A Woman of Substance
By Neelima Agrawal
“We need women who are so strong they can be gentle,
So educated they can be humble,
So fierce they can be compassionate,
So passionate they can be rational,
And so disciplined they can be free”
– Excerpts from Kavita Ramdas’s speech given at her alma mater, Mount Holyoke College.
The truly accomplished do not flaunt. And so it was with Dr Indu Anand, whose personality resonates in these lines by Kavita Ramdas. Not one to rest on her laurels, the elegant Dr Anand forges ahead with new plans and initiatives. She wears many hats, and all in earnest, be it as a historian, an educator, a philanthropist or a cultural envoy. This Fulbright Scholar and recipient of Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarship has accomplished much, deftly juggling her many roles together, fulfilling significant projects in the process.
In 2014, Dorling Kindersley India (DK Printworld) published a book ‘Akbar- the Aesthete’ by Indu Anand, a veritable bible for anyone who owns a miniature painting or is interested in it. Published in the form of a coffee table book, this is an important body of work that already is, and will continue to be sought after by historians and lay persons alike. Dr Anand has carefully identified 48 miniatures from the 16th Century, around the timeline of the reign of Jalal-ud-Din Muhammad Akbar, the most significant ruler of the Mughal era. She uses these paintings not just as art, but as text, analysing the manner of their composition and the value of the sociopolitical and cultural context. Several of the miniatures have Persian calligraphy, which has been carefully dealt with, the text reproduced, along with translations and transliterations by experts. She has sourced the paintings from far and wide, the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts, Imperial Museum, Tehran, The Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, Bharat Kala Bhawan, Benaras, to name a few – the list is long. The magnitude of the research and compilation is possible only by an art historian of the calibre of Dr Indu Anand. The book has a Foreword by Dr Karan Singh, President of ICCR and MP Rajya Sabha. The Vice President of India, Hon’ble Shri Hamid Ansari released the book. It is a collector’s item.
At the time when Indu indulged the Historian in her to take on this mammoth project of producing a book for posterity, she was fully plunged in her profession as an educationist. As Head of Janaki Devi Memorial College, a premium institute for women in Delhi University, she was fully hands-on in all her initiative. Her four decades at the institute opened her compassionate heart to the challenges of young woman students. The unfortunate plight of one of her students, which resulted in her loss of life for dowry, moved Indu Anand immensely. She resolved that every girl is empowered economically and mentally, and is able to fend for herself.Next day she set up a Women Development Cell and went on initiate the Women Entrepreneurship Support Training Program (WEST) in collaboration with the Government of The Netherlands and Ecorys, their knowledge partner. Under this programme, women learnt entrepreneurial skills to set up their own businesses. To bring strength to her initiative, and as Principal of the premium institute, she hosted high level dignitaries and celebrities Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Azad, then President of India, Prime Minister David Cameron, of the United Kingdom, Vice President of India Mr. M. Hamid Ansari, Mother Teresa, leading actor Aamir Khan who is the UN Ambassador for
Malnutrition, Rt. Honourable Lilanne Ploumen, Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, The Netherlands. Her proactive and heartfelt initiative has gone on to aid several and continues to change lives. A few months ago, Dr Anand organised an interaction at the India International Centre, with the London based best-selling author Pat Duckworth, around her book ‘Hot Women Rock: How to discover your midlife entrepreneurial mojo’. An extremely relevant book for women post 50 years of age, many in the audience were able to interact first hand with the author, who was visiting India at the time.
Not one to hang up her boots, Dr Indu Anand is lending her active support to several help groups and initiatives. This historian may also be involved in the chronicling of another story of India that will become as invaluable source for the future generations.