AN INDIAN PORTIA: SELECTED WRITINGS OF CORNELIA SORABJI 1866 TO 1954
ZUBAAN | PAGES 702 | RS 1,200
Bhikhaji Rustom Cama, born in 1861; Rukhmabai, born around 1864; Cornelia Sorabji, born in 1866: three remarkable women of late 19th century India. Chances are that the names of the first two will ring a bell. Madam Cama is associated with the unfurling of the first prototype of the Indian flag. Rukhmabai, one of India's first woman doctors, was known also for resisting her marriage as a child to a much older man.
Cornelia Sorabji remains largely unacknowledged, although she too was extraordinary—the first woman to practice law in India and Britain, she was also possessed of an authorial voice that reflected intellectual depth, verbal felicity and keen powers of observation. It is useful to have this handsome volume, edited by Kenya-born and London-based author and doctor, Kusoom Vadgama, which puts together a selection of Sorabji's prolific writing, including letters, diary entries and book excerpts.
Any editorial selection is ultimately subjective and limiting, but this book captures the broad contours of Sorabji's life which spanned two extremes of the Raj: its zenith under a queen who ruled over a quarter of the world's population, and its ultimate dissolution with India's independence. The privileges and prejudices of this era marked Sorabji personally. A daughter of the Macaulayian Minute, she could access a professional education; strike deep friendships with the elite; and participate in the big debates of the day. Also, as she was a woman she had to wait 31 years after graduating in law to be called to the bar.