Sania Mirza, Priyanka Chopra, and Sunita Narain. We have known these names, and seen them taken, sometimes in the context of greatness, but more often than not, against the backdrop of controversy. International publication TIME has now imprinted these names in world history. The top ranked tennis doubles player, internationally famous actor and movie star, and world-renowned activist, respectively, are the three Indian women who feature in the TIME 100 2016 list of the world’s most influential people.
Two out of these three, we Indians have often dragged through the mud. While the Indianness of one’s words has been questioned, the Indianness of another’s very heart has been doubted. While one has often been made the butt of dirty rumours that escalation up Tinseltown’s rungs often brings, the other has been attacked by her own beloved community that wanted to keep a check on the flutter in her wings.
The third, a relentless force of nature, has for 15 years been fighting a cause that people often pit against trivialities like their luxury and comfort – clean air.
In return, they have only shown their motherland undying love, discounted all its idiosyncrasies and held up the national flag every time they managed to excel – with or without the nation’s support.
As TIME declared these ladies’ contribution indispensable in the larger scheme of things, they invited their contemporaries and friends to share anecdotes and thoughts about them. Sania Mirza received an ode from the god of cricket; Priyanka Chopra inspired The Rock to pen a tribute; and Sunita Narain received heartfelt gratitude in a candid testimonial from a literary legend. It isn’t every day that Sachin Tendulkar, Dwayne Johnson, and Amitav Ghosh are the administerers of fanatic adulation, rather than being at its receiving end. It simply proves, once again, that our country’s women have arrived, and their stature and clout matches that of or, just for today at least, perhaps even outshines that of the greatest men of our time.
Sania Mirza is a star in the true sense of the word. She rises from the dust of criticism around her, derives strength from the storm and comes out as a brilliant twinkler. Having reigned as the Queen of Doubles’ circuit for over a year now, Sania has also had an exceptional 2016, so far. In the news now for a class-act hat-trick, winning all of the last three Grand Slam in a row, she is one of India’s most successful female athletes.
In what I am certain will go down in history as a moment of ultimate indulgence for millions of sports enthusiasts and fans like me, who choked up in delight and satisfaction, Sachin Tendulkar had this to say about Sania – “The Mirzas probably knew what the future held for their daughter. Her name, Sania, means brilliant. I first heard about Sania Mirza back in 2005, when she became the first Indian to win a Women’s Tennis Association event. In 2008, I saw her play in the third round of the Australian Open against Venus Williams. Though she lost, I believed she had the potential to be a star.
When Sania’s singles’ career was cut short by wrist injuries, she, through dedication and willpower, reinvented herself fully as a doubles player. Today Sania and her partner on court, Martina Hingis, are No. 1 in doubles and utterly dominant—they have taken the past three Grand Slam events.
Sania’s confidence, strength and resilience reach beyond tennis. She has inspired a generation of Indians to pursue their dreams—and to realize that they can also be the best,” he concludes.
Priyanka Chopra, former Miss World and veteran Bollywood actress, recently landed her first show as one of the protagonists on American television. One season down, the show has already catapulted her into the mainstream as she bagged a People’s Choice Award. It also paved the way to her second role, this time, as a Baywatch beauty in the film that is based on the classic 1989 series. She stars alongside WWE’s Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who was taken by her stardom long before he even met her.
‘Before ever meeting Priyanka Chopra, I had heard her name coming out of Bollywood and was impressed: she was beautiful, talented. When we connected around the time she started Quantico, we immediately hit it off. She has drive, ambition, self-respect, and she knows there’s no substitute for hard work. It’s an amazing time to watch as she pierces the US market. I can see that her impact is going to be invaluable.”
Amitav Ghosh wrote of Sunita Narain, “Sunita Narain’s ideas have shaped some of the key debates of our time.”
The paper that she co-authored in 1991 on climate change, has remained the foundational charter of the global climate-justice movement.
Sunita Narain is a trailblazer, who, through the organization she heads, the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, has been fighting to reduce the Indian capital’s dangerous air-pollution levels for almost two decades. Some of their key recommendations have been adopted by the courts.
“Hers is a voice that urgently needs to be heard in this era of climate change,” he writes.
The other Indians to make it to the list are Flipkart’s power-duo Sachin and Binny Bansal, Raghuram Rajan and Sundar Pichai.