In a First, Indian Woman Scholar's Portrait Unveiled At Rhodes House

Ria Das
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Supreme Court advocate, Menaka Guruswamy, stands tall with the recent honour bestowed upon her. The new Delhi based lawyer is now the  first Indian woman to have the honour of having her portrait at Milner Hall in Rhodes House in Oxford University. Guruswamy is also one of the first woman Rhodes scholars from India.


On Saturday, alongside Guruswamy, former US president Barack Obama's national security advisor Susan Rice and American University President Sylvia Burwell portraits were also displayed.

While delivering the acceptance speech at Rhodes House, the 43-year-old Delhi-based lawyer stressed upon diversity and privilege. She shared snippets of her journey to Oxford in 1998 when she was just 23.

"As I walked through the halls of Oxford and this house, I was struck by how no one in the paintings that graced their walls looked like me, or really anyone of my fellow Rhodes Scholars from India, or most of the scholars from African countries or really many of my fellow scholars from the rest of the world," she explained.

"The message overall seemed to be: you're here, but you really don't belong," she continued.

"How is it then – that one reconciles moral integrity with the enjoyment of such privilege that the Rhodes Scholarships and an Oxford degree bring? One does so, by deploying this privilege to good use: by that I mean to push the envelope in ways that this privilege allows you to," she added.

Also Read: Senior Advocate Rebecca John on ‘How to humanize rape trials?’


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Talking more about the scholarship and what it means to her, she said,

"To always using this privilege to never turning away from that which needs to be changed. To always facing that which seems to be unchangeable – that is what these scholarships must come to mean in these times that we live in."


The lawyer has worked as a Human Rights Consultant to the United Nations. She has also donned the hat of a teacher who inspired many students at the New York University School of Law.

Rhodes scholarships was established in 1902. However, Guruswamy is the first Indian woman Rhodes scholar whose oil portrait now hangs in the Rhodes House. It was only in 2015, the first time a female Rhodes scholar's portrait was hung at Rhodes House. Zambian activist Lucy Banda got that honour.

READ: Indians Are Increasingly Seeking Counsel For Their Mental Health

Feature Image Credit: Facebook/Menaka Guruswamy

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