Human mind always makes judgments.
It is very difficult for us to be completely non judgmental and requires a lot of conscious effort. But I believe judgments based on stereotypes – caste, gender, race, religion – are of the worst kind, as they simply do not give a chance to get to know the other person for who they are or what they can do.
A classic example of this is how women are judged in their work front. It starts right from their job interviews. From a cursory look at the CV and perhaps a brief chat with the candidate, stems these questions and resultant flags in the minds of the recruiter (of any gender) – Young and unmarried? Will surely go in for a long marriage leave and then we will see a dip in her interest levels. Newly married? – there will be a maternity break. Mother of young children? – will take too many leaves!
So many of us have seen these questions fleet by in the eyes of our interviewers. And, every time, each one of us have wondered why these people tend to forget how women can be really good at their professional commitments and do bring their own unique set of skills to the table, just like other male candidates.
Dum maaro dum, mit jae gam,
Bolo subah shaam, hare Krishna hare ram..
Who has not grooved to this cult classic? As a small kid, I loved to dance on this song, acting as if I was intoxicated and completely oblivious to everything around me.
The best feeling in the world…
The credit to this feeling not only goes to the song writer and the music composer, but also to the choreographer, who made the whole visual appealing. Yes, I speak of Saroj Khan, who we unfortunately lost this month.
Saroj Khan, to me, symbolises dedication. A simple girl from a poor background, she really made it big in the industry due to her hard work and dedication. She built a space for herself in an entirely male dominated industry back then. And her commitment and passion for her work was outstanding and nothing could come in the way of her professionalism towards her work and dance.
In one of her interviews, she talks about how she kept a fine balance between her personal and work life. She goes on to say that even when she lost her eight month old child, she chose to honour her pre-commitments. Apparently, the shoot for Dum Maaro Dum was scheduled the day after. A hard core professional, she buried her child and boarded the train the very same day to keep up her commitment to the schedule. And the song went on to become a super hit, and is known even today as a historical cult song, showcasing not only her supreme skill but also her strong sense of dedication to her craft.
While on one hand, it is important to prioritise your personal life, on the other, it is extremely inspiring to find people who are truly dedicated to what they do, to see people who just get up and dust off their problems to fulfill their work commitments.
There is more.
Recently two other news items caught my attention:
A 15 year old girl, who attended school by cycling 24 km a day, gets 98.7% in Class 10 exam.
A girl travelled more than six hours every day to write Class 10 exam and scored 95%.
Do you see the common thread in all these instances?
Yes, these are all women we are talking about.
In fact, women mostly learn to be dedicated towards their duties (be it wives, professionals, mothers, daughters and what not) right from their childhood. While it may not an all-encompassing fact that all women are very dedicated, they are surely trained towards it and largely known to perform their duties diligently.
But the irony is, in most offices, unless it is to improve their gender diversity, people do not prefer hiring women for a job which men can do just as well. Because they feel women will not be sincere or dedicated, will get married, will have babies, etc.!
See the disparity?
To be honest, these things happen, because that is life. Life happens! But they do not stop other aspects of our life. And so I wonder how we can make a judgment about a woman’s dedication and priorities based on her age, rather than meeting and getting to know her.
And if you think it means that women who are not planning to marry or have kids will have a better shot at career opportunities, think again.
Despite being someone who always put her work first, I have personally faced prejudices in myriad ways because I chose to remain single. I got married last year, when I turned 35. Before that, I have faced different reactions and mindsets from different people for prioritising my career. So I gather it is difficult to choose anything in life for a woman, be it career or home or love.
I remember a time when I used to work till 2 or 3 am every day in a very hectic job profile. Once, when I wanted to go back early (by that I mean at 7 pm!), my boss asked me, ‘Why do you need time off? What work can you possibly have? Don’t you live alone?’
There is also another side. There were job interviews I was rejected at, because they felt I was not committed enough as I was not tied to a man at that time.
Nevertheless, I too believe, just as Saroj Khan did, that if you have committed to something, it is important to keep it up. To give a simpler example, though nowhere near what the two young girls, or Saroj Khan went through, two days before my engagement I was on a tour for a workshop I had committed to a while ago. But even that was a surprise to the attendees for some reason. It is the sad truth that these commitments that women honour on a daily basis are rarely given any recognition.
This mindset needs to change completely. Because women are usually not careless about their duties, mainly because they are consciously taught to be responsible. Even today, the major responsibility of cooking and cleaning the house falls on the woman. And however busy she is, she never fails to place a plate full of food in front of her loved ones.
Now that’s responsibility and dedication.