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Emma, an oppressed but resourceful servant girl, acquires a shrewd determination; hones her skills; discovers the meaning of treachery; learns to survive, to become a woman, and vows to make her mark in the world.
I’m an avid reader and book lover and I owe this to my English teacher in high school. When all other teachers used to give writing assignments/project works during the summer vacations, she would share names of the books that she wanted us to read during the holidays. After vacations, she would then discuss the finer nuances of those books and characters. That is how my love affair with English fiction started. By the time I passed out from class 10th, I’d literally read all English novels available in our school library and there were quite a lot of them.
In 1998, I was going through a rough patch professionally. Thankfully, I’d not given up on my habit of reading books. I pick up books from anywhere and everywhere – book fairs, roadside vendors, exhibitions etc. During one such book hunt, I came across a fictional novel by Barbara Taylor Bradford – A Woman of Substance. What attracted me towards the book, was its title. I presumed that it was a light reading book, a romantic novel about a woman and her love. Little did I know that it was indeed a book about a woman’s love – for life. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t keep it down. The characters are so skillfully woven in the story; it’s completely mesmerizing. This is the dazzling saga of Emma Hart, a woman who dares to dream, conquers her inhibitions, overcomes all obstacles and establishes herself as a formidable business woman.
Emma, an oppressed but resourceful servant girl, acquires a shrewd determination; hones her skills; discovers the meaning of treachery; learns to survive, to become a woman, and vows to make her mark in the world. From kitchen maid at the beginning of the 20th Century, to respected business woman and grandmother. From humble beginnings, Emma starts her business with a small shop, but over the next 3 decades she expands her stores and invests in the growing textile industry in Leeds, England. She is driven and ambitious, determined and clever and has a strong will; all qualities to become an extraordinary woman.
Emma, the protagonist, exhibits different leadership styles ranging from autocratic (where she makes all decisions & tells her people how to do things); strategic (by coaching/guiding her grand-children and creating winning habits in them for a high-performing team & organisation); transformational (by initiating change & motivating others to do more than they thought was possible); cross-cultural (by expanding her business beyond boundaries and efficiently managing people from different cultures) to charismatic and visionary. Emma’s attitude is always positive. She is able to identify her emotions in light of other’s beliefs & opinions and then not only evaluates her response but also takes actions accordingly. She is intrinsically motivated to change her stature in society and extrinsic factors like rejection and failure, strengthens her resolve to work towards making her dreams come true. Throughout the story, Emma passes through different stages – emotional & irrational (when she falls for a guy & gives birth out of wedlock), rational (when she decides to send her daughter with her cousin so that she could concentrate on her work) and moral (when she forgives her children for conspiring against her and still creates trust fund for them). Because of her childhood and early struggles, Emma exhibits an innate need for social recognition, commonly known as need for strokes by famous psychologist Eric Berne. Emma’s emotional intelligence quotient is also very high as she fits perfectly on all 5 elements of emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman – self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy & social skills.
A Woman of Substance has inspired me in a way that no autobiography had ever done. The lessons that I learnt have stayed with me, ever since. The book taught me that it is okay to follow your dreams and that a life without purpose is no life at all. I understood the meaning of leadership skills, intrinsic motivation, value of hard work, result orientation, accepting your failures & learning from them and moving on, self discipline and empathy. Some of these skills were already there but others I have cultivated over the years. Whenever I’m in doubt or feeling demotivated, I still go back to the book and it fills me with a new energy and purpose. So yes, I can say that it is possible to get inspired by a fictional character.
Image Credits: Canva, barbarataylorbradford.com
A dreamer who believes that life is bigger than anything that can happen to you. A fighter, a survivor, a daughter, a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend but above all..a woman. read more...
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I huffed, puffed and panted up the hill, taking many rest breaks along the way. My calf muscles pained, my heart protested, and my breathing became heavy at one stage.
“Let’s turn back,” my husband remarked. We stood at the foot of Shravanbelagola – one of the most revered Jain pilgrimage centres. “We will not climb the hill,” he continued.
My husband and I were vacationing in Karnataka. It was the month of May, and even at the early hour of 8 am in the morning, the sun scorched our backs. After visiting Bangalore and Mysore, we had made a planned stop at this holy site in the Southern part of the state en route to Hosur. Even while planning our vacation, my husband was very excited at the prospect of visiting this place and the 18 m high statue of Lord Gometeshwara, considered one of the world’s tallest free-standing monolithic statues.
What we hadn’t bargained for was there would be 1001 granite steps that needed to be climbed to have a close-up view of this colossal magic three thousand feet above sea level on a hilltop. It would be an understatement to term it as an arduous climb.
She was sure she was dying of cancer the first time her periods came. Why did her mother not explain anything? Why did no one say anything?
Sneha still remembers the time when she had her first period.
She was returning home from school in a cycle-rickshaw in which four girls used to commute to school. When she found something sticky on the place where she was sitting, she wanted to hide it, but she would be the first girl to get down and others were bound to notice it. She was a nervous wreck.
As expected, everyone had a hearty laugh seeing her condition. She wondered what the rickshaw-wallah thought of her. Running towards her home, she told her mother about it. And then, she saw. There was blood all over. Was she suffering from some sickness? Cancer? Her maternal uncle had died of blood cancer!
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