On Balance, an Autobiography

On Balance, an Autobiography The First Woman Chief Justice Of A High Court In India, The First Woman To Top The Bar Examinations In London Years Old Leila Seth Has Led A Full Life With Candour And Wit, She Tells Of Her Taking Up Law Studies Because This Could Be Combined With Caring For Her Husband And Son, Intertwining Family Life With Professional, The Author Describes The Years After Her Father S Premature Death It Is An Intricate, Amusing And Charming Rendering Of Her Life

Born in Lucknow to an engineer of the railways in British India, Leila Seth joined the Bar in 1959 She was the first woman to top the London Bar exams in 1958 She handled a large number of Tax matters Income Tax, Sales Tax, Excise and Customs , Civil, Company and Criminal cases as also Matrimonial suits and writ petitions In 1978, she was appointed as the first woman judge on the Delhi High Co

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  • Hardcover
  • 474 pages
  • On Balance, an Autobiography
  • Leila Seth
  • English
  • 20 January 2017
  • 9780670049882

10 thoughts on “On Balance, an Autobiography

  1. says:

    A very appropriately titled autobiography of Leila Seth The word Balance is key to her life it defines her life and the choices she made For instance, how many people can say or will be able to say in the future I have lived a happy married life for over sixty years In addition, I can safely say that this balance characterizes how she has used the language and structured this book.In general, Indians are emotional and sentimental people which I admire , but here we meet a woman who is judicious, candid, and admirable in almost everything she did For instance, one of the reasons she wrote this book is for grandchildren She thought that time is not on her side, and that the book might help the kids later on in life to know about who their grandparents were Indeed a thoughtful gesture on her part.Although I knew her as the author Vikram Seth s mother, I got totally drawn into her world It is interesting to read about different places and people her friends, colleagues, members of her extended family, parents The book gives a good a sense of how people lived in the early 50s and 60s people in cities like Patna and Calcutta There is nothing in the book that is overblown or exaggerated Often when retired bureaucrats write their memoirs, they either justify or glorify themselves.There are so many interesting anecdotes in the book For instance, once she went to a police station to lodge a complaint, but the policeman ignored her until he got to know that she was a judge A small incident, but it says a lot about what is rotten in our system On a personal level, I admire her life with her husband, and the sorts of thing they did and did not do Once when people have power, it is very tempting to take shortcuts to rise higher in life I would say that it is also a courageous book An Indian mother talks openly about the homosexuality of her son This is indeed an act of courage In India, such disclosures can boomerang Clearly, she did this for the larger public She used her position well to serve society in different ways Usually, it tires me when I hear the rhetoric of good citizenry from famous people, but in her case, it all seems genuine, sanguine, and deeply felt acts of love towards society.Almost all reviewers celebrate her life story primarily because of the success and recognition her children achieved in myriad fields, especially her writer son Vikram Seth Even though I admire her, too, for raising a great family I am a bit weary of hearing about their achievements I guess I would have admired Vikram Seth as much, had he never won a Booker prize.Success is wonderful, but it is something else that is even valuable and vital than success Leila Seth has that something in her She has left the legacy of that something for her grandchildren as she has mentioned in the book, which to my mind is, perhaps, a metaphor for the future generation of Indians The book can guide anyone who imagines and wishes to create a reasonable world.

  2. says:

    Some books march uninvited into the room tooting their own horn They bellow loudly and rhetorically about their greatness while all you are trying to do is enjoy a horrendously sappy Hindi movie or search for that lost bookmark that you had stolen from a friend In between the sounds of loud cymbal clashing, the book will boast that the New York Times called it a real tour de force or a prophetic novel celebrating the triumph of righteous dissidence If you stay adamant, the book will play dirty and remind you in an admonitory tone that it deals with that dreadful Holocaust or Pol Pot s Cambodia or some remote place in occupied Palestine and the injustices committed by the Israeli troops So, if you are not interested in THAT, you must be a Very Bad Person Other books, meanwhile, tiptoe into the room You don t even realise their presence until they gently murmur in your ear to please pass the popcorn More often than not, such books wear strangely dull outfits You know, the kind of clothes that some people wear hoping that they would not be noticed No bright colours, shiny stars, cute unicorns or strange cover fonts for them It s a bit like the 11 year old Harry Potter when he first joined school Famous and very special but ridiculously modest and self deprecating On Balance is the Harry Potter in his first year at Hogwarts kind of book It is not at all what I had expected it to be like Two weeks ago, if someone had asked me to read a 500 page autobiography, I would have run away like a gazelle attacked at a watering hole However, On Balance is much that just a meandering autobiography Any book that made me up stay up all night to read it something that I hadn t done for the past couple of years deserves a 5 5 rating, especially if it s non fiction.The first time I read about Leila Seth in some trivia book there was the usual question about her being India s first woman Chief Justice of a state , my mind immediately squealed, Ooooh Vikram Seth s mother On the other hand, the first time I showed my father my signed copy of The Golden Gate, he looked at the author s name and said, Isn t this man Justice Leila Seth s son Perhaps a certain generation will always think of Vikram Seth in those terms After reading this book, I believe that so will I Leila Seth is not just the mother of one of the most brilliant writers of our times Yeah, sure, she has a star kid but she also has a remarkable success story of her own first woman judge of the Delhi High Court, first woman Chief Justice of a State, and the first woman to top the Bar examinations in London.I mean, really wow Leila Seth can really sneak up on you and scribble out a book that you cannot or do not want to put down In a largely male dominated profession especially in her times , she held her own and refused to be typecast by not fighting only women s cases Instead, she competed with her male colleagues and fought all kinds of cases right from criminal ones to those dealing with tax matters, constitutional law and litigation The book also gives a very interesting account of the legal profession It not only provides insights into the prevalent gender bias but also talks about the painfully slow paced Indian courts, increasing corruption in judiciary, and the rampant favouritism in certain spheres Besides her career, Ms Seth talks about her family, the loss of a child, interesting travels, quirky habits, gardening, arbitration and law commission and so on It is evident that taking care of a family and establishing a successful career must have been difficult for her, particularly in an age when working women were incredibly rare There is a hilarious anecdote about lots of people from rural Haryana on a trip to Delhi especially visiting the courtroom because they wanted to goggle at her, a female judge However, she managed not only to have a happy married life and raise three ridiculously talented children but also rose to one of the highest positions in her career I love the fact that she has compiled this book with wrenching honesty right from talking about the bisexuality of Vikram Seth to the implication of her husband on false charges, and her peacenik son, Shantum s experiments with magic mushrooms and activism as well as his short stay in jail The book is also peppered with many interesting vignettes There is the funny but understandable concern of a mother whose colleagues at the Delhi High Court would badger her about her children not settling down , and the hilarious dismissal of Vikram Seth by their family driver as someone who was reading and writing and sleeping and eating and living off his parents And somehow, the insane amount of intelligence and the wonderfully unconventional life paths of the Seth siblings forcefully remind me of Salinger s Glass family This is the kind of rare autobiography that you would want to read again I do not say that it is a great masterpiece of literature Rather, it is about a life well lived and it is always good to read about something like that, isn t it

  3. says:

    When I told my Mum that anyone who does not read this book would be a fool of first waters, her first question was, How is it even possible for a biography to be that good Yes, often, it is not possible for a biography to be that good In fact, I am not a fan of the genre at all but maybe, there is something about the Seths that makes them the best biographers memoir writers in the world Maybe they are just born that way Ok Enough gushing over the Seth family Coming to the book and why you should read it a If you want to know how to be successful, read On Balance b If you want to know about post Independent India, read On Balance c To know how to have a successful family life, read On Balance d To know how to raise children, read On Balance Above all, if you want to know how to write the story of your life so that it can teach others something new, something different, read On Balance In other words, read it anyway You d be missing on something if you don t Leila Seth proves that she is the mother of Vikram Seth, in every sense of the word She has the his poetic ease and his brilliance or rather, he has hers.With her exceptionally brilliant autobiography, she shows that it doesn t take a miracle to be a successful career woman along with being a successful homemaker She is both a feminist and a supporter of family life She makes it clear that you can be a feminist without being a male basher, without hating men or patriarchy, that it s all about equality and balance.

  4. says:

    This brilliant autobiography fully deserves all the praise it s got Leila Seth s claim to fame is being the first woman Chief Justice of an Indian state Himachal Pradesh She topped her Bar exams at London she was the fist woman to do that, too Here s a small vignette from the book Leila had just been appointed a Judge in the Delhi High Court she was their first woman judge There was a lot of discussion on how to address her in court Should it My Lady or the usual My Lord She was once judging a case along with a male judge She asked a question of a lawyer and he replied, beginning, My Lord The male judge interrupted, saying that the lawyer should address her as My Lady The lawyer, confused and uncomfortable, turned to the male judge and responded to him as My Lord and answered the question as though it had sprung from him I hope that made you laugh Not all of the book, will, though The heartbreaking chapter on Ira is just very, very sad But the book is lovely I loved her descriptions of her gardens Please read this book Right away.

  5. says:

    This book is a treat not only for law students but for aspiring, ambitious women of our nation Ex Chief Justice Leila Seth has been an Outlier all her life from being the first woman topper in law from Oxford way back in 1952, the first woman Judge of the Delhi High Court to being the first woman Chief Justice of a High Court in India She has even openly acknowledged the bisexual orientation of her son thereby creating a precedent for candor exhibited by a celebrity and a new platform for the common man to emulate.

  6. says:

    It is perhaps as difficult to write a good life as to live one Lytton Strachey The first female chief justice of a high court in India The first woman to top the bar exams in London These are not the achievements of Leila Setha but are only placeholders for a full life, rich with trials and celebration from both family and the legal profession As an autobiography, On Balance , is true to its name The narration is detailed without being wordy, self perceptive without a hint of narcissism and introspective without compromising its confidence With equal parts drawn from her family and professional lives, this book stands up amongst the crowded field of legal autobiographies due to its sensitivity, warmth and grace.The book charts Leila Seth s life chronologically, though towards the end some portions are arranged thematically It provides an insight into her schooling, parental bonds and a marital life that witnesses an equal partnership between spouses She is proud of her children but not oblivious to their faults, as a parent she illustrates the difficulty but also the joy of being a mother This book is not about Vikram Seth or how he wrote his award winning books, but about a parent who provided a firm foundation for his imagination and works to gain flight A few weeks ago while hearing arguments in the Supreme Court, a female lawyer, a few years younger than me and someone from whose intellect and labour I benefit from often pointed out the unique perceptions felt by a person who continuously faces discrimination As men, men who may be progressive, men who may understand the terrible stains of misogyny and may even act and ally to stem it, such perception will forever be derivative When she pointed out discrimination, not with visible markers such as the number of judges on the bench, or the senior counsel invariably being men, but the expectations all women have in a woman who argues in court Such a woman carries the hope, aspirations and the pressure of performance A duty to excel, a duty to other women As she said, each time a woman argues in court, I look at her and pray, please, do not fuck up.For all these reasons Leila Seth s book is a serious text worthy of a wide readership, even if it exudes a certain sense of destiny of her mission Not only as a woman who balanced her home and her law practice, or parented three children, had a distinguished career as a high court judge but how she went beyond balance, to attain excellence On Balance is refreshing, it is shorn of tragedy or aggression It is not dull or self congratulatory There is quiet courage, a sensibility to counter discrimination through labour and action It is bittersweet Just like mango chutney made by your favourite aunt.

  7. says:

    This book is not about Vikram Seth or his homosexuality If you want to know about that, it s not in this book This autobiography is about Leila Seth s life Her family, her career, her marriage , 73 years of her lifetime The book is written in easy, clear prose and you learn of this elegant woman, her sensibilities, her morality how she shaped her life managed its challenges I was particularly moved by her revelation of having a child simply to hand over to her brother wife who desired one after losing three of their own It takes courage, pure affection selflessness to do that for anyone, even your own brother The way she describes her relationships is the triumph of her life The way she is with her parents, siblings, husband children is spellbinding in its authenticity purity Her description of her career. Made me snigger mostly It s India, she s an educated woman, only the obvious prejudices hypocrisies can be expected Yet the way she behaves in all the scenarios she s put in teaches you what it takes to be a person of integrity She inspires you to be positive be the best version of yourself A woman who deserves a lot of respect admiration.

  8. says:

    I don t know how correct or logical it is to review or rate an autobiography In any case, I make no attempt to do so On Balance has been a wonderful read equal parts witty, amusing and honest Though if I have to point out one thing, it would be the book s frequent and unnecessary, if I may nonlinear narratives disrupting an otherwise chronological organization of events.Oh, and if you re reading this, do check out Leila Seth s TEDx talk on women and the law of inheritance Unrelated, but I liked it.

  9. says:

    s a student of Political Science, I bought On Balance An Autobiography by Leila Seth out of curiosity to know about Indian Judiciary I was fascinated by Late Justice Leila Seth being the First woman Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Being a mother to three wonderfully accomplished children Vikram Seth a renowned author, Shantum Seth a Buddhist teacher and Aaradhna Seth an artist and a filmmaker A year ago I read an article published in 2014 on Justice Leila Seth publicly condemning Section 377 and getting in terms with her eldest son and a renowned author Vikram Seth s homosexuality I wanted to know about her journey I was absolutely certain that there was to this woman and in order to feed my curiosity, I bought this book.Late Justice Leila Seth took up writing her autobiography when she met with an accident and ended up with multiple fractures and she dedicates the autobiography to her Husband Premo and Her granddaughters Nandini and Anamika She starts with the first chapter titled Mother Tongue starting with the great news of her birth and the happiness of her birth in the family and how progressive her parents were and welcomed her in this world in the early nineties This chapter is a truly a reader s delight She writes about her childhood days were the happiest spent with her parents She writes about her life in boarding school and shares the letters written to her parents and subsequently the tragic death of her father when she was in her school days Her Father s death had adverse consequences on their lifestyle and subsequently her mother emphasizing strong values in raising her and her two brothers in order to make them independent.Check out the full review on my blog Click on the link below.https relentlesscuriosity.blogspot.

  10. says:

    Interesting, light read but not an inspirational motivating life to know about If you are looking for insight here on Leila Seth s way into the first Chief Justice of India you will be disappointed The writing mostly consists of her personal domestic life, her travels, her networks I was expecting her to talk about Indian judicial system, some insights on reforms required there was none of it.

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