were laid off and suffering a food crisis, as well as granting a previously rejected medical visa to an Egyptian woman who was in immediate surgery.
Looked up by Tamil Nadu as a maternal figure and revered all over as an astute politician, ex-CM Jayalalitha, who passed away in early December, left behind a legacy that is difficult to match. Political manoeuvres apart, the authority she commanded- creating a band of loyalists and discouraging any possible rivals- made her a force to reckon with.
6. Deepika Padukone
After Priyanka Chopra becoming a permanent fixture in Hollywood, Deepika Padukone followed suit with XXX: The Return of Xander Cage. While B-town exports to the West are not a novelty, we love Deepika for standing her ground and owning her Indian heritage and accent in the film, unlike other actresses who immediately adopt a weird mix of American and British accents with every film signed! Add to that her vocal support of feminist and mental health causes, and the grace with which she purports herself in her relationship with Ranveer Singh, and we get one diva who actually can be a role model.
7. Rinku Rajguru
If Deepika Padukone is on one end of the glamour spectrum, Rinku Rajguru- who shot to fame as Archi from the blockbuster Sairat- is on the other. The 16-year old with none of the trappings of a teen star except tremendous talent and confidence, Rinku proved that a hero need not be light-skinned, provocatively dressed, or even male.
8. And lastly...
Artists have often turned their unrequited love into creative masterpieces, but who knew your jilted lover could also turn you into a meme? And not just any meme, but one that captured the imagination of an entire nation reeling under demonetisation. Sorry, jilted lover, but thank you, Sonam Gupta, for giving us this moment of sheer hilarity in an otherwise troubled time.
Are there any other influential women we might have missed? Let us know in the Comments!