Family or Career has always been a battle for everyone, but more so for a woman. She was born in Rajasthan, a place where even now most women are expected to be only homemakers and have the ‘ghoonghat’ tradition. But she was destined for a lot more and she worked for it. She acquired the Masters Degree in Management Studies from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. She received the Wockhardt Gold Medal for Excellence in Management Studies as well as the J. N. Bose Gold Medal in Cost Accountancy for highest marks in the same year. She is married to a wind energy entrepreneur and has two children, a son and a daughter. But she is also the Managing Director of India's largest private bank and overall second largest bank in the country. She is Chanda Kochar.
A couple of weeks back I was watching a movie, a biopic. Frankly, I am not a fan of the movie but have immense respect for the person on whose life the movie was based. Resistance from family, available trainers and locals, but she never backed out. She started competing for state level boxing games; went on to win the state and national level championships and then her first international game - Asian Women's Boxing Championship. The resistance slowly changed to praises. At the peak of her career – three successive gold medals at the AIBA Women's World Boxing Championship – she decided to get married and the battle started again. This was for choosing family over career. But that wasn’t true, that was just the lack of faith people had and the age old wiring people have that a woman cannot handle both career and family meticulously at the same time. She is now India’s top female boxer, one of world’s finest, but is also a mother and a wife. This is the AND story of Mary Kom and not an OR story.
Wondering why suddenly I am talking about these woman and their AND stories?
Life is a battle of ORs and ANDs. Everyone has to make choices at a certain point of time. Men and women are all stuck in a game of Jenga(life) with blocks that have a lot of Ors and hardly any ANDs. But the worst part is women are expected to not get the ANDs blocks. I am not trying to sound like a feminist here, because I am not one; but the fact is, even though men and women both have to make compromises and ‘choose between’ things, women are expected to make them willingly. It is not wrong to say women are expected to be born with a compromising attitude. And if a woman decides to do everything people start doubting her capability and commitment. But the truth is – Women can be awesome at multitasking if the decide to. One of my neighbors is groom-hunting these days, and she told me the most recurring requirement from the suitors so far has been that she should be ready to leave her job and become a house wife. Don’t you think to choose between small and simple pleasures of life is a punishment? And to be expected to do so because of your gender is just unacceptable.
A woman is judged on the basis of the small things like nail polish and lipstick to things like career. A girl is stereotyped as either beauty or brain and if in case the two come together, her capabilities are subjected to doubts and random tests. A girl is believed to like a game like football or cricket only for good looking players, and if she says it is the sport and not some sportsperson, ‘prove it tests’ just never end. It is like, breaking the stereotype is a constant test and no one should have to prove such small things to anyone.
As a child I had to choose between a lot of things – small things but never insignificant. For instance, academics or co-curricular activities? Every child these days goes through this because of the rat race that is so rampant! And for a kid like me – I loved singing, dancing, sports, debates and quizzes – not only my parents but even my professors were concerned I would fail my academics because of the ‘extra stuff’. One of my professors had also told me once to not focus on sports, and to rather study harder as girls in sports in India are not very successful! I refused to give up and continued playing. Yes, I didn’t become a professional player but I turned out to be pretty ok, I guess. Now I am an engineer and work in one of the Big Four Companies, I haven’t stopped singing, I am still passionate about sports and not only follow tennis AND football religiously, I play table tennis whenever my schedule permits; AND I am a travel AND poetry blogger. Recently I got published in an anthology and am going to be published in another. I also travelled to Malaysia and got a chance to attend the Merdeka Day celebrations at the Merdeka Square with other foreign delegates. I am career oriented, but I don’t let go of my family, my hobbies, and my passion! I didn’t choose; I refused to choose because I knew I could do it and I refuse to chose in future too because I can do what I decide to do. I am not the best at any yet, but I aspire to be better at all and I know I can.
Me with my fellow bloggers Manjulika and Ragini in Malaysia
All I want to say is, life doesn’t really have to be constant struggle of ORs and ANDs and women need to step out of the box called social norms and breathe in the fresh air of change.
Fire within and fiery you
Kind within and loving you
You are Beauty and Brains
You dare and you care
Beautiful and Bold, Smart and Strong
You can be all, and that is not wrong
Be the force, be the calm
For like water you are, don’t be bridged by a dam
Remember who you are and who you can
You are a woman, you are a woman!