Saturday, February 8, 2014

Storming male bastions

Lalita is a 22-year-old, mother of two children. Every morning, she sets out for work at 9 am and gets back home around 1 pm. Despite her arching legs, she tends to her children and gets ready for the second shift of work at 2 pm. Luckily for her, her office is nearby so she can save on commuting time – just as well too, because she has enough running around – rather walking – to do, as part of her job.
 Lalita is a post woman in Bangalore. Clad in her brown uniform, she carries a bag full of letters and book posts and slips them into letter boxes or under the doors of nearly 50 houses. She has to contend with barking dogs, flights of stairs and leery looks of peons in some of the offices where she has to deliver the letters. Rain or shine, Lalita is a familiar figure for lovers who await missives from their beloved, parents who hanker for news from abroad, hopeful job hunters who avidly look forward to interview calls….
A cheery smile and a brisk walk make Lalita a post woman with a difference. What’s really unique about her is that she refuses to ‘ask’ for or accept ‘bakshis’ for Diwali or Dassera as her male counterparts are known for. “I get-my salary and that’s payment for my work, why should I ask for any special payment from the people?” says Lalita.
What made her take up such a grueling job? Surely she could have opted for a nine-to-five job and saved her energy for her home and children? Isn’t she afraid of what her relatives will say about her ‘roaming’ about? Lalita shrugs and says with a smile, “I like an outdoor job and this is the only one of its kind I’m qualified for. As for people – do they help me when I’m in need of money? So, why should I bother about what they say?”
There are more and more women like Lalita who are venturing into the not too glamorous jobs held by men. There is young Sumitra who is enrolled in a driving school so that she can become a taxi driver, “I like driving and I like meeting different kinds of people – what better way can I do both and earn money but by running a taxi?” is her way of putting it. Won’t she be risking her life, plying on lonely roads or at odd hours? “Oh! I have a solution for that, “she smiles, “I will put a board on my taxi saying it is for women passengers only and I shall keep a small toy gun with chilli powder, to squirt in the face of anyone who holds up the cab on a lonely road! I shall also fix a small walkie-talkie with direct connection to the police control room – of course, with their permission and co-operation but my taxi will be exclusively for women and I shall run it during the night!” what a boon to the women who are afraid to travel alone in cabs!”
Sumitra is determined to make her pet project work – as she feels she will be serving the female sex this way! Who knows she may set a new trend which will catch on!
Another interesting working woman I met in Bangalore was Prema – a bus conductor. Unlike her male colleagues, Prema doesn’t treat the passengers like they are sardines in a tin. She is very strict about one thing though – no man can sit in the seats marked for women only!
Very soon, we will probably have ‘lift-women’ in high-rise buildings.  And why not? This will be ideal work for handicapped women who are not qualified for any skilled job. What a waste of an able bodied man while the same can be handled equally efficiently by a needy, handicapped woman. I hope this avenue will be open soon or even reserved for them just as some vacancies are meant only ‘for men’. It will certainly be an ‘elevating’ occupation for some women.