“I think you should not have spoken about women being enemies of women. You see, saying that somehow breaks our solidarity with one another. We do not want our weaknesses to get out to the world at any cost, do we?”
I didn’t say anything. My colleague tried to defend me. But, then, you cannot possibly begin arguing with a professor when you are there to collaborate with them on their Women’s Day event for revenue. I, however, did not feel the need to explain myself. I had made it a point to talk about this one ‘weakness’ women have when I was asked to be the chief speaker at the event. I do not think women need to shy away from this fact. I shared my experiences with the people in the course of my speech and blatantly accepted that I was hurt by the way my female friends mocked me and were jealous of me when I began working. It is something I feel strongly about and do not wish to hide.
I felt overwhelmed by the way people present at the event – from teachers to students to my own colleagues – appreciated what I said. I spoke with my heart and the young generation could relate to it, they said. Well, that is precisely why I thought it is imperative for me to talk about it.
“Please do not talk about your jobs in front of us.”
“How much are you getting paid for your internship? Nothing? Then why the hell are you doing it?”
“Don’t attend classes, Madam. After all, you are working now.”
Me and my friend used to hear all these taunts far too much than I can write about here. It hurt. We were trying to make a life for ourselves; we were trying to do something to enter into the world of media and it was not easy. We had to juggle classes, assignments and exams all together and neither of us had a vehicle of our own. We depended entirely on public transport. And yet, those girls out there felt jealous of us. Or maybe somewhere deep down felt guilty. Because they were spending hours gossiping or bitching about our classmates or whatever women. Or maybe because they thought I earn loads of money. My first salary, by the way, was Rs 6848. My friend who interned there was not paid anything. She received a certificate at the end of her internship.
I didn’t quite understand then where all of it was coming from. It felt vicious, stupid and made me feel lonelier than I already was. It was a women’s college; there were girls from all over the state who came from varying socio-economic backgrounds and not all of them could speak English or even Hindi properly. We were in our final year of the three year Graduation course and it was time for the ambitious ones among us to do something about our careers, at least, to start somewhere. Life gets tougher as one grows up and the world is changing at such a fast pace that even a delay of a year in anything can incur huge losses for you. Corporate jobs, like the current one I have, give you the illusion of security. The bubble can burst anytime.
That was 5 years ago. Today, I am struggling with the same kind of insecurity and delusion I dealt with when I started out. A year’s delay in understanding the nature of world and the impermanence of market values has put me into such a place where I have ideas on what my future should be but I’d need time to equip myself with the skills that are required for the same. This was something I could have done during all those leisure hours I had at work. You see, you can get back anything you lose – money, friendships, even opportunities at times – but you cannot get back lost time.
Not that my day job taught me nothing. However, it did not come with a seal of permanence. For most of the people out there, a woman’s career is construed to be a hobby or something she indulges in before she gets married. Her career has to take a step back in the face of wifely and motherly duties. I am no one to judge women who get married before the age of 25. But, I do not subscribe to the idea of her career being something secondary. When lay-offs become the order of the day, people do not think much of a woman losing her job in the cost-cutting process.
You see what I did there? I am trying to tell you where I faltered and how it landed me in a soup now.
And that is how I ended my speech at the Women’s Day event. I pointed this fact out to the young women present there that the world they inhabit is really rocky and hard; there are too many sharks looking for blood in the water (This is one line I learnt from Michael Jackson’s autobiography Moonwalk which I put before me yesterday as a reminder to work hard; most people forget how hard he worked to hone his craft). Part of it begins with realizing where we are lacking; accepting that we have some made-up lacunae which we need to get rid of. You can work towards solutions only after finding out your short-comings and striving to come to terms with it.
My friend and I supported each other in our early struggling days. She works as a teacher now; it’s a far comfortable job than she had before and she is married to a real nice guy. But, you know what? She says she still misses our days together. All that getting up in the chilly winter morning, battling fog and going to work on foot, at times, risking our safety too. But, we did it. And it paid us well later. I remember how I accepted that job after she coaxed me saying it’s gonna pay me later. I remember how she would help with class notes and help me with studies. I once crashed into her house for the night. She’d ask me to keep my uniform at her place. (Yes, our college had a uniform, bleh!) She was always there, more than I was for her. We were not best of friends; but the bond we shared then was more than any best friend could ever do! This is the power of female friendships.
Female colleagues conspire against you; they prefer to please a man in power over you. That’s how it works everywhere. I saw it in college and I saw it at work. I have seen my paternal grandmother misbehaving with my mother and I see countless women doing demeaning things to other women, a lot many times, behind their back. Not to say that men do not indulge in gossiping or back-biting or office politics. But theirs is a dominant gender, always has been; ours is not. We need each other more than they do. And when that doesn’t happen, all the dance behind Women’s Day doesn’t really help.
I’d better have no such day celebrated at all rather than witness its hypocrisy.