Born in 1946 in Bombay, India of Parsi Zoroastrian parentage, Shireen Isal completed her schooling, graduation and post graduate degrees in French followed by work experience as secretary in charge of French cultural affairs at the Alliance Francaise in Bombay before leaving for Paris, France in 1974, to join her husband, Dr. Jean-Pierre Isal.
Having made Paris her home, her determination to work in both culture and an India-related field led to an initial stint as cultural assistant at the Embassy of India in Paris. A few years later, keenly aware of the tremendous interest in Indian culture by an enthusiastic French audience, Shireen established Association Sargam (www.associationsargam.com). She thereby rose to the challenge of an entirely new profession, that of artists’ management, learning as she progressed and rapidly touring classical music and dance exponents from India throughout France, expanding thereafter to numerous countries within Europe. This was undertaken in collaboration with local organisers everywhere, whose selfless and committed work she salutes here. Shireen has not only been privileged to invite some of the greatest names from India but, very importantly, has championed the cause of younger and lesser-known artists, offering them a much-deserved platform in Europe
It has been Shireen’s mission in life to present India's finest classical performing artists, thereby meeting her objective of creating a greater awareness in the west of India's cultural heritage and becoming that link between India and Europe by offering all parties the ideal conditions for the propagation of a rich and divine art. Since 1979, over a hundred tours of forty different classical musicians and dancers have been organised in fifteen European countries. They have performed, taught and recorded their art through a total of five hundred events. In recent years, her management work has extended to touring Europe-based musicians of western classical music within India, setting up vocal training courses and concert tours in various cities of India.
Shireen imbibed her love for the arts from her late parents, Dr. Kawas and Villoo Baria, whose love and practice of classical music instilled in her the seeds of her future work. In the challenge she took up on her arrival in Paris 37 years ago, she has been supported by her husband, Dr. Jean-Pierre Isal to whom she attributes any measure of success she will have achieved. That support now also comes from her two daughters, Sarah and Roxane and her son-in-law, Pierrick Williamson. Their love of all things Indian, their help in the organisation of her activities and their enthusiasm to meet and interact with all the artists visiting Europe have provided the bedrock on which her work has been possible. “I salute my entire family for enabling and facilitating my work. I also deeply extend my thanks to all those artists who placed their faith in me and who have – through my interactions with them over the years – so enriched me as a human being. I feel humbled and privileged! As an Indian living abroad, I hope that my work – arising from my deep emotional links with India – will inspire audiences everywhere to enhance their knowledge and love of the arts I strive to promote. ”
Shusha Guppy was born into a distinguished traditional family in Persia and grew up in an atmosphere of poetry and mystical chants. In her teens she went to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. At the same time she trained as a singer, and learnt the French Chanson in its rich variety. A chance encounter with poet Jacques Prevert led to her singing professionally, and recording an album of 'Persian Love Songs', while extending her repertoire to French songs - From the Middle Ages, through the Pleiade Poets, to modern songs of Prevert, Brel, Brassens, to today.
Following her marriage to an English author, Shusha settled in London in the 60's, and began singing an Anglo-American repertoire of folksongs, the works of contemporaries- Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison, and others - and increasingly her own songs.
Shusha started her recording career appropriately with an album of 'Persian Love Songs and Mystic Chants' followed by another of contemporary English songs, 'The Songs of Long-Time Lovers' (Tangent Records). The success of these led to contracts with other major record companies. To date she has produced 12 albums of her own and other songwriter's works, including a collection of French chansons: 'La Fortune', a record of songs by English poets, 'Durable Fire', and a second album of Persian traditional, 'From East to West'.
As a writer Shusha Guppy's first book, 'The Blindfold Horse', was published in 1988 to great acclaim and won the Yorkshire Post Prize for the best non-fiction book and a prize from the Royal Society of Literature. 'A Girl in Paris' followed in 1991 and was equally well received (both published by William Heinemann) as was 'Looking Back - A Panoramic View of a Literary Age' (Simon & Shuster 1993).
In the 70's Shusha travelled with the nomadic Bakhtiari tribes of Southern Persia on their spring migration and made two films: 'People of the Wind' (A Persian Odyssey) - a long documentary, which won an Oscar nomination - and a short film of Shusha singing along the journey. A record of the former film's music was released later.
Shusha lived in London. She was the London Editor of the American literary journal 'The Paris Review' and contributed to a number of national and transatlantic publications. She gave concerts regularly, appeared on television and radio, and took part in international conferences, giving talks on a variety of cross-cultural subjects. These were sometimes accompanies by recital of songs from her rich repertoire.
Shusha (Shamsi) Guppy, singer and writer, born December 24 1935; died March 21 2008
Shyama Perera started her working life as a newspaper journalist. She was the youngest reporter ever taken on by the Guardian at that time, and later moved into television and radio before ultimately settling for a life raising two children and writing novels. She still freelances for the national press and is a regular talking head across all media.
Her current passion is to use the principles of creative writing to instil verbal and written confidence in children, and to promote original thought and expression within business. She also provides manuscript services and was one of six writers granted residencies as part of the 2005 ArchiTEXTS project.
She is a director of Kali Theatre Company, which specialises in new writing by Asian women, and set up the company website.
Simone Poonawalla became a breeder of thoroughbred racehorses after her education in Horse Business Management at Marcus Oldham College (Dux Award & Horse Husbandry Award), Australia and Stud Farm Breeding Management at the Irish National Stud (Gold Medal), Ireland. Thereafter she worked briefly with Taylor Made Stud Farm, Kentucky, and USA for the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Returning to India in 1999, Simone was officially employed by the family stud farm. She has been responsible for rearing up/managing young stock. She also involves herself in the management of the business.
Simone believes that the achievement of the horses is down to a team effort. As she says, “breeding a good racehorse is an art as well as a science…breeding a top quality racehorse is a very tricky and difficult operation as it involves so many facets, from top horsemanship to veterinary skills, equine nutrition, quality of bloodstock, environmental conditions, and of course the running of the actual business itself which requires a well rounded knowledge of the industry, astuteness and a keen nose for business.”
Simone goes on to say, "there is no greater satisfaction than getting the desired results, whilst having the horse work along with you – not for you."
Simone Tata was born and brought up in Geneva, Switzerland and graduated from Geneva University. Always fond of travelling, she came to India as a tourist in 1953, where she met her future husband, Naval H. Tata. They married in 1955 and she settled down in Bombay permanently.
Simone joined the Board of Lakme Ltd in 1961 and was appointed as the Managing Director in 1964. This was followed by taking over as Chairman of the Board in 1982. From small beginnings, Lakme blossomed to be the leading cosmetic company in India. It also exports to several foreign countries. In 1989, Simone was also appointed as a Director of Tata Industries Ltd, which is Asia's largest private sector group, with over ninety-one companies in various sectors. Like the Wallenbergs in Sweden and Oppenheimers in South Africa, Tata's interest span much of India' economy.
Simone has been responsible for setting up a chain of successful department stores under the brand name of Westside. Starting from one single store in Bangalore in 1998, it now operates sixteen stores located in major cities around India and plans to double its coverage by 2005.
Apart from her business activities, Simone is connected with several social organisations to which she devotes much time.
Simone is mother to Noel Tata and has three grandchildren.
Sister Nirmala is Mother Teresa's successor as Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity. Born in Ranchi in 1934 to a Brahmin soldier who came from Nepal, Nirmala Joshi joined the order at the age of 17, after converting from Hinduism. Her sister, too, embraced Christianity and became a Carmelite nun. After joining the Missionaries of Charity, Sister Nirmala studied law at the insistence of Mother Teresa, who often took her along during her tours abroad. The Mother's confidence in her abilities was evident when she asked Sister Nirmala to open their homes in Panama, New York and Kathmandu.
She is a modest woman, and when she succeeded Mother she quietly said, "Mother Teresa can never be replaced. She is gifted with rare charisma that can never be acquired in one's lifetime." Sister Nirmal is not without her own strengths as well, however. As spiritual adviser Father le Joly said, "In her, Mother found signs of energy, dedication, and charisma." When journalists once asked Mother Teresa what made Sister Nirmala so exceptional, she replied, "She is a Missionary of Charity".
Sue Douglas is on the board of directors at Condé Nast Publications Ltd. Prior to her appointment as President of the New Business division, Sue launched Vogue.com, Glamour magazine and Tate magazine for Condé Nast.
Born on 29th January 1957, Sue was educated at Tiffin Girls’ School. She later went on to pursue Physiology and Biochemistry at Southampton University, where she is now a trustee.
Sue started as a management consultant at Anderson Consulting (now Arthur Anderson) and later began her media career as a medical journalist at Haymarket Publishing. In 1980 she spent a year in Johannesburg as a writer at Rand Daily Mail before moving to the Mail on Sunday. Over a period of eight years she progressed from a medical correspondent, to associate editor, to the assistant editor of the Daily Mail. Sue moved to the Sunday Times in 1991 as deputy editor, and in 1995 became editor of the Sunday Express.
Since 1996, Sue has been at Condé Nast. During this period, she has also launched Sunday Business, was director of Scotsman Publications with Andrew Neil, and launched Gear magazine in New York.
Sue is a trustee and member of the executive committee at the National Portrait Gallery.
Internationally acclaimed yogini Kalji (Kaliji Ray) is founder of TriYoga®, a complete method that includes the full range of yoga practices. With a natural ability to integrate Eastern thought and Western tradition, she shares these practices and yoga philosophy in a way understood by people of diverse backgrounds.
A Swamini in the Jayalakshmi Datta Avadhoota lineage, she is a disciple of Sri Mata Jayalakshmi and H.H. Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda of Mysore, India. In India, Kaliji received the honorary title of Vishwa Bandhu from Sri Swamiji in recognition of her global service. Vishwa Bandhu translates as friend of the universe, a caring relative of humanity.
In the tradition of ancient yoga, the origin and development of TriYoga is guided by kriyavati siddhi as expressed through Kaliji. From this inner guidance, she has systematized TriYoga Flows, breathing practices, and concentration techniques, and over 1000 hand mudras have come forth. Presently more than 850 certified teachers share the practices in over 35 countries. Kaliji travels extensively to share TriYoga. Featured in many magazines and other media, she has presented over 34 keynote addresses and in-depth programs at yoga conferences as well as other venues worldwide. Inspired by her love for animals, Kaliji has been vegan for more than 30 years and has influenced thousands to make healthier food choices.
Kaliji's spiritual quest began from a very early age. As a young child in America, Kaliji was naturally drawn to self-inquiry and meditation and as early as three years old, she could be found sitting quietly in deep reflection. By age seven she was actively seeking the answer to the question, "Where was I before coming to this planet? Where do I come from?" Upon asking these questions, she would be overwhelmed by feelings of bliss. Although the blissful feeling only lasted seconds it was what kept her asking such questions. Further experiences during her youth made Kaliji realize that the soul is eternal. She was also deeply moved by a spiritual encounter with a man who followed eastern philosophy. After this, they met many times to discuss the ageless truth.
One night in solitude Kaliji prayed and asked the Divine to reveal the source of happiness. At that moment, in July of 1975, kundalini awakened and for twelve hours she was immersed in bliss. Her life changed. She told everyone that she was guided by the Mother Goddess. Five years later, kundalini awakened again and from that day on, kriyavati siddhi comes forth on a continual basis. The students that are in her presence at these times often relate how they feel her spiritual energy and themselves enter into deep meditation and bliss. As it states in yoga texts, the (yogaflow®) sequences that have emerged from kriyavati, when practiced by others, increase their life force and facilitate the awakening of consciousness.
Kaliji has taught TriYoga for over 30 years. Kaliji's presence, her mastery of the flow and the ageless wisdom inherent in TriYoga have inspired and transformed countless lives.
Taleya Rehman was born on 9th September 1934 in Bangladesh. She graduated from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, with an MA in Economics. She went on to undertake a research fellowship at the London School of Economics in London and qualified as a teacher in London.
She later moved to England and worked for the BBC for thirty years. Taleya was involved in the BBC World Service in Bengali, qualifying as a newscaster and producing women’s programmes. Through her work with the BBC, she became interested in the politics of language and in human rights issues.
In 1995, Taleya founded Democracywatch in Bangladesh, which campaigns for popular education and female empowerment. Democracywatch also advocates studies on democracy and good governance, and it is linked with a training institute to discover and train future leaders. Democracywatch has run projects in several areas including election monitoring and awareness programmes.
Taleya is the governing body member of a governance coalition which includes ActionAid Bangladesh, Democracywatch, Transparency International Bangladesh, FEMA, PPRC, BELA, BLAST and others, working to promote democracy and good governance in Bangladesh. She has been an official observer of general elections in Bangladesh and Denmark, and has been invited to observe Sri Lankan elections.
Prior to her work at Democracywatch and the BBC, Taleya was the deputy head of a secondary school, and director of Spectrum Radio in London.
Since August 2000, Baroness Usha Prashar, CBE has been the first civil service commissioner. In this role she leads the work of the civil service commissioners who are responsible for contributing to the development of an effective and impartial civil service and supporting its core values by giving an assurance that appointments into the civil service are made on merit on the basis of fair and open competition and by promoting the civil service code and hearing appeals.
Usha was made a Life Peer in 1999. From October 1997 to October 2000 she was the executive chairman of the Parole Board of England and Wales.
From 1991 to 1997, Usha had a portfolio of activities which included membership of the royal commission on criminal justice, the Lord Chancellor's advisory committee on legal education and conduct, and the Arts Council, where she chaired the Arts Council committee on combined arts and the cultural diversity panel. For eight years she was a non-executive director of Channel 4 and a non-executive director of the Energy Saving Trust for six years. From 1993 to 1996 she was a member of the Ealing Hounslow and Hammersmith HA.
Usha was the director of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations from 1986 to 1991, an umbrella body for voluntary organisations in England. Between 1984 and 1986, Usha was a fellow with the Policy Studies Institute, where her research included enquiry into primary health care in London funded by the King's Fund, which resulted in a report: Acheson and After - Primary Health Care in the Inner City.
As the director of Runnymede Trust from 1976 to 1984, Usha had enormous influence in the development of social and public policy affecting minorities. From 1971 to 1976, she was a conciliation officer with the former Race Relations Board.
Valerie Mulcare-Tivey began her medical career in 1981, with a mixture of nursing and first aid. Some of her work was in a voluntary capacity, the rest agency and freelance.
Several years in the Ambulance Service proved to be vital in the scheme of things and air ambulance repatriation was a natural progression from that. With further experience gained abroad in America, Valerie realised that achievement is within with hard work.
In 1995 it seemed logical for Valerie to add First Aid Instructor to her steadily growing list of qualifications, motivated by the need to nurture and share.
A planned trip to Mumbai in 1998 and events during that trip gave birth to the idea of further helping vulnerable children and youths, facilitated through her particular skill areas. Hence she qualified as an advanced instructor in 1998, seeking more ways in which to help the children.
It became a mission to learn as much medically and holistically as possible, so Valerie attended college during 2000 and 2001 to gain an initial qualification for therapeutic body massage. By 2004 she had completed courses in Indian head massage, healing, sports massage, reflexology, ear candling and cardio care. In autumn 2005 Valerie completed her final exams in clinical hypnotherapy which also covers in depth psychoanalysis.
For personal growth, she is involved with the Essex Ambulance Service First Response scheme on a voluntary basis. Not only keeping her skills updated but allows those particular skills to help in the training and assessment of other members. Their joint skills can be called upon for emergency situations like cardiac arrest.
This long path of constant studying and exams has enabled Valerie to fulfil her dream of teaching the thousands of Mumbai children in her care. Skills like first aid and aseptic techniques for wound dressings plus basic hygiene, to help each other when I am not around and for them to pass on to others. Those skills have allowed her to complete traumatic amputations at the side of the railway lines where people have fallen from crowded trains, and deliver babies into abject poverty under plastic sheet roof covering in roadside slums under diabolical conditions.
Valerie knows that by educating children we can shape the world in a more positive way and that children who do not grow up in an environment where education is assured have a thirst for knowledge, therefore are a joy to teach.
After a successful career as a solicitor in central London where she was recognised as a leading advertising lawyer, Vanessa Hall-Smith’s dream of one day moving to Italy became a reality when she took up the position of the British Institute of Florence in January 2004. “I had reached a point in my professional life when I was ready to make changes and embrace new challenges and I feel very privileged to have had this opportunity.”
The British Institute of Florence was established in the closing stages of the First World War with the aim of promoting cultural exchange between Italy and the UK. Registered as a UK charity, the Institute maintains an archive and library containing the largest collections of English books in Italy, organises cultural events and runs courses in Italian and English language and culture, history of art, drawing and painting.
“Living in a city which was at the heart of one of the most creative periods in Western history provides a constant reminder of what can be achieved through artistic and intellectual endeavour. One of the most satisfying aspects of my job is when students experience a sense of enrichment through exposure to great works of art”.
Vanessa believes strongly in the importance of lifelong learning and realising individual potential “We need to know what we are, or could be, good at and how to develop our strengths rather than worry about our weaknesses” she maintains. Her plans for developing the Institute’s educational role include the extension of links with universities and other institutions and the establishment of more scholarships and bursaries for those wishing to study History of Art in Florence.
She also has plans to broaden the Institute’s archival and research work through a number of projects, including the creation of a database of individuals from outside Italy who visited Tuscany from 1700 onwards and whose visit left a mark in some way, through their own writing or painting, through diplomatic work or in the business field. “This is an ambitious project but once realised will be an invaluable tool for scholars and all those with an interest in Italy and the legacy of foreign visitors to Tuscany”.
Vanessa has two daughters and four cats.
Vanessa Shields was born in Summit, New Jersey and is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University, USA and the University of Bradford, UK. Ms Shields is the founder and director of the Wroxton Centre for Global Dialogue which promotes citizen empowerment worldwide by: facilitating intercultural and interfaith understanding within and between communities; encouraging discussion about current events and issues of importance; and, developing information, advice and training about the political structures and processes through which citizens can make their voices heard. Ms Shields became actively involved in community work while at Bradford University, working for groups such as, Bradford Action for Refugees and the Centre for Conflict Resolution, University of Bradford.
Ms Shields has worked with a variety of international non-governmental organizations in the UK and USA including the Oxford Research Group where she conducted research on the upgrade of the UK Trident nuclear weapons programme and assisted with the organization of consultations with senior Government and military officials, diplomats, academics, scientists and journalists. In 2004, Ms Shields was contracted by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research to write a report for the European Commission on how to develop a monitoring mechanism for EU arms embargoes. In 2005, Ms Shields was contracted to initiate, organize and host a North Atlantic Treaty Organization Advanced Research Workshop in Jordan. In preparation for these meetings Ms Shields was involved in high-level talks with leaders of political Islam in Beirut, Lebanon and senior American officials in Washington, DC. She has also conducted extensive research trips to Northern Ireland to meet with: the Northern Ireland Policing Board, Northern Ireland Office, and representatives of all major political parties at Stormont.
Ms Shields is currently writing a series of books on post-conflict reconstruction entitled Beyond Settlement Volume I: Consolidating Democratic Institutions in Conflict States and Beyond Settlement Volume II: Coping with Security in Conflict States. Ms Shields is an ongoing guest lecturer on conflict resolution skills, terrorism studies and post-conflict reconstruction at Wroxton College and also guest lectures at Fairleigh Dickinson University, USA. She is a member of the International Association of University Presidents United Nations Commission on Disarmament Education, Conflict Resolution and Peace as well as being a member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House.
Ms Shields lives in Oxfordshire, UK with her partner - who is Dean of Wroxton College, Fairleigh Dickinson University - as well as a sassy old cat and a fat Labrador.
Vivienne Faull was the first woman appointed by the Church of England to lead a cathedral as Provost in 2000. She is now a Dean. She has been at the forefront of the changes in the role of women in the church, beginning as a Deaconess in 1982, and then working as a chaplain at Cambridge University, before moving into the world of cathedrals. She is also a member of the General Synod, the Church of England's governing body.