It wasn’t unusual for her to be leered at, to hear those offensive comments made on her looks and her body in the city. Unfortunately, like almost every other woman in the city, she had learnt to ignore it. It annoyed her, irritated her, yet she walked on, adjusting her earring as she made it to the bus stop.
As she sat on the bus, awaiting her stop, she did a final check on the contents of her bag – file, check; application, check; past experience memorabilia (for nostalgic reasons), check. It wasn’t the first time she was applying, but this would certainly be her last. It was her final year at college, the place she called a home, and this was her last chance, her final opportunity and she was determined not to let it slip away.
She’d been part of the department for three years, and it wasn’t an easy time, especially when ninety percent of the department were males. After all, it was uncommon for a girl to be a volunteer for a Logistics & Production department. Uncommon, but not unheard of – but what was uncommon was how much energy and effort she’d put into the department.
Lifting chairs, moving desks and tables, arranging furniture in the proper fashion as needed by the event, all that was handled by them – after all, the entire set up didn’t simply turn up in the middle of the night. It took literal sweat, and sometimes some blood to make it happen.
She’d been a volunteer her first year, her senior looking at her as though she was mad because she wanted to apply to this department when World Performing Arts or something in that vein seemed more suited to her appearance.
She was of an average height, and loved wearing Indian traditional wear so arguably it caused some furore when she turned up for work wearing a kurti-leggings set, with pretty dangly earrings to match. Of course, after they’d finished checking her out, the boys started snickering – clearly, she wouldn’t even touch the dusty desks, what if she broke a nail? Or smudged her makeup?
All snickers came to halt when she effortlessly and uncomplainingly lifted one edge of the desk, waiting for the guy in front of her to stop staring and pick up his edge. That wasn’t the end of the jokes, it seemed harmless at the time, but as she sat watching the city pass by from her seat, she knew it had been the spark that had lit her fire to prove to them that she wasn’t any less than them.
She became a Co-ordinator her second year in the department, this time earning much more respect and less snickers and jokes at her expense, but it was when she became a senior who managed a whole sub-department that she realized that subconsciously and sometimes even consciously, the guys treated the girls as delicate flowers, doing their work for them or letting them do the easiest tasks even when the division of labour had been pre-created.
She had known then, that becoming the Head would be the only way she would be able to tackle his internal sexism that had taken root in the department. She had some excellent plans on how to manage the department, new tactics and ways to economize labour and save time but she knew she would be facing tough competition in more ways than one.
The department handled eighty odd students, all from the ages of eighteen to twenty, and apparently it stood to reason that twenty year old males wouldn’t take orders from their batch-mate, not when she looked like she could be one of the models on Femina and Grazia.
She knew she would have to fight tooth and nail for the post – the guy, who was her only competition wouldn’t have to deal with comments on how he would manage the guys and the girls, on how he would set an example when it seemed like he couldn’t move or set up anything himself. Even though he was a year younger, it seemed that the chances for her didn’t look so great, but she was determined to try.
She’d reached her destination, ready to face the panel who’d throw questions and curveballs at her. But she knew one thing, if they saw even a fraction of how much she wanted the post, how much she needed it – to prove to the world, to her parents, her friends, to herself that she was equal to the guys – then she’d get it with her eyes closed.
She adjusted her earrings again, applied a fresh coat of lipstick – her own battle armour- and jhola slingling, walked into the interview room.
Twenty five minutes later, she walked out with the broadest smile that lit the room she’d cleared and reassembled in ten minutes, because she knew that the good news was imminent.
And so it was, that seven hours later, at five in the evening, she got a call. A spire of nervousness curled in her stomach, but it needn’t have. She’d gotten the post.
This year, there would be no snickers and no assumptions about the girls who would be selected, because she’d shown them – that someone who wore lipstick, dangly earrings and took efforts to dress well everyday was their equal, and it didn’t make a difference how you looked, what gender you belonged to, what you wore if you could work and do it well.
This story is inspired by something a friend told me that had happened to her. She has graciously allowed me to adapt it into a blog post.
Until the next time,