Updated: Jun 30, 2021
That was such an orthodox statement that it provoked me. I couldn’t resist speaking up.
Slice Buddy: Kajal Awana | Age: 27 | Profession: Pursuing Law
"Life of a Slice is a unique and unprecedented initiative that reminded me of those pages of my life which I never thought would be worth turning back and reading. #livetheslice" — Kajal A.
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I believe in equality, whatever the reasonable context is.
When I was pursuing my Master’s, there was this classmate who’d now and then, boast about his intelligence, and try to point out that “he-knows-it-all.” Every time I spoke to him, he would use all these fancy, clever terms straight from the Oxford dictionary. Did he consider himself superior? I don’t know. Never mind.
We were good classmates and would usually share our assignments and practical work. I don’t remember the day we started disagreeing with each other, but I remember one episode after which we never talked again.
Our practical session was over, and everybody was busy copying an assignment from a PDF. He was sitting on my opposite chair and meanwhile talking to another girl, proposing to her a suitable career. I overheard his words, “Girls should only opt for teaching as it’s the only profession where they fit.” That was such an orthodox statement that it provoked me. I couldn’t resist speaking up.
The community I come from has girls mainly teaching or do nothing. They can’t think of an alternative career because their surroundings, especially their families, don’t allow them to choose. I have witnessed many women who aren’t passionate about teaching, yet are in this profession because they don’t have an option. People with the slightest knowledge of numbers are teaching Math and the person with the least knowledge of grammar is teaching communication and languages. With this going on, how can we expect people to achieve excellence in their lives and contribute to building a better society? Hence, whenever I get a chance, I seek people to take a leap and do what they desire, not settle at what is comfortable. And if I come across people like my classmate, I think they deserve a good hearing.
So, here we go. I stood up from my chair and asked my classmate to repeat his comment. He was unaware of what was coming his way. He proudly repeated, “Girls should only opt for teaching…..” I interrupted him here and asked him, “Who are you to say this? Who are you to decide what girls should do and not do?”
Everyone was staring at me in shock. But, I did not hesitate to speak further.
“What you said is stupid and illogical. I bet, patriarchy has made you say that. But don’t you realize, these are stereotypes and they need to be broken.”
On this, he replied, “Teaching as a career does not offend a girl’s in-laws because it gives her time to simultaneously manage the household work.”
I asked, trying my best to control my irritation: “Why are girls seen primarily to fulfill others’ needs? Why are people like you not open to considering that a girl can make choices too? There is already a sea of problems concerning women. And people like you make it worse.”
He scoffed. “You’re talking about problems, huh? Do girls have to move mountains or what?”
“Take dowry, for instance. It’s shameful that such systems still exist in society. The only solution to eliminate dowry in Indian society is to educate girls to an extent that they are capable to determine what is right and stand for it.”
He did not seem to agree. He was consistent with his point, “Teaching is only what women should consider.”
“You don’t decide what a girl should do, let her decide. And FYI, there is a vast variety of career options for women to choose from.” I retorted in annoyance.
We had a long argument that day. He was not willing to give up on his point, neither was I. What hurt me the most was, while we argued, the other girls around were telling me to keep quiet. They were simply suppressing a girl who stood up for another girl. I realized somewhere, bringing a change is not a piece of cake.
When I started working, I realized that there is no shortage of people like my classmate. Women were not seen as competitors in my workplace. Instead, they were seen as a medium for timepass or entertainment. It’s a deep-rooted problem I have faced until today. How we look at a girl needs to change—we MUST see beyond her physical beauty, we MUST encourage a women-friendly environment.
A year later, a friend who was in touch with that classmate told me something that surprised me—I could not help laughing. That classmate is nowadays taking lectures in college. Did he change his gender or is this a change of mind? What hypocrisy this is!
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