They are the people who inspire us, entertain us, challenge us and change our world. Meet the breakouts, pioneers, moguls, leaders and icons who make up this year’s TIME 100
I met Anjali Gopalan in 1995, when I was researching a new disease whose name was spoken only in whispers in India. At the time, doctors and nurses in some Delhi hospitals would not touch people infected with HIV. Gopalan not only touched them; she took them into her home and danced with them. She escorted me to the hidden places where gays and lesbians met: in Nehru Park on Sunday evenings and at a party where men arrived garbed as Bollywood heroines from the 1950s and ’60s. It was a threatened world, and Gopalan had returned home from Brooklyn to protect it.
Through her work at the Naz Foundation, Gopalan, 54, has done more than anyone else to advance the rights of gays and the transgendered in India, successfully petitioning the courts to get rid of a British-era law against sodomy. But her work isn’t just in courtrooms. She also runs a home for HIV-positive orphans.
Gopalan has brought about a revolution in the status of sexual minorities in India — and has done so joyously, dancing.
Though much of Indian society remains hidebound in patriarchy and tradition, strong women still prevail in the nation’s political life. Mamata Banerjee rose to the fore last year when she and a movement she built from the grassroots wrested control of her home state of West Bengal, ending 3 ½ decades of sclerotic communist rule. Banerjee, 57, spent years struggling on the margins, her Trinamool Congress Party a feisty rabble compared with the leviathan of West Bengal’s communists. Referred to by her supporters as Didi, or “elder sister,” she was labeled by critics as a mercurial oddball and a shrieking street fighter. But ultimately she proved to be the consummate politician. Through successive elections, Banerjee steadily expanded her power base while chipping away at those of her opponents. Her lower-middle-class background was no obstacle in a country notorious for its dynasties. In New Delhi’s back rooms, where political horse trading is the name of the game, she excelled. On the streets, she out-Marxed the Marxists. And as chief minister of her home state, she has emerged as a populist woman of action — strident and divisive but poised to play an even greater role in the world’s largest democracy.
(courtesy: Suketu Mehta, Ishaan Tharoor & TIME)
- India & HIV (sjsa.wordpress.com)