The Other Angle: These NID, CEPT girls, you know what kind of girls they are, right?

There are many popular beliefs in our society about girls in national institutions like CEPT, NID. There is a lot of mix crowd in these colleges with students from all over the country. There is a certain perception about girls in these colleges, people believe that they are loose in character.

On the other side, there have been instances where these girls are eve-teased and harassed only because they are from NID and CEPT. Perhaps there is a novelty element attached to it, perhaps it is because they are from different states. They stand outside the NID gates, waiting for girls to come out walking. Interestingly another national institute CEPT sees the same kind of attraction from eve teasers. There is this sense of entitlement taken by the perpetrators. What they are actually doing is that, they are violating the trust that the parents of these girls have put on us as a city, ‘a safe city’ for their girls.

It is believed that students of these colleges are smokers, drinkers, sleeping around with different people, ‘available’, inviting attention, and going against the so called Indian culture. There is a stereotype about these guys being the ‘bad boys’ but it is even worse for the girls. When girls are perceived to be of ‘loose character’ it somehow justifies the act of violating them. Whether they are into these things or not- is not the question, does it discount them from their basic rights as citizens of this country? How does a supposed comment on a girl’s character bring down the valid point that she’s trying to make? These are perhaps the same kind of people who would blame the victim in a rape case, “Oh, but she was out late at night.”

In the recent JNU protest, a Haryana BJP leader found it important to stress that the female protestors at JNU were worse than prostitutes. Connecting the dots, who are these self-proclaimed moral police and protectors? And what is the supposed ‘Indian culture’ that one must follow to be safe and survive in this country?

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(This post was first translated in Gujarati and published in City Bhaskar, Ahmedabad in the 21 Feb 2016 edition. Liked it? Hated it? Let me know! Comment here or get in touch at rtnair91gmail.com)

The Other Angle: How We Interview Women

As an entrepreneur, I know the level of scrutiny that goes while interviewing someone for recruitment in your office. You don’t want the wrong person. But at times in certain situations, we tend to go overboard, especially when interviewing a woman. When all our usual questions come to end, if she’s single, we ask, “Are you planning to get married any time soon?” and if she’s married then, “Is your husband supportive? and “Planning to have a baby soon?” or “If someday, you have to work till 9, will you?”

Reality may be different. We see guys who say in interviews they’ll stay back late but never do. We see girls who never have to stay back because their work is never pending. We see guys who switch jobs close to home for just a better salary and we see girls traveling from Sarkhej to Naroda everyday for years, same salary. And of course we see the reverse cases too. Reality is that, we assume too much based on our limited experiences and judge more based on gender. And our assumptions about women, are largely human elements that could happen with anyone, men too.

We want to recruit employees who’d say yes to stay back instead of recruiting people who’d rather work sincerely within the work hours and deadlines. Unlike for most women for whom working means managing work with household fully (and if they cannot, they ‘must quit’); perhaps a person like me can work late because she might have some supportive people at home (especially mom). True for most men, who are supported by their moms/wives. Remember: You have the luxury to do that. And just because someone comes and leaves on time doesn’t mean they are any less productive or sincere.

(This post was first translated in Gujarati and published in City Bhaskar, Ahmedabad in the 7 Feb 2016 edition. Liked it? Hated it? Let me know! Comment here or get in touch at rtnair91gmail.com)

The Other Angle: Amdavadi women and the phenomena of Dupatta replacing Helmets

I visited Jaipur last week and like young kids of our relatives from abroad get excited and surprised looking at monkeys, dogs and cows on our Indian roads; I beamed seeing that everyone wore a helmet: the rider and the pillion too, even females- aunty in a sari, college girl on a bike, even grandmas. In retrospect, I wonder how women in our city pretty much invented the idea of covering their face with a dupatta while traveling, which not only serves as an important safety defense mechanism while on roads but also restricts pollution. But as someone who wears a helmet, I do not understand why so few women (even fewer than men) wear helmets while driving in the city, or do we see our dupatta as a replacement to helmet.

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The most interesting things that happen to you is when you go to buy a helmet, especially if you are someone forgetful as me, you’ll have to go there more often; twice have I gone to a helmet place near commerce six roads, I have rifts with the person. He begins with showing be a ‘ladies helmet’, the cap like delicate thing which will be the first thing to break or come off, and it doesn’t cover your face and jaw. The thought process that went into its designing must be “Oh women are so delicate; we need to give them a delicate helmet.” Right. Once I tell the kaka, I don’t want this. He will say, ‘ben, aa enough che. Chokrio ne aatlu chali jashe. Koh toh biju batavu pan heavy lagshe.” (Listen, this is enough for girls. I can show you other ones but you’ll find them heavy.) I would stand there and nod left right, meaning no. Then he would show me a ‘Men’s helmet’. I buy it and leave.

But the most interesting thing is why most traffic cops don’t stop us without a helmet? “Beheno ne chaale, bukhani toh pehri che ne.” (Such helmets should be enough for women, they wear dupatta anyway.)

Perhaps we feel it will spoil our hair or our precious hairstyle, but then think, is your face more important or your brain. Also, it’s normal to feel the helmet to be heavy or uncomfortable, for the first five or six days, but it is a good problem to have. You will get used to it in no time and theirs no choice. It’s pretty much as essential as a bra.

If you are worried about your hairstyle, think, is it more important or your head?

A friend of mine, an American woman from the US who is a stunt woman over there had said in one of her research project trips to Ahmedabad, “I think driving a two wheeler in Ahmedabad is riskier than stunts in my films. I wouldn’t dare drive here!”

Adding to the original quote, ‘Driving liberates a woman’, I would add ‘and helmet saves her’. Also, don’t you think following traffic laws shall be better step towards equality?

(A shorter, crisper and nicely translated Gujarati version of this post was first published in my brand new column ‘Women City’ in City Bhaskar, Ahmedabad. Show me some love or hate, tell me what you think about this- either here in the comments or mail or tweet!)