Saturday, April 09, 2005

Pop goes the ceiling

I love it when I see women at work.

[By work, I mean, women doing something other than washing dishes, suckling babies and drawing water at a well or a handpump, or feeding cattle. Not that this isn't important work, but firstly, most of these tasks amount to unpaid labour . Secondly, this is the sort of work women are expected to do, and taught to limit themselves to. Which only makes me angry.]

Zigzackly tells me he recently saw a woman bus conductor in one of the state transport buses in Mumbai. I've lived in that city five years without seeing that miracle happen, and hearing about it now gives me a huge thrill.

I get a huge kick out of watching girls working the petrol pumps in Delhi. Or driving cabs and rickshaws. Or even waiting at tables in restaurants. Simply because they weren't allowed to, all these years... the sweet tinkling sound of sundry glass ceilings being smashed....

That was one reason I loved Kathmandu. Women drove these big, rusty tuk-tuks (a tuk-tuk is like a 12-seater tempo, here). And there were women security guards. And women extremist-Maoists. Women running dhabas. Women smoking bidis.
I loved all of it.

What makes me really angry, though, is women who take one step forward, and two steps back. Like the time when women trainee bus-conductors began to complain about how it was such a tiring job...Or like the reporters who pretend they can't finish assignments because it's a certain time of the month... Or like the woman auto-driver I found, in Delhi, who boasted that she drove all through the night, then promised to turn up in the wee hours to drop me off at the station, and then, didn't.

I can forgive men, somehow, for doing a shoddy job. But not women who break the mould. Not when they've got a whole generation watching them, wanting to follow in their footsteps, given half a chance. Not when they know - one false step, and there will the inevitable cacophony of 'See? We always said it's not a woman's job....'

Nevertheless, the day I notice that every fourth bus in Delhi is woman-handled, I shall pop a bottle of champagne and throw a party.

1 comment:

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