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Verve’s 50 Power Women 2009
Published: Volume 17, Issue 6, June, 2009

Anamika Khanna (37)
FASHION DESIGNER

A shy Marwari girl, married at a very young age, mother of two, with no formal training in design, runs her own fashion business. The usual bhabhi with a hobby? Try reigning queen of couture instead. In the past year, the shy and reserved Kolkata-based creator has ruled supreme. An ornate range at India Couture Week, followed by two Fashion Week finale shows in Delhi and Mumbai, plus collaborations with apparel brand Wills Lifestyle and cosmetics giant Lakmé have kept her super busy. Khanna also stepped into Bollywood with Delhi 6, where she designed a fresh, fashionable yet realistic and ethnic wardrobe for Sonam Kapoor’s character Bittu. The designer’s distinctly individual brand of layered textures and carelessly Indian chic is based on her own personal style, and she embodies the woman who she designs for. Her work has inspired many, and she herself is a modern fashion icon. Design speaks; the designer does not need to.

Runway style Strongly ethnic – sometimes deconstructed, sometimes drape based, always layered, always with a twist.
Personal staples Skinny churidars or denims with high heeled sandals or boots.
International prêt Her label ‘Ana Mika’ for British design house Boho London. The Spring Summer 2008 collection was unveiled at Paris Fashion Week, at the Louvre.
Awards Damania Fashion Awards (1995), Exports Council Award, Texcellence Award for Outstanding Boutique (Female), Kingfisher Designer of the Year (2004), MTV Lycra Style Designer of the Year (2004), FICCI Ladies Organisation’s Young Woman Achievers (2005), Marudhar Gaurav (2007).
Driving philosophy To be a good mother and role model to her children.

Kareena Kapoor (28)
BOLLYWOOD SUPERSTAR

The 30-films-old celluloid queen who is an advertiser’s delight with currently 10 brand endorsements (including one with beau Saif Ali Khan) was the only female star to make it to a male-dominated power list of a film glossy recently. This, in spite of just one release (Golmaal Returns) in the last few months, reportedly the first among a three-film, six-crores-contract with a production house. Currently, with her time schedules in a tizzy with Globus, Lux, Vivel and the like and a clutch of big banner films on the anvil, Kapoor, it is rumoured, was unable to dole out precious hours to a leading international brand.

All heart She organised a surprise party for her family doctor and postponed a shoot to bring in mum Babita’s birthday.
Best new buddy Nutritionist Rujuta Divekar.
Panic attack In April, during a stage show at Ahmedabad’s Karnavati Club, 400 fans in overdrive broke free from the 30,000 crowd and lunged for her. Fortunately, there was a back door getaway.
In the multiplex queue Kambakkht Ishq with Akshay Kumar and 3 Idiots with Aamir Khan.
Driving philosophy “Being honest to yourself and your work.”

Sonia Gandhi (62)
INDIA’S RULING MATRIARCH

For having learned the true meaning of power. For perfecting the art of exercising it with relish and restraint. For winning a national election. For going from Edvige Antonia Maino to a woman who is more Gandhi than the Gandhis.

Mamata Banerjee (54)
FEISTY POLITICO

For a rousing political victory that has been years in the making. For marrying opportunism with courage. For being proud of being loud, and making sure her voice is heard. For her new ministry portfolio. For having more fidelity to socialist ideals than the socialists themselves.

Tessy Thomas (46)
ROCKET SCIENTIST

Missile queen, Tessy Thomas is the first Indian woman scientist to head the Agni II missile project which manufactures and tests missiles that can hit targets of up to 2500 kms. Last year, she was Associate Director for the Agni III 3500 kms project of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). A woman truly in love with rocket science, Dr Thomas is an expert on solid propellant systems. With an MTech degree in Guided Missile Systems, she started her career in DRDO under the guidance of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Taking her job in stride, she does not feel that she is competing in a traditional male bastion.

Colleagues call her Agniputri.
Familial bond Credits her mother for inspiring her to study solid state physics.
Named Son Tejas after the country’s light combat fighter jet.
Begins day at 4 a.m. and wraps up at midnight.

Mallika Sarabhai (54)
DANCER, PERFORMER, ACTIVIST

Mallika Sarabhai – dancer, activist, force of nature – has been a part of the nation’s consciousness, and its conscience, almost since she first came into public life, as a young danseuse of 15. “Every human being should take up causes which he or she genuinely believes in,” she remarked in 2005. “That is specially true for artistes.” Sarabhai has always described herself as ‘Gujarat’s daughter,’ but her role in the last election, where she contested the Gandhinagar constituency as an independent against prime ministerial candidate L K Advani, made waves across India. Fighting her political battle with wit, fortitude and plenty of righteous anger, Sarabhai raised a plethora of uncomfortable questions against those in power, found support and sympathy across class lines, and never stopped fighting – even on election day, she was on television haranguing booth-capturers and ballot-stuffers. Sarabhai, like so many other independents in the election who drew support and inspiration from her, came across as someone to whom winning an election came second to making a difference. And in spite of a poll loss, she looks like she’s going to be the woman in charge for the next five years, and more to come.

Hometown Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
Doctor doctor Qualified with an MBA from IIM-Ahmedabad and a PhD from Gujarat University.
Sarabhai country The lush environs of her Darpana Academy of Performing Arts in Usmanpura.
Dance forms Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam.
Election motto “Now We Must.”
Election motive Making life difficult for The Powers That Be.
Dearest wish Justice in India.
Power is “The possibility to make life choices.”
Inspirations Women of the family.
Driving philosophy To fight for justice. “A fight has to be worth fighting.”

Chanda D. Kochhar (47)
TOP BANKER

As managing director and chief executive officer, ICICI Bank Limited, the responsibility of handling the country’s second largest bank, fell recently to Chanda D Kochhar. She began her career with the bank as a management trainee in 1984, having thereafter successfully risen through the ranks by handling multidimensional assignments and heading all the major functions in the bank at various times. “The main thing is that the entire economic environment has changed and for the banking sector, even more so,” she maintains. “In this past year, we have had to re-calibrate the strategy of the bank to bring it in line with the changed environment.” And for a woman to be chosen to head the bank in this environment seems like an even larger responsibility. “The appointment has been in keeping with the DNA and culture of the organisation,” she says, of the group which has been known to ignore gender and work entirely on merit. And as for balancing home and work, she maintains, “I have never found it a burden, but a privilege rather than men who handle only one job.”

Favourite accessory A collection of watches, “but what is really me is the sari, even when I am travelling abroad. In meetings, I am often the only one wearing a sari and I like it that way!”
Familial bond “The credit goes to my family since most of my time is taken up by the job. The children learn to get more independent, the house learns to run on its own.”
Unwinds with A lot of Bollywood films, Hindi music and spending time with the family.
Morale booster For India’s economy in which she has great faith.
Driving philosophy “Whatever you are doing currently, do it better than it has ever been done.”

Medha Patkar (54)
FIREBRAND ACTIVIST

For showing us that Gujarat is not always shining. For putting reason and relief above ideological convictions. For carrying the spirit of the Narmada Bachao Andolan all the way to Singur. For making India aware of the costs of development, and of those who get left out of its onward sweep.

Shobhaa De (61)
SOCIAL CHRONICLER

For knowing how to set the literary world on fire with every book. For hauling celebrities up on everything from their dress sense to their morals. For writing columns that haven’t run short on sarcasm and sass for decades on end. For being the one to think of cocktail saris.

Tina Tahiliani Parikh (42)
ENSEMBLE’S MONEY-SPINNER

For being the face of exclusive fashion retail, and the beating heart of Ensemble. For having the brain of an investment banker and the eye of a consummate aesthetician. For cheering on new designers from the front rows of fashion weeks, and not just in stores. For insisting on sensible shoes through it all.

Sonal Shah (40)
HEAD OF WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF SOCIAL INNOVATION

Advisor to US President Barack Obama’s team, Sonal Shah formerly worked as the Head of Global Development Initiatives for Google.org. This move was preceded by her term as vice president at Goldman, Sachs and Co where she was responsible for developing and implementing their environmental strategy. She also served as the Associate Director for Economic and National Security Policy at the Centre for American Progress, working on trade, outsourcing and post-conflict restitution.

Little known fact Worked as an attaché for the Department of Treasury, developing payment systems for post-conflict Bosnia and Kosovo. Was part of the core team that created Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and established their first new currency.
Familial bond Founded US-based non-profit organisation Indicorps, modelled on the US Peace Corps, with brother Anand and sister Roopal. Indicorps offers fellowships to Indians around the world giving them the opportunity to work on development projects at a grass-root level in India.
Troubled time Marxist author and journalist Vijay Prashad and former Republican Senator Rick Santorum, have attacked Shah for her association with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad – America.
Bête noire She has publicly proclaimed her dislike of politics, especially the kind which promote religious hatred and propagate division and violence.
Driving philosophy Always pay it forward.

Padma Lakshmi (38)
COOKBOOK AUTHOR

Former model, cookbook author and TV show host Padma Lakshmi never seems to rest. Lakshmi, who has modelled for top designers Emanuel Ungaro, Ralph Lauren, Alberta Ferretti, most recently launched Padma Jewellery, her offering of modern versions of India-inspired jewellery, at Bergdorf Goodman, New York. “At a very young age, I loved to adorn myself with all things precious,” she says, reminiscing about her mother’s jewellery boxes. On the cards is fashion and cookware as well, making her the first Indian woman with an American brand which could well turn into a business empire.

International exposure Ad campaigns for Roberto Cavalli and Versus.
Familial bond Former wife of controversial author, Salman Rushdie.
Perpetual obsession Food. Authored two cookbooks, Easy Exotic and Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet.
Celluloid inroads Boom, The Mistress of Spices.
Popular avatar Hostess of TV cooking competition series, Top Chef.

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