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Shugato Das Gupta

By Anita Roy . Design and illustration by Shuka Jain; Reena Daruwalla. Design and Illustration by Anand Nasorem
Young Zubaan, New Delhi, 2004, pp. 144 & 102, Rs. 125.00 & 150.00


Both these books emerge from the same essential premise: life, as the blurb to Reena Daruwalla’s A to Z Problem Solver puts it, is tough for a kid. If it’s not “problems… in all shapes and sizes: from allergies to zits”, it’s some square asking what you want to be when you grow up. Both Flying High and A to Z Problem Solver purport to be beacons; “don’t worry”, the blurb reassures, “help is here.”      Flying High, edited by Anita Roy, collects together the stories of 17 high-achieving women in fields that range from dentistry to aviation to fashion choreography to journalism. In her introduction, Roy writes “the choices that you have to make now… might well affect which career you can follow later in life.” Most of us, she asserts, “would like to explore what the options are before jumping in at the deep end.” This is where the book comes in – “After all, there’s nothing like first-hand experience to give you a flavour of what’s to come”. After each piece in the book is a section titled The Facts, which provides a very brief summary of the qualifications you need for a career in that particular field and a more nebulous paragraph about the “qualities” you’ll need. Occasionally, this shades into the banal. For instance, here’s the entry on the qualities you need to be a dentist: “You need to be skilled with your hands, be confident, sympathetic, and have lots of self-confidence.”       Most of the people who have contributed to the book are, of course, not professional writers and it shows. Several of the pieces take a pious, homiletic, didactic approach – “… unless you respect yourself, your husband won’t respect you, your in-laws won’t respect you” or “Don’t decide to become a doctor just because your father or your sibling is. You have to have that intense passion…” (Even though in the first paragraph of the same piece, the writer admits she opted for medical school “to bring the smile back on my father’s face.”). Indira Vashishta’s piece, which opens the book, tells us a lot about what a struggle it was for her to become a pilot, how difficult it was to persuade her family to approve, how few women there are who are commercial pilots, what a big responsibility it is to have the ...

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