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– Rajan Thapaliya

Hisila Yami played an integral role in catalyzing democratic change and ultimately emancipating the Nepali from the monarchy. Hisila Yami demonstrated extraordinary grit in the armed conflict during the Nepali civil war. After the end of the civil war, Hisila Yami served as minister three times. According to her, as a minister, she made monumental efforts for the development of society. Hisila Yami married Dr. Baburam Bhattari, who is the former prime minister of Nepal. In the autobiography, she has given a vivid account of her arduous struggle as a revolutionary in Moist-led war and political leader. Her autobiography is not only a chronicle of her political career but also an interesting recount of her social and family life and the ideological differences among the party leadership. Hisila explained in great detail how she was broken by different challenges; however, she tackled all the challenges with courage and fortitude. The autobiography gives a great insight into the life and problems that women leaders face.

In the first part of the autobiography, Hisila Yami explained the events that sparked her interest in politics. During her teen years in Dehli, she gained cognizance of the issues and problems faced by women. The more she became aware of the problems faced by women, the harder it became for her to suppress her desires to bring radical changes in society. Being a staunch feminist, Hisila was determined to empower women. Dr. Baburam Bhattari, her first political mentor, noticed her zeal and passion. Dr. Baburam Bhattari didn’t only enhance the political awareness of Hisila but also reinforced her confidence. Later on, Hisila Yami and Dr. Baburam Bhattari married. In the later sections of the autobiography, Hisila gave a candid detail of how their companionship changed into love. Though the Communist Party of Nepal was a supporter of equal rights for men and women, Hisila explains that gaining acceptance wasn’t easy for her even when she became the first lady. In the second portion of the autobiography, Hisila recalls the memories of insurgency and armed conflict against the monarchy. During the armed conflict, she spent most of the time in India but kept providing full support to her party.

To help readers gain a profound understanding of the challenges that leading women face, she also explained the opposition that she faced when her husband became the prime minister. As a first lady, she faced considerable opposition from party members, especially from Khas Arya Cast community members just because of her different lifestyle. Unlike married Brahmin women, she never wore a necklace nor had her ear pierced. The majority of people would view her as an iconoclast and a threat to their cultural identity. Conformance to norms has never been a priority for Hisila. As a first lady, she was never content about the title for just only being the wife of the Prime Minister. She was determined to be the first in any work. In her endeavor of being number one, she had to be strict and determined; however, she faced scathing opposition due to her determination and strictness. Just in her opposition and without giving any proof, she was criticized harshly criticized, lambasted, and besmirched in the party, media, and society. Disregarding her efforts for the emancipation of the oppressed class and her role in civil war, she was even given the title of “Most corrupt women of South Asia”.

While explaining the inter-party disputes, she criticized the leaders with a patriarchal mindset. Particularly, she explains in detail the points of disagreement between her husband and Pushpa Kamal Dahal. She explains that in contrast to the consumerism tendencies of Prachanda, her husband sacrificed his political ambitions just for the sake of fealty to the party ideology. In contrast to Prachand, who was a pragmatic leader, Bhattarai was an idealist leader; therefore, she, Therefore, she regards them as the opposite banks of a river. For the majority of the problems within the party, Hisila blamed Prachand. By critically explaining the role of other leaders and inner rifts in the party, Hisila partially departs from autobiography.

In the last part of the book, she delineates the post-conflict era, explaining the contribution of Maoist reforms in the prosperity and economic development of Nepal. Democracy ushered an era of inclusive participation, economic growth, and sustainable socialism in Nepal. In the autobiography, Hisila has given a candid and honest account of her feelings. As she was discouraged, discriminated, and branded as a controversial personality, she clarifies the misapprehensions about her by giving an alternative perspective about her efforts, success, and vicissitudes of life. In the backdrop of her life story, Hisila has sketched the history of Nepal’s transition to democracy from the perspective of gender, caster, region, and oppressed class. The book is a must-read, particularly for ambitious women and generally for anyone interested in contemporary Nepali politics and women empowerment. The book gives behind the scene accounts of the Moist revolution, women’s liberation in Nepal, and blame game in politics and ground realities. Penguin India has published Hisila Yami’s autobiography titled ‘Hisila: From Revolutionary to the First Lady.’

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