It was my first experience of traveling this far, alone. The destination was Prague, the beautiful capital of Czech Republic. It was an official visit. Being a female engineer working in public sector organization, my selection for this visit was indeed surprising news for me. I had one month to complete my official business in Prague. That one month, I believe, was one of the most exciting months of my life. It was a very surprising experience for me that at the work site I was treated only as an engineer and not as a “female engineer”.
I felt as if all of a sudden my gender was no longer a measuring criteria for my capabilities as an engineer.
I was least worried about my dressing, my looks and my way of talking with male colleagues. All of my energies were focused on giving the best technical support to my team. With the gender burden relieved, I was able to deliver more than I have ever thought I could. I could breathe freedom while roaming in the streets of Prague. It felt strange that I no longer needed to wrap my scarf more tightly or spread my dupatta all over my body to deal with the discomfort of the the crowded places. I no longer needed anyone to escort me to market or my workplace. I was no longer under a constant scrutiny. I was no longer worried about what time of day or night I was going out. I had a safe access to all the public places. I felt lighter. Back home, I never realized that things like going out alone, sitting in a road side tuck shop and wearing what you like to wear without being judged had such a great effect on my happiness, confidence and even my work output. I realized that in the modern sections of our society professional women are given some chances to legitimate the claims of “progressive society” but these chances are given on conditional bases. The condition is to keep up with the cultural order and the society’s so called definition of respectability.
Our society will accept a professional woman not only on the basis of her professionalism but also on the basis of how well she keeps up with the rules defined by our “Moral Police”.
And believe me those rules are not easy to keep up with. On the brighter side, I see women struggling. They are no longer immobile in the face of patriarchy. They are proving themselves in every walk of life. All women need to do now is to consistently struggle to disrupt all those rules that try to demarcate women’s positions in our unequal society. The limits society has enforced upon women are to be stretched. This is only possible if women are made aware of their capacities.