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The travails of a woman officer


You are a young and influential officer in one of the prominent Ministries in the country. Every day, you are looked upon as a decision-maker or as someone who will redress grievances, which are just two roles of the many that you are expected to play.

Cudgelling your brains at any given time, placing signature after signature on never-ending stacks of paper, interacting with a complex mix of people and partaking in a series of ghastly meetings… it’s all in a day’s work.

In meetings with those senior to you, if you talk confidently with your well-known ardour, you will notice perplexing expressions on most of the faces. A sign of “You aren’t supposed to speak that much, young lady” or “At least not with that much confidence”. You wonder if you should have remained silent.

Then comes the field inspections where, literally, a small army follows you everywhere you go and four trolleymen are with you all the time, making way for “madam”. Anxious subordinate staff wait solicitously for the inspection to end. Some always carry a tote bag full of grievances while others are quite content with the administration.

Quadragenarian and quinquagenarian staff find it difficult to take orders from their young female boss. This is partially attributed to your age, which is almost half theirs, and the rest to their patriarchal mindset and upbringing that clearly sets out the notion “a woman can’t give orders to a man”. Try imposing a modicum of discipline and you will be honoured with titles like “tyrant” forthwith.

On the other hand, those higher up tend to downplay some of the brilliant suggestions put forward by you. No amount of hard or smart work will let you enter the “inner circle”. All of these challenges lead to situations where performing even the most basic of duties becomes a “task” for you.

As a female officer in formal gatherings, you are rather conspicuous; nevertheless, you suddenly seem invisible to those around you or they are simply disinclined to strike up a conversation with you. At the time of enjoying dainty treats and bonne bouche, you will be given a chance to start first but then you were never famished in the first place.

Oh, they even cut a cake on Women’s Day to commemorate the contribution of their female staff but you are neither asked to join in as an ‘officer’ nor as a ‘contributor’.

Due to professional obligations, you have to attend several after-work casual bashes with officers and their families. Every such gathering has two groups of officers: those who drink and those who are teetotallers; but, no, neither group wants a lady officer in their space. There is also a third subgroup, “the wives in-crowd”. This subgroup is often seen discussing only-God-knows-what and giggling all the time in parties. This group doesn’t want to talk to a female officer and you can’t join them either as it is an unwritten rule that “the wife is to be treated at par with her husband’s designation and with the same respect and decorum as what is associated with her husband’s post”. Any aberration from this rule will hurt big egos, and this certainly is the last thing you would want in a hierarchical set-up.

So, amid the tumult you grab a seat, sit alone in the throng, in dead silence, pondering how as a female officer you just don’t fit in. Suddenly you realise you have a saviour to rescue you from this unbearable ennui, your smartphone.

Then you go home, dump all thoughts in a mental bin and go to bed thinking about tomorrow. You wake up, pull yourself together and pick up your armour again to face the new day.

mekta1990@gmail.com



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